Core Keeper sold over 1 million units in less than 4 months because they focused on the right things

Core Keeper

Core Keeper’s success story

Core Keeper sold 500,000 units in just 2 weeks. Now it has crossed the 1 million mark. Not bad for an early access game with limited content.

Small developers can do incredibly well

Core Keeper has been developed by a tiny Swedish studio called Pugstorm. They have 4 employees and an advisor as stated on their website. The studio is barely 6 years old and this is their second game.

Their first game, Raddical Rabbit Stew, was a critically acclaimed puzzle arcade game, but did nowhere near as well financially.

Pugstorm’s publisher, Fireshine Games, has also never published anything nearly as successful before. So what happened?

Genre choice matters

The most obvious driver of Core Keeper’s success is its genre choice.

Pugstorm’s first game, albeit incredibly well received, was a puzzle game. About 2,500 puzzle games get released on Steam every year – 7 games every single day.

Even with a great game and incredible marketing, it’s difficult to have great game discoverability. The median revenue of puzzle games is c. $2,000. There just isn’t much appetite for puzzle games in the wider Steam audience.

At the same time, 60 open world survival craft games are released every year. The median revenue is c. $30,000. These games have 40 times less competition and earn 15 times more.

Graphics don’t matter

Don’t get me wrong. Core Keeper looks great. But Core Keeper is a 2D retro game. You don’t have to have the latest 3D graphics and dynamic lighting to sell a lot of units. Nostalgia is a powerful tool.

Game length doesn’t matter

We’ve got used to 100+ hour games. That seems to be the new industry norm. Core keeper with it’s sandbox survival elements should fit right into that, right? Wrong. It’s not a huge game.

2/3 of the players spend less than 20 hours playing the game. Yet, it has over 90% positive reviews. Yes, it’s early access and they keep adding more content. However, it shows that the length of the game is not crucial to its success.

This is a refreshing take in a world where large studios spend hundreds of millions on a single game with ever growing maps and longer playtime. I bet Core Keeper’s profit margins will be higher than any of the recent AAA titles’.

All the right effort in all the right places

Core Keeper is not the only massive recent indie success. Among Us and Fall Guys provided us with social experiences when we needed them. Valheim released a great survival game with ‘ok’ graphics, but did incredibly well.

Success in the games industry is knowing what people want and focusing on the few key features that deliver that.