by article_poster

Clarifying Subnautica's Social Aspirations


A game that basks in human phobias might seem unpleasant but Unknown Worlds’ Subnautica enjoys scaring the wetsuit off players. Everything is either too big, too dark, or just too evil to allow us to exist. Of course, that’s why most of us bought the ticket to Planet 4546B, to see what size maw would consume us first, and to reach places the daylight fears.

A Social Experience

Disappointingly, Subnautica has always been a single-player experience - but, then again, it had to be. Planet 4546B is a lonely ocean world spotted with humanity’s failed attempts at colonization. The 1.2km Aurora spaceship carrying the protagonist, Ryley Robinson, crashes in the game’s opening scene. Then, you’re on your own, staving off fate with just a few hand tools. 

Yet, ironically, this solo adventure found an audience on live-streaming platforms, as fans chose to live the horror vicariously through braver players. To date, 1.5 million people have subscribed to Subnautica’s dedicated channel on Twitch. This is as close to a social experience as the game ever got, although, there are a few experimental multiplayer mods out there. 

Unknown Worlds has been a bit vague about Subnautica 2’s social and multiplayer aspects (more on that later) but the onus is on the American dev to maintain its apparel to backseat swimmers. Live streaming has a proven ability to turn the mundane into magic, as evidenced by a title like Among Us, which had been rattling around the indie scene for two years before streamers found it in 2020. 


Live streaming - and live gaming - has a brief but dramatic history. While it’s most commonly associated with YouTube and Twitch, developers inside the casino industry have adapted streaming media to serve games like blackjack and baccarat. The CryptoBetSports website hosts a live casino in Canada, with real presenters calling the shots.

Casinos use live gaming to increase authenticity but it also reintroduces the social aspects to otherwise computer-driven experiences. Of course, not everything benefits from live streaming (it’s debatable whether Subnautica is even the same game when others are involved) but Unknown Worlds seems determined to make Planet 4546B a less lonely place.

Subnautica 2 will reportedly have co-op for 2-4 players but will not be “multiplayer-focused”. Unknown Worlds was forced to clarify the latter point after publisher Krafton fumbled the game's description in a financial report. Krafton also hinted at a live-service model, a phrase bound to set comment sections alight. However, that claim was also rubbished by Unknown Worlds.

Below Zero

As for the plot and location of Subnautica 2, it seems certain that the game will move away from Planet 4546B. Whether this also means that the seemingly evil corporation Alterra will slip into the background too isn’t yet known. Ultimately, how Unknown Worlds balances loneliness with social aspects could define the franchise’s success in the distant galaxy.

As a final point, Subnautica 2 will be the third game in the series, after 2019’s Below Zero - so we don’t even know what naming convention the true sequel will use yet. It's penciled in for an Early Access release in 2025.