Screenshot: Shovel Knight

A new blog post from the makers of the excellent 2D platformer Shovel Knight breaks down the game’s sales in surprising detail.

Shovel Knight was released in 2014 on PC, Wii U and 3DS, the year after it was Kickstarted. It was eventually ported to every other console. Of its two million sales to date, the largest chunk, 24.4%, came on PC, followed by 3DS with 23.9%. Surprisingly though, the Switch led the Wii U version 17.6% to 14.3% despite only coming out last year. The only other major source was PS4, accounting for 9.1% of the total sales. Perhaps not surprisingly given what other studios have said about their game, Shovel Knight was fastest-selling on the Switch, selling 110,000 copies in the first month compared to 70,000 in the first month the game was out on PC.

Sales per platform as a percentage of total units sold.
Image: Yacht Club Games

The Switch version released with Specter of Torment, the game’s newest add-on campaign, included. That increased the price from $15 to $25. In the end, Yacht Club says this, combined with other factors like never discounting the game beyond 33% off, may have helped make 2017 the studio’s highest year yet in terms of revenue. “Our biggest unit sales and revenue year was 2015 when we sold about 675k units. In 2017, we sold about 500k units, but we earned ~115% more revenue than in 2015!” The studio linked to a number of Steam discussion threads angry the game’s price never dropped significantly, and actually went up when packaged with new DLC, but implies the revenue growth showed it was the right move.

While Yacht Club Games has never commented on how profitable the game as a whole has been, it did say in 2016 that the first expansion, Plague of Shadows, cost approximately $1 million to develop and made them zero money. Not discouraged, it invested even more, $1.5 million, into Specter of Torment, which still isn’t profitable, according to today’s new Yacht Club post, but has managed to do slightly better. Whether its release helped push Shovel Knight sales on the Switch though is hard to tell. Looking to data across other platforms where sales mostly stayed flat, the takeaway appears to be that the game sold so well on the Switch because lots of games seem to sell well on the Switch.

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Total revenue for each platform over time.
Image: Yacht Club Games

At the other end of the spectrum, the consoles you’d expect, namely PS3 and Vita, have seen significant sales drops. “We sold about 500 copies on PS3 in April 2016 just in the US,” the Yacht Club devswrote. “That seems very high given where the PS3 was at in its life cycle! But we only sold about 30 units in October 2017 on PS3. So, at least for us, that marks PS3’s mighty reign as coming to a close. A similar story could be told for the Vita where we sold 1.8k units in April 2016 in the US. Now we’re down to ~170 units in October 2017.”

Going forward, the studio is working on fulfilling the rest of the promises it made in its original Kickstarter for the game, including a Shovel Knight card game set to release sometime later this year.