Dear Esther has reached profitability. It took 5 hours, 30 minutes.

Dear Esther was released on Steam yesterday, February 14th. In under 24 hours, the game has sold over 16,000 copies, and Indie Fund’s investment was recouped after just 5.5 hours. Those are great first-day sales for any game, independent or otherwise. Because the Indie Fund loan is already covered, Dear Esther is now profitable.

To be honest, we are a little surprised by how many people bought Dear Esther so quickly. We were expecting the game to have a niche appeal. In fact the situation is quite different; all day it was the top-selling game on Steam:

So, released among games about killing, reckoning, crusading, killing and really old scrolls (containing really old magic… for killing), the meditative beauty of Dear Esther has been recognized. Congratulations to the team behind the game, and thank you to everyone out there who bought the game or told a friend about it.


Indie Fund has a commitment to openness with financials, so here are the relevant details.

We have been in contact with Dan Pinchbeck of thechineseroom since March 2010. The original Dear Esther had already been produced, back in 2008, in the form of an inconvenient-to-install Steam mod that could be downloaded for free. The mod got many peoples’ attention at the time. Dan’s first proposal to us was to fund an ambitous game that would be a spiritual sequel to Dear Esther. At about the same time, he told us about Robert Briscoe’s side-project to rebuild the Dear Esther mod with higher-end graphics.

We talked with Dan on and off about the potential new game for about a year. Due to various interactions with the bureaucracies surrounding universities and government funding sources, it had been uncertain how we could fund the new game. Meanwhile, though, Rob’s rebuild of Dear Esther had become a full project of its own. In April 2011, Dan switched gears and came to us to fund the completion of the Dear Esther rebuild, asking for £30K. We deliberated; even though the original Dear Esther was highly regarded among the art game community, we weren’t sure if people would buy it. Here’s an excerpt from an email we sent Dan in May 2011:

One thing we are thinking as we play the demo is that the Steam audience may not be the right one for the game. We don’t think it’s a bad idea to release on Steam, but we don’t know how well the game will do there (our thoughts so far are, “maybe the game will break even, maybe it won’t, but it won’t make a decent margin of money”.) Us as the fund are not really concerned about making much money, but what we hope is that the developers get a big audience and make enough that they are set for a while. So our hope would be that you make enough that you can self-fund [the bigger game] (or else get less outside funding for it than you would otherwise, or else at least have Esther sales that serve as a demonstration that this format can work well, so that people can invest in the next game with confidence).

What we are thinking is that PSN may actually be the best audience for the game, since PSN has a tradition of doing arty stuff, and so it might be good to launch on both PSN and PC simultaneously.

We appear to have been very wrong about all this. We are happy to have been wrong.

One month after Dan’s proposal, we voted to fund Dear Esther. Since the budget was relatively small and the team needed a large chunk of the money right away, we sent them the entire investment, $55k (USD), in one lump sum. As discussed in the Q.U.B.E. write-up, we liked the way this eliminates most of the hassle that comes with monthly-milestone kinds of situations.

Dan and associates had a very solid track record, so we did not worry about the game getting finished. From the point we funded it, the Dear Esther remake was on autopilot as far as Indie Fund was concerned. We’d ask Dan for one-paragraph status updates every couple of months, offer a small suggestion here and there, and let them continue with their work. Finally, the game was finished, on budget.

The result is in your hands today!

Congratulations once again to Dan, Rob, Jessica, and everyone else who contributed to the game. It’s great to see a game like to see Dear Esther doing well and we hope this means the next game will be much easier to make!

  • congratulations, big fan of the mod, can’t wait to play this version 🙂

  • I’m very glad to see Indie Fund succeeding in its goals thus far. I think it’s great that you who have done well are helping other devs and, in turn, the development of games as an expressive medium. So thank you, and congratulations!

  • Anonymous

    That is so fantastic to read.

  • Forceflow

    I’ve made smoochie-smoochie with 10 tall blonde models today, yet this is the highlight of my day. Excellent news.

  • Anonymous

    I wonder, with this example, will some of the interesting art games from PSN make it to the Steam or not:) Don’t really think so, since a lot of art games on psn are made by japanese guys (who tend to not look at pc as a valid gaming platform), but it would’ve been cool. Especially since thatgamecompany are in indie fund… hey, guys, won’t it be cool to have updated flOw back on PC now?;)
    Anyway, i’m glad that indie scene and things like indie fund or the recent success of double fine Kickstarter move exist. They make me believe in a better gaming future:)

  • Experiences “about killing, reckoning, crusading, killing and really old scrolls (containing really old magic… for killing)” are likely the ones that are niche, not the other way around.

    Minecraft’s meteoric rise in popularity came at a time when there was very little game to be played. A coincidence? I’m not so sure…

  • Louis Filiatrault

    That is incredibly good news. Perhaps the early reviews on popular sites such as Gamespot helped ?

    Many congratulations : )

  • I picked this up yesterday, haven’t played it yet but look forward to it. For me, it sold itself: An arty yet accessible concept (explore a beautiful area), great price point (at $20 I may not have picked it up right away), stunning visuals, and a well-presented trailer. Plus, as an old-school adventure game fan it was something I’d like to see more of being made. 

  • Yadda

    I liked the game so much I bought it for two other friends. In a market saturated with shooters with very little substance, originality and overall lasting appeal, it’s very refreshing to play a game that delivers more in storytelling and atmosphere than gameplay alone.

    I’m happy this game is getting this reception, as it clearly deserves it.

  • Still have to buy this version, congratulations you deserve it!

  • Augusto Cia Augusto

    I have a list reasons for the number of sales for this game:

    No big titles ofuscating the release 
    The success of the mod
    The popularity of Indie FundThe IGF nominations

  • Lucas

    I was one of those 🙂

  • Ksempac

    Could you please elaborate on why you thought Steam audience wasn’t the best one ?

    I’m probably biaised (Steam is my platform of choice by far, though I do have an Xbox360 and PS3), but it seems to me that the Steam audience is particularly aware that indie games exist, and that they are a great source of innovation :
    – Steam has always promoted indie games, through front page showing / sales / bundles
    – PC crowd is also by now used to bundle such as the Humble Bundle or the Indie Royale
    – PC players tend to use mods / freewares which aren’t available on consoles, but offer interesting experiments.

    On the other hand, I tend to dislike the PSN where I have trouble finding what I need. My experiences with PSN are rather poor, it’s already hard to find things you know you want, it’s even harder to find something you weren’t expecting.

    But as I said, I’m probably biaised, so I would very much enjoy reading your point of view on each platform/audience (including XBLA) and why you thought PSN a better choice than Steam.

    • It’s likely because the fact that it was a free mod.

      • Guest

        Its more likely because most people see steam as a bunch of pony idiots buying hats for Battlefield 3.

  • Congrats to everyone! ^^

  • Congrats! As I don’t have a PC, I would greatly appreciate a PSN release!

  • Re. the Steam audience-thing: It’s fun to see you’re thinking just like “real” publishers there. 🙂

  • congrats 🙂

  • AnotherEuropeanGuy

    Please don’t shelve any intention of releasing it on PSN

  • Dorfdorfdorf2001

    Hell yes! Buying this tonight. Well done all and I can’t wait to play more thoughtful and original video games.

  • Anonymous

    This was my favourite Source Mod of all time. So of course I bought 2 copies 1 hour after it’s release.

  • A random guy

    The fact is simple: The game is awesome,poetic,deep, it’s the dream of every person that is able to lose a tear sometimes, that’s what i said, this game is purely a masterpiece

  • Ryan D.

    I wish I could’ve been one of the people to support this game right out of the gate, but it’s not out on Mac. 🙁 …any word on if there’s a port coming?

  • Desi

    I’m glad you decided to release on Steam after all (for me it was an instant purchase as soon as I saw it), but your hesitation in doing so was unnecessary. PC gamers are big on indies, Steam is big on indies, Steam makes it easy for PC gamers to find indies.

  • Joe

    This game is a beautiful example of an indie product. It’s creative, uterly unique, and genuinely emotionally manipulating (This is a good thing!) providing you set youself in the right mindset before playing it. A dark droom, nicely volumated headphones, and 2 hours of unobstructed time and you will have a spine tingling media experience that you will remember forever. Well done to the Indie Fund for doing what they do!

  • Gunavexu

    Beautiful graphics, but without being able to interact in the environment, this should have been a $5 game, not $10. 72 min of gameplay, wandering confused…all for pretty graphics? Meh…

  • I really wish it would have been done on CryEngine, only because it could have easily been ported to PS3 and Xbox.. increasing potential sales for this awesome production. 

  • J_couldridge

    Thank you for funding and thanks all involved for the experience. Wonderful.

  • Cndelliott

    I  have the game but can’t get anywhere.  Please advise.

  • crystal

     i felt enlightenment
     lost but profound .. questing out the meaning of life
     and reborn,emotional,yet peaceful
     .. soul traveling
     for sure. Beautiful scenery music was outstanding.I felt inner peace and clarity ..the most tranqul game yet!