Ninja Theory published their final developer diary for the mid-budget Hellblade, which is designed to be a triple-A game on an indie game budget. The 11 minute video covers the post-launch synopsis of Ninja Theory’s project, as well as what they hope to accomplish in the near future.
The developer diary also revealed that the game launched with an impressive 250,000 units sold across PS4 and on PC during the first week, with 75,000 of those coming from PS4 pre-orders. After three months – between August and November – the game has sold nearly 500,000 units, priced at $30, across both platforms, generating $13 million in revenue, and allowing Ninja Theory to begin accruing profit on the title. The production was done over the course of three years between 2014 and 2017, with a team size of just 20 people.
According to Steam Spy, the Steam version of the game has racked up more than 180,000 units sold. Hellblade is also available on GOG.com, but we don’t know what the sales figures are for CD Projekt’s distribution platform.
It’s all explained in the developer diary below, which was recently made public.
According to Ninja Theory’s product development specialist, Dominic Matthews, he explains…
“Three months on and we are now approaching 500,000 units, which puts us beyond our break even and into profit.
“So far Hellblade has generated $13 million in revenue, and sales continue to be consistent and steady.”
According to creative director and studio head, Tameem Antonidas, they were originally expecting to break even over the projected course of nine months.
The production budget was made up of some loans and tax breaks, but the largest percentage of the game’s budget came from out of Ninja Theory’s own pockets.
Nevertheless, if $13 million in revenue means they’re starting to take in profits after breaking even back in October, it means that the budget was likely somewhere around $10 million.
I don’t know if I would necessarily consider $10 million as “mid-budget”. $5 million through $7 million definitely seems closer to the small to mid-budget single-A category. Let’s not forget that games like Gears of War are considered triple-A but the original, according to Ars Technica, also had a budget of $10 million (although a lot of that was mitigated due to it being built on Epic’s own Unreal Engine, so they had a lot of the tools and assets already built in-house).
Anyway, Ninja Theory doesn’t want to stop here. They want to make more content for Hellblade and they want to help other developers produce titles within the single-A category without wading into the ridiculously over-bloated budgets of the triple-A sector. That’s one of the reasons they chronicled the development cycle of the game over the course of 30 videos, to help give insight and education on how a small game on a medium budget can be made with a small team.
Additionally, Ninja Theory had a lot of help in cutting costs by creating an Unreal Engine 4 injector with the help of Cubic Motion, IKinema and 3Lateral in order to feed real-time performance capture data directly into the in-engine runtime environment. This made it possible for them to do capture and clean-up all in-house without requiring separate tools and studios to work on the in-game cinematic sequences.
Regardless of what you think of Hellblade, if more companies can start scaling back on budgets, being more frugal with expenses, utilizing middleware in smarter ways, and producing more mechanics-driven games, you won’t hear any complaints from me.
And given companies like EA and Activision shooting themselves in the foot with things like loot box gambling systems, hopefully more studios take heed of Ninja Theory’s advice and begin looking into alternative ways of financing games to reduce overhead costs and increase profitability.