Developer Ninja Theory is set to break even from harrowing hack-and-slash Hellblade: Senua's Sacrifice months ahead of schedule, partly thanks to its decision to publish the title independently, the studio's chief creative director has said.
Hellblade, which depicts a Celtic warrior's battle with mental illness, was due to break even between six and nine months after its early August release, but it will have made its money back "and then some" three months after it came out, Tameem Antoniades told VentureBeat.
The decision to publish the game independently—the first time Ninja Theory has done that—was a big help because it means it gets the bulk of the money from sales, rather than a big-name publisher taking a slice. "It sold better than our expectations. [Self-publishing has] opened up a bunch of doors and possibilities that we just didn’t have until this point," he said.
"The triple-A publishing model goes in cycles, sort of, but it doesn’t really serve developers like us very well, mid-size developers...you’re not fully in control of your destiny. As we’ve seen over the last several years, dozens of good developers have disappeared. The only way you can counter that is find another way. This seems to have worked for us.
"There’s a real danger in losing great studios at an alarming rate when we shouldn’t have to, simply because we don’t know what works and what doesn’t in the digital era."
Antoniades said that Ninja Theory will release more data on the sales in a development diary "to help encourage [other developers] to do more games like this".
I think the news can only be positive. Perhaps if other developers see an experimental game like Hellblade finding commercial success then they'll be more likely to take risks on their own titles—and that, ultimately, will lead to more interesting games.
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Samuel Horti is a long-time freelance writer for PC Gamer based in the UK, who loves RPGs and making long lists of games he'll never have time to play.