ROKH’s developers outline the finances of the game and how little money it made

    
15
Nopekh.

The survival sandbox ROKH suspended development back in July, and fans have questions about why. It’s easy to look at the early access title and see it as a blatant cash grab, and so the development team has taken a rather unusual step in disclosing the game’s entire financial life. It turns out that the game cost a total of $2 million to develop for early access release, and to date the game has sold only 7171 copies, which – when fees and refunds and such are counted – didn’t even make a tenth of the development costs back.

It’s an interesting dissection of the finances behind game development as well as what the game looked like to the people working on it; the title was definitely not successful, and there’s no ambiguity in the fact that its lack of financial success both makes it unattractive to new investors and non-viable as a continued investment for the team. This is even after the team’s failed Kickstarter attempt to keep the game moving forward. Yes, it’s a little dismal, but if you’ve ever been curious about what the finances for these projects look like behind the scene, this is the perfect chance to find it out.

And hey, if you think that this transparency was the sort of thing you’d like to support, the team is working on a new game now.

Source: Steam; thanks to Kinya for the tip!
Update
The first version of this article noted that the game had sold 4,688 copies; in fact, that was the number of copies sold up to July 2017. The game has sold 7171 copies to date. We apologize for the confusion.
newest oldest most liked
Subscribe to:
Reader
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Schlag Sweetleaf
BROKH ASS.jpg
Reader
Loyal Patron
Neurotic

I never played it, but I watched MJ play it for an hour and had an absolutely brilliant time. That was the Stream Team that made me donate a few dollars to MOP on Twitch, or whatever it is they call it. Great fun! I think all developers need to have MJ stream their game at like, an Alpha stage, because that’s when they’ll find out just how good/bad/fun/not fun it is.

Reader
Patreon Donor
Loyal Patron
Totes McGoats

I’m confused – they never released the game – wouldn’t they expect to make money when it released?

Whenever I criticize an early access game I get angrily lectured early access is for testing and being part of the development process- if I want to have fun wait for release – and people like me are the problem with game development.

So now a game is cancelled because it didn’t sell well during early access??? Why did they expect a ton of people to pay to test? Surely most people would wait for release to jump in?

I’m so confused.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Emmanuel Carabott

It is not that simple… early access isn’t something developers make for fun, or to get their customers to pay for the privilege to help them test their product.. Early access (used properly cause as with everything else its open for abuse and is abused at times) is to help finance the game development.

Now what happens when your early access sales dont generate enough money to maintain your team? Developers like everyone else have families they cant work for free naturally and if you dont have the money to pay them whats the option?

I am sure they’d love to get the game to the finish and hopefully that will generate more meaningful sales but with no money how can they do that?

Reader
Avin

Early access sales can be a barometer for additional investors. If the game had sold better during early release, there’s a possibility that the original investors would have released more funds for development (could be contractual even) or additional investors could have been brought in.

$2 million should pay for enough development to sell an order of magnitude more copies in early access. I would argue that early access sales are a very good proxy for a game’s potential for broad success at launch.

This isn’t just a trend in video games – anything that can be patched easily lends itself to iterative/lean/agile development and the release of products that might have been alpha/beta prototypes 30 years ago.

Reader
Ondrej Filip

Also from a financial perspective early access kind of is the release. The majority of sales for most games in early access come a within few weeks following the release into early access (not when the game is released from early access).

In situations where your early access didn’t generate enough money to fund further development you are kinda double fucked since you both get negative press for being a cash grab (hurting your future projects) as well as lose money on it.

Reader
Avin

That’s difficult to read, but I’m sure it’s worse to read if you’re part of the $2 million in funding.

The utter QA breakdown that led to launching a broken game is an interesting aspect. I’m curious how many sales had to be refunded because the game launched in broken state?

Reader
Loyal Patron
Patreon Donor
Armsbend

A sure sign to get out of the business and do something else.

Reader
Oleg Chebeneev

Wow, that was just sad to read. I mean their financial report on steam. Not sure what the hell were they thinking writing it since all it says is: “Noone wanted to buy our game, we are poor af, pls buy our game while we work on another one”.

Reader
Ironwu

From reading the information they posted, it sounds like these guys were shopping out all the real work and they themselves were just playing manager.

I think developers should stop trying to use early access to fund the early development of their games.

A good model to follow would be Project Gorgon. They had their game free of charge while the initial development was underway and the major bugs were squashed. Only when it was a relatively stable product did it enter early access.

Xijit
Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Xijit

Not everyone is a husband / wife team who both have decades of game development experience working on Everquest, and with complementary programmer / artistic skills so that virtually nothing needs to be farmed out to contractors, plus enough financial reserves to support themselves for years while making a video game from their dinning room table.

Not to say that these guys were not dipshits with poor money management skills, but trying to advertise anyone to “be like gorgon” is unrealistic as they are such an exotic example that I would say it is damn near impossible for anyone to replicate the conditions they are working with.

… And besides, there have been more than enough success stories from early access development funding that if someone fails to pull things together: it is their own fault for being shitty game designers, not the system’s.

Reader
Kickstarter Donor
Emmanuel Carabott

Its not easy to convince an investor to give you millions to develop a game. And Like xijit said below going the project gorgon route is almost impossible. You have to be willing to go years working with no income , unless you have all the skills necessary for game development like programming, modeling, animating, texturing, music, sound, game design, level building, etc… you also have to convince other people to also work for free for years all in the hopes that you will get the project to completion and that it will succeed. think about it, what happens if you and 3 friends spend 5 years working on a game for free and then it tanks and like in this case doesnt even make 80k? how many people do you think will be able or willing to take such a risk?

Reader
silverlock

Not many if your old enough to remember computer gaming in the 80’s we had a handful of games to play. Rouge and Reach for the Stars being the only ones that come to mind.

Reader
Adam Maxwell

Oh come on. I bet I can think of a dozen off the top of my head: Rogue, Nethack, Ultima, Autoduel, OGRE, Wizardy, Might and Magic, Bard’s Tale, Elite, Karetka, King’s Quest, Lode Runner, Choplifter, Castle Wolfenstein, Boulder Dash, Miner 2049er, Balance of power, Ancient Art of War, Star Flight, Hellcat Ace, Flight Simulator, M.U.L.E., Archon, Zork, Wishbringer, everything Infocom, etc. Sure, we had to play uphill, both ways, in the snow, with only 2 colors, but we weren’t *animals*! ;)

Reader
Hirku

Because I’m old and don’t want to hurt my hands typing a huge list of titles from the 80’s, I’ll just type “C64” and leave it at that.