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Sunborn

Logo for Sunborn Network.
The Mica Team logo introduced in Codename: Bakery Girl. There are many small variations around this design.
Alternate Mica Team logo briefly used in 2018.
Reverse Collapse: Code Name Bakery development team logo from the game's splash screens.

Sunborn[Note 1] (散爆) is a Shanghai-based game developer directed by Yuzhong (羽中), formed around the team called Mica Team[Note 2] (云母组). Sunborn also operates the subsidiaries Sunborn Japan (サンボーンジャパン) and Darkwinter Software (暗冬网络).

Contents

HistoryEdit

Before Girls' FrontlineEdit

Mica Team was formed in 2008 as a doujin circle to produce and release the visual novel Girl of the Bakehouse, which was released in 2009. The circle was made of three people led by 19-years old Yuzhong, an animation student who had dropped out in his second year, preferring to gain experience working on real projects.[1]

While working on more Bakehouse projects, the group also published doujin artbooks: a K-On!/Haruhi Suzumiya crossover, Touhou Modern Warfare, a book dedicated to Touhou's Suwako Moriya and the Guns&Girls series.[2]

The Bakehouse projects eventually led to a partnership with studio GameMaster to develop the strategy game Codename: Bakery Girl, released in 2013.[3]

Girls' FrontlineEdit

In 2015, Mica Team incorporated under the name LBX (used in the earliest marketing only[4][5]), quickly changed to Sunborn, and announced their mobile game Girls' Frontline. After three beta tests and development troubles, Sunborn launched the game in Mainland China in 2016, in Taiwan, Hong Kong and South Korea in 2017, and in a global English version and in Japan in 2018.[6]

The company was short on cash as it started: employees worked in a rented apartment with folding tables for work desks, and meals were cooked rather than ordered in to save money.[7] There were only 4 employees at the start of the development, but the team had grown to 35 when the game launched in China, then to 117 in 2018[1] and over 300 in 2020.[8] A Sunborn Japan branch was opened in March 2018 to manage the game in this key market, starting at 20 employees.[9] In March 2020, as the contract ended with Digital Sky, which was Girls' Frontline operator in Mainland China, Sunborn announced that the game's operations were transferred to Darkwinter Software Co., Ltd. (上海暗冬网络科技有限公司), a wholly-owned subsidiary of Sunborn.[10] Darkwinter is listed as Sunborn games distributor in the English-speaking app stores.

The commercial success of Girls' Frontline enabled Sunborn to announce a remake of Codename: Bakery Girl in 2019 titled Reverse Collapse: Code Name Bakery, and three Girls' Frontline-related games were announced in 2020: Girls' Frontline 2: Exilium, Project Neural Cloud and Girls' Frontline: Glitch Land.[11] Sunborn's strategy at the time was reportedly to remain in its niche market and rely on internal evaluations rather than compete with high-budget games reactive to market trends,[12] based on the idea that the studio's DNA lied in the “2D + Strategy” niche.[13] Development updates were shared with some regularity through the Beilan Island Shelter Broadcast livestreams, hosted by Yuzhong, Smoke (Executive Producer for Girls' Frontline 2) and Kamie (Executive Producer for Project Neural Cloud) talking through Live2D avatars (very cursed). Girls' Frontline 2 and Reverse Collapse were delayed with no release date due to the Covid pandemic.

ExpansionEdit

Neural Cloud received a first closed beta test in October 2020, then a second closed beta called “Singularity Test” in December 2020.

On 21 April 2021, Tencent gained a 20% stake in Sunborn. According to Yuzhong, the deal involved a 9-figures investment from Tencent and Sunborn would still publish its own games in Mainland China. At the time the studio had more than 450 employees, with about 200 working on Girls' Frontline 2.[14] Girls' Frontline 2 received its first closed beta test in July 2021 (CBT-1) and a second (CBT-2) in October 2021. Neural Cloud was released in Mainland China in September 2021.

Development ceased on Glitch Land in early 2022 but progress on Girls' Frontline 2 and Reverse Collapse was shown during Girls' Frontline 6th Anniversary livestream on 14 May 2022. After a Global beta in October 2022, Neural Cloud released in other regions in November 2022.

On 20 May 2022, a recruitment post on Sunborn's HR WeChat group announced positions related to a project called “Project Panda” (代号Panda). Cross-referencing with LinkedIn profiles of Sunborn members pointed to a game within the Wandering Earth IP.[15] Sunborn's involvement in the Wandering Earth Mobile strategy game was announced on 22 January 2023. Mica Team is not included in the announcement.[16][17][18] In an August 2023 interview, Yuzhong stated the studio had grown to over 700 employees and teased a yet-unannounced project.[19]

NotesEdit

  1. Sunborn is registered on Steam as “Sunborn Games Technology Co., Ltd.” In Girls' Frontline, it is registered as “SUNBORN Network Technology Co., Ltd.”
  2. Various official renditions have been used for the name “Mica Team”:

ReferencesEdit