Outriders: Even the developer can't tell how many times the game sold

Outriders: Even the developer can't tell how many times the game sold


Development studio People Can Fly said in a financial report that they have no idea how many times Outriders has been sold since its April 2021 release. In addition, publisher Square Enix has not yet paid any fee to the company. That likely means the third-person shooter hasn't made a profit for Square Enix yet. Internally, the makers assume 2 to 3 million units sold at the moment.

According to the contract between People Can Fly and Square Enix, the developer studio will only receive money if the income covers all of the publisher's expenses. Those responsible actually thought that this would also be the case with their estimated sales figures - but so far there has been no transfer. The deadline was August 14, 2021. Studio boss Sebastian Wojciechowski already has some ideas why Outriders could not have made a profit so far.


Outriders: The launch trailer for the Loot -Shooters loadVideoPlayer ('83695', '& sAdSetCsategory = article_featured', 18, '16: 9 ', false, 1377941, false, 274768, 260, false, 0,' ',' ', false); Outriders Among other things, he mentions Square Enix's sales strategy. Outriders has appeared in stores for all current platforms (except Nintendo Switch) - but was offered here and there via special channels. Together with Microsoft, for example, the publisher brought the game to the Xbox Game Pass for consoles. This enabled subscribers to use the title on Xbox Series X / S and Xbox One - without having to buy the full version in the store. Square Enix even dubbed Outriders their "next big franchise" in May after the third-person shooter attracted over 3.5 million players in its first month. Or maybe the publisher spent more money on Outriders than People Can Fly previously thought. The developers now want to attract players with discount campaigns on all platforms.

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Millions Of Players Later, Outriders Devs Still Waiting For Money

a person wearing a costume: guy with a shocked and open face in outriders © Screenshot: People Can Fly / Kotaku guy with a shocked and open face in outriders

My face when my new franchise only has millions and millions of players.

By the numbers, Outriders is one of the year’s big success stories. And yet, developer People Can Fly apparently hasn’t received any royalties from Square Enix, the loot-shooter’s publisher. As reported by VGC, People Can Fly wrote in an investor note that “this probably means that, in Square Enix’s opinion, [Outriders] has not exceeded the break-even point.”

Outriders, a third-person shooter with a heavy focus on cooperative play, casts players as exoplanetary explorers who wield tremendous space magic. Whereas many games in the genre urge you to duck behind cover for safety, Outriders features a Doom-like gimmick. Killing enemies heals you, forcing you to take on more risk than you would in, say, Gears of War. Millions of players seemed to get a kick out of it, at least in the early goings.

Square Enix did not immediately respond to a request for comment from Kotaku.

Initially planned for a February 2021 release, Outriders was delayed to an April 1 release. When the cooperative sci-fi shooter launched, it did so as part of the Xbox Game Pass library as an effort to build a solid player base from the jump. But, like every online game ever, it released in what one could charitably call a “totally busted” state, including multiplayer disconnects, server shutdowns, and some random but temporarily irreversible inventory wipes. (A May 5 patch eventually restored lost gear.) Those issues plagued the game well into launch. A whole month after release day, some players still had trouble even getting into the game’s lobby.

Read More: One Month Later, Outriders Still Can’t Catch A Break

But the bumps in the road clearly didn’t affect how many people played the game. In May, Square Enix said that Outriders is “on track to become the company’s next major franchise” while noting that more than 3.5 million played the game over the first month. It’s unclear how many of those came to the game via Game Pass. (Microsoft doesn’t publicize such stats.) That said, a week-and-a-half after launch, it was the second-most popular game on Xbox Game Pass. And in June, Square Enix president Yosuke Matsuda said that “the digital sales ratio for the title have been very high, and the number of active users has also beaten our expectations.”

So, what’s the deal? Though there are a gazillion variables—including how big the marketing budget was, the specifics of the contract negotiated between both parties, how big the production budget was, how many players played via Game Pass (and thus likely didn’t pay extra for a copy), or how much money Square earned from the Game Pass deal—Outriders is a clear success.

One wonders just what the heck Square Enix’s strategy is these days. Take, for instance, IO Interactive’s long-running Hitman series. For years, Square Enix published everyone’s favorite spy-murder sim. But, following the release of the 2016 reboot, IO successfully pulled off a management buyout—meaning it essentially went indie. At the end of its 2017 fiscal year, Square Enix noted an “extraordinary loss” of nearly 5 billion yen (about $44 million) in regards to IO Interactive and “withdrew” from the Danish studio.

This year’s Hitman 3, the latest game in the series and the first to be published independently by IO Interactive, made its money back within a week.

Then there’s the 2013 reboot of Tomb Raider. As Eurogamer reported, Square Enix sold 3.4 million copies of the game within its first month. That figure, despite being a franchise highwater mark at the time, fell short of publisher expectations. According to Gamesindustry.biz, Tomb Raider went on to sell more than 11 million copies, making it the best-selling game in one of gaming’s longest-running franchises.

“We had very high expectations for [Tomb Raider]. Looking back on that now, I think the target we set for ourselves was extremely high,” Matsuda said in a 2017 interview.

“We have the entire sales tail of the Outriders game ahead of us,” People Can Fly CEO Sebastian Wojciechowski said. “We also look forward to further promotional efforts on the publisher side. Despite this disappointing news, we believe that the first royalties from Outriders sales will come ... this year.”