Dear Esther's super-successful Steam debut

To those who say that indie game developers will never make any money, we’ve got another example that proves that isn’t exactly true. Dear Esther is an experimental PC game, which launched yesterday on Steam. Today we learn that game has recouped its $55,000 financial backing and turned a profit, within five hours of its official online release.

The financial backing came – at least in part – from the Indie Fund, a funding source for independent developers which aims to offer an alternative to traditional publisher models. Developer thechineseroom was the second recipient, following Q.U.B.E. from Toxic Games – that one became profitable after four days.

The Indie Fund itself is pretty indie, too – it was created two years ago by some of the most successful independent games developers, including Braid‘s Jonathan Blow, Ron Carmel and Kyle Gabler (creators of World of Goo) and Kellee Santiago from Thatgamecompany.

There are still more games being funded, too: Keep an eye out for Faraway from Steph Thirion, and Monaco from Pocketwatch Games.

But back to Dear Esther, which has swept the globe over the past 24 hours. The game was originally devised as a reesarch project at the University of Portsmouth, designed simply as a Source Engine mod. After its 2007 release garnered significant critical acclaim, thechineseroom‘s Dan Pinchbeck sat down with Robert Briscoe (formerly of the Mirror’s Edge team at DICE), to turn the mod into a full, standalone game.

Despite all this, nobody really expected the game to be quite as successful as it seems to be: The Indie Fund is surprised that the atmospheric first-person explorer is being accepted beyond the “niche appeal” they had predicted. After selling more than 16,000 copies in less than 24 hours, I’d say they backed a winner.


This story was featured in Season 1, Episode 1 of Player Attack:

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