Tribetoy’s Bow to Blood provides a good example of the sales figures need to publish a successful PS VR game.
The PlayStation VR headset has sold over 3 million units worldwide, but the PS4 gaming console sits at 81.2 million. While that’s not insignificant, it does mean virtual reality game creators are catering to a relatively small audience, and need to push harder to turn a profit.
A recent Reddit AMA with Tribetoy founder Matthew Hoesterey (via GamesIndustry.biz provides a great example. Bow to Blood is a PS VR exclusive where players control sci-fi airships in gladiatorial arena combat. Instead of controlling the ship directly, each ship has a robotic crew that manages specific tasks and keeps everything in working order. (Although you can break out a personal weapon and defend yourself if necessary.) AI opponents are randomly-selected, and you have the option to form temporary alliances with them – or burn them and deal with their grudges in the future.
While Hoesterey doesn’t share Bow to Blood’s budget, he does admit it’s quite small – certainly limited enough that multiplayer wasn’t feasible. But he did detail the number of sales that allow Tribetoy to break even and turn a profit:
“We need to sell around 28,000 copies at the current non-discount price to break even and that’s not counting me living off my bank account and not taking a salary for two years,” Hoesterey writes. “We get to decide if we discount the game but work with Sony to decide when that is done. So realistically with sales factored in we probably need to hit 40,000 sales before we earn any money toward the next project.”
Hoesterey also admits that marketing to PSVR customers has its own hurdles. “PSVR has a really small user base relative to non-VR games so we probably get less sales then we would making a flat game,” he writes. “That said we love VRrrrrrrr and are not doing this to get rich.”
Sony helped fund the game, which means it earns all revenue until dev costs are paid off – after that, it’s just the standard 30% cut. “It was a very generous deal,” Hoesterey added. “Most of the time developers get much less but VR deals are a bit better as the user base is smaller so it’s harder to break even.”
Tribetoy is currently adding updates to Bow to Blood, and doesn’t have a new project planned. If the game manages to surpass 40,000 sales, perhaps we’ll see a new game enter development.