Why The Day Before Is Something Much Worse Than The Worst Game of 2023

The Day Before is not just the worst game of 2023, but the perfect representation of the worst elements of the modern gaming industry.

The Day Before
Photo: Mytona Fntastic

Developer Fntastic has announced that they are shutting down their studio just four days after the release of their latest game, The Day Before. The developer claims that The Day Before has “failed financially” and that they “lack the funds to continue.” They then note that their future income will be used to pay off “debts to our partners.” While Fntastic says that The Day Before‘s servers will remain operational, they also confirm that they will not be able to release any subsequent significant updates for the game. The studio has also not revealed any plans to issue refunds for The Day Before at this time, and Steam has not yet released any comment about any potential expansions to their refund policy procedures in this instance.

In most cases, this news would sadly be added to the long list of studio closures, layoffs, and financial struggles that have sadly come to define 2023. However, this isn’t that story. In fact, this seemingly tragic update only confirms that The Day Before is not just the worst game of 2023 but the scam that many feared the project would end up being.

For those who don’t know, The Day Before was revealed in 2021 via a surprisingly lengthy “gameplay demonstration” trailer. That preview quickly garnered quite a bit of attention due to the project’s seemingly deep zombie survival MMO gameplay and stunning visuals. Subsequent previews released shortly thereafter revealed the full scope of developer Fntastic’s ambitions. They aspired to create the ultimate MMO zombie survival experience by combining the cinematic production values of something like The Last of Us with the gameplay depth of the best modern MMO and modern psuedo-MMOs (meaning games like The Division and Destiny). Between the millions of views those videos earned and The Day Before‘s quick ascent to the top of Steam’s Wishlist chart, it was clear that quite a few gamers wanted to believe the studio could make that dream game a reality.

Even in its earliest days, though, there was a healthy amount of skepticism surrounding The Day Before. Shortly after its reveal, some began to ask necessary questions about how such a small studio was going to complete what appeared to be a Triple-A-level project. Fntastic was not quick to offer any especially reassuring answers to those questions, though they were quick to release a new trailer for the game that revealed its surprising June 21, 2022 release date. It seemed that we wouldn’t have to wait long to see if The Day Before was indeed too good to be true.

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From there, pretty much everything started to go wrong. In May 2022, Fntastic announced that The Day Before would need to be delayed so that the team could port the game over to Unreal Engine 5. While not a big deal on its own, that delay preceded a series of revelations that would change the narrative about the entire project. Not only was it revealed that Fntastic relied heavily on unpaid labor, but they were soon accused of “asset flipping” and even copying parts of larger games’ trailers to promote their project. These accusations were accompanied by numerous delays and a bizarre apparent “trademark dispute” that resulted in the temporary removal of the game’s Steam page. The red flags were quickly piling up.

Soon, many discussions about The Day Before devolved into a debate over whether or not this game was a straight-up scam, a case of a developer being overly ambitious, or if this project was indeed still shaping up to be all the things it could be. Fntastic even weighed in on that debate by publishing a suspicious number of statements that reiterated The Day Before was not a scam and that they were not scammers. Those statements continued up until the game’s Steam Early Access debut on December 7, which, again, developer Fntastic seemed to be oddly defensive about.

If you want a more complete breakdown of the game’s rocky road to release, I highly recommend this IGN article on the subject which covers all of the…highlights of that process. However, it does feel necessary to skip to The Day Before‘s actual release given how it relates to the most recent and significant events of this story.

To call The Day Before‘s launch “troubled” would be a gross understatement. Its Early Access debut was like a Hall of Fame collection of everything that could go wrong with a modern game’s launch. Suspiciously full servers, countless bugs, a treasure trove of flipped assets, and potentially AI-generated voiceovers all shot to the top of an ever-growing list of player complaints that soon became larger than the game’s hilariously barren world. In fact, the core The Day Before gameplay experience wasn’t even what fans were promised it would be. Rather than delivering a zombie survival MMO, The Day Before’s gameplay was closer to a modern “extraction shooter,” and it wasn’t a particularly good one at that.

Through it all, though, gamers continued to argue over what had happened up until that point and what will (and should) happen next. Despite The Day Before‘s stunning number of issues, some continued to argue that developer Fntastic clearly bit off more than they could chew but that they shouldn’t be accused of scamming players so early into the game’s lifecycle. Indeed, Fntastic released several statements after the game’s launch which reiterated their intent and desire to continue improving the game. Granted, they also went out of their way to clarify that they hadn’t taken fans’ money leading up to the game’s Early Access debut (even as they shut down their Discord server due to overwhelmingly negative feedback), but they continued to insist that more substantial updates were on the way.

Of course, everyone now knows what many already suspected: those updates are never coming. The hotfixes The Day Before received in the hours and days following its release will seemingly be the last improvements the game ever enjoys. We are likely forever left with what The Day Before is, and the game we are left with features all the personality, soul, and ambition of AI-generated art without any of the mechanical efficiency that AI-generated art is otherwise known for.

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But, is The Day Before a scam? Given recent events, I certainly think that you’d have to consider it to be some kind of attempt to defraud customers regardless of whether you believe it was a scam from the very start.

There is just no world in which Fntastic believed that The Day Before could be successful enough to save a studio that was apparently in such a bad financial state that it needed to be shut down four days after that game’s release. It’s pretty clear at this point that the studio knew how much trouble they were in and wanted to wait until after The Day Before‘s release to reveal their situation while they earned as much money as possible from the game’s opening weekend.

I’ll add every necessary “allegedly” and “in my opinion” to those statements just as I will applaud some members of the Fntastic team for reminding Steam users that they could request a refund, but let’s all be realistic for a moment. This was a game developed under questionable conditions, released in an unforgivable state, and effectively killed under suspicious circumstances. If you are still determined to argue that the game isn’t at least some kind of scam, then I’d strongly encourage you to not purchase any bridges or magic beans in the near future.

And yes, The Day Before is almost certainly the Worst Game of 2023. That might not sound like much, but remember that this is the year that gave us games like The Lord of the Rings: Gollum, the terrible Nintendo Switch version of Mortal Kombat 1, and Skull Island: Rise of Kong. While those games (and more) were lazy, broken, and simply unenjoyable, The Day Before uniquely represents many of the worst aspects of modern game design and the modern gaming industry.

After all, there was a time when The Day Before was seen by some as that wonderful dream project developed by a studio determined to give the fans what they wanted rather than what shareholders demanded. Instead, the game’s development has been defined by employee mistreatment, fraudulent promotions, numerous delays, a complete lack of imagination, massive technical issues, and many of the other things that we commonly associate with the Triple-A gaming industry at its worst. In that respect, I suppose Fntastic did prove that they were capable of releasing their very own Triple-A quality gaming experience.

There are few scams older or more detrimental to humanity than exploiting someone’s desire to believe in something better and support that belief however they are able. Whether through complete fraud, general incompetence, or a more realistic combination of both factors, that’s exactly what Fntastic did before they performed the modern digital equivalent of fleeing into the dead of night with a fraudulent ID in one hand and a suitcase full of cash in the other.

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