Steam smash hit Content Warning has sold over 700,000 copies after giving away 6 million free copies

content warning
(Image credit: Landfall)

I imagine all game developers get butterflies in their stomachs when they're about to push their game live, but it's not often a game previously given away for free suddenly starts asking for money. That was the deal indie studio Landfall made with players when it surprise-released Content Warning on April Fools' day.

The Lethal Company-like horror game that challenges friends to record scary videos and go viral on SpöökTube would be free to claim for its first 24 hours, after which Landfall would start charging $8. Over six million copies of Content Warning were claimed during the free period, a response that Landfall CEO Wilhelm Nylund tells PC Gamer was "completely unlike anything" they've experienced.

Landfall has created its own holiday around making gag games that go viral (April 1 is "Landfall Day" at the company), so Content Warning's success wasn't a total surprise. In 2018, the studio took a break from developing Totally Accurate Battle Simulator to make Totally Accurate Battlegrounds, a parody battle royale spinoff that was so popular the studio ended up supporting it for years. Nylund said the team was ready for something similar to happen with Content Warning, but they were still caught off guard by how many people flocked to the game immediately.

"It felt likely that [Content Warning] would be bigger than any of our similar small projects, but we definitely didn't expect it to happen so quickly," Nylund told PC Gamer in an interview this week. "It was definitely a lot of excitement and a lot of confusion about how it blew up as quickly as it did."

Those six million day one copies blew Landfall's biggest expectations out of the water, but it also made the team slightly nervous that nobody would be interested in picking it up once the $8 price tag kicked in.

"We all had this feeling that there's so much at stake tonight when the game goes paid."

The price change happened the morning of April 2, and Nylund immediately started refreshing their sales figure page. In its first few hours, the numbers were reassuring. "We were like okay, okay, we can relax."

content warning game

(Image credit: Landfall)

In its first day, Content Warning sold over 100,000 copies, "multiple times more" copies than Landfall has ever sold in a day. The next day, it did even better: 125,000 copies. Within a week, it cracked 700,000. Now almost two weeks later, Content Warning still sits comfortably in Steam's top sellers list by revenue, at times beating out Call of Duty, Destiny, and Apex Legends.

Despite being a risky move for sales figures, Nylund attributes Content Warning's breakout success in part to those first free hours.

"People woke up one day and suddenly they're just bombarded with a bunch of footage from a new game," Nylund said. "I think that very much created the perception that, 'Oh, this is something that is worth paying attention to.' Like this is something that is happening now."

Within hours of its April 1 release, TikTok, YouTube, Twitter, and Twitch were flooded with Content Warning clips. All of my Discord groups were messaging each other to pick it up for free while they still could. Others happily picked it up after the $8 price kicked in.

"Right now we're crossing our fingers thinking it'd be really cool to reach a million copies [sold] in the first two weeks," Nylund said.

Landfall plans to support Content Warning with more updates, but work also continues on the studio's main project, a speedrunning game with procedurally-generated levels called Haste: Broken Worlds.

Morgan Park
Staff Writer

Morgan has been writing for PC Gamer since 2018, first as a freelancer and currently as a staff writer. He has also appeared on Polygon, Kotaku, Fanbyte, and PCGamesN. Before freelancing, he spent most of high school and all of college writing at small gaming sites that didn't pay him. He's very happy to have a real job now. Morgan is a beat writer following the latest and greatest shooters and the communities that play them. He also writes general news, reviews, features, the occasional guide, and bad jokes in Slack. Twist his arm, and he'll even write about a boring strategy game. Please don't, though.