We talk to developer Re-Logic about the game's legacy and the state of indie development.
This week, Terraria developer Re-Logic announced that the crafting and sandbox game has sold more than 30 million copies in its nine years in existence. Originally launched in 2011, Terraria has appeared on virtually every gaming platform available, and helped establish a genre that has seen no shortage of copycats and interpretations.
“To say that this floors all of us in regards to the sheer level of support and love you have shown us over the years is a massive understatement,” a Re-Logic spokesperson said on the game’s forums. “We can only hope to return the favor by continuing to provide amazing gaming experiences for years to come (whether it be on Terraria or future games that we create). From the bottom of our hearts - thank you Terrarians. You are what makes this so much fun and what drives us to do great things each and every day.”
The announcement further broke down the sales numbers, stating that 14 million copies of Terraria have been sold on the PC, with 7.6 million, and 8.7 million on consoles and mobile devices, respectively.
“Terraria clearly continues to resonate with gamers and has something of a timeless quantity to it,” Ted Murphy, head of business strategy and marketing at Re-Logic, told GameDaily. “This is a game that people dedicate hundreds to thousands of hours to. A game that people may put down for a while, but always come back to time and again.”
Murphy notes that, despite Terraria’s age, Re-Logic has not seen a slowdown in new player acquisition. In fact, the game is capturing new players faster than ever before. “If anything, Terraria sells better in 2020 than it ever has,” he said.
This level of success is exceedingly rare for a video game, let alone an indie developed by a small group of people. Of course, as the best-selling game of all time, Minecraft sets the bar; it began life as a one-person project, but has since become a pop culture phenomenon that permeates all forms of media. Where Minecraft developer Mojang has grown significantly, Re-Logic remains small, employing only about 12 core team members.
Of course, indie development is a very different beast today than it was in 2011. Back then, the first wave of indie devs were just finding their footing, and pioneering titles like Braid, World of Goo, and Super Meat Boy were releasing into a burgeoning market that was ripe for new experiences. Now, however, it’s all but impossible to keep up with the sheer number of indie games releasing on a weekly basis.
“Back in 2011, you had really the rise of Indies still on the up-slope,” Murphy said. “As has been well-documented nowadays, the number of new indie games has exploded. While that is great to see so many creative people engaged in the industry, it is harder than ever to break through with your ideas. Stand above the crowd. It is more important than ever to do something that truly innovates or even stands as a true evolution from an existing genre.”
It’s that specter of discoverability that looms large over the indie market. The rise in digital distribution has made it easier than ever for consumers to purchase games. Of course, by that same token, it’s become harder for developers to cut through the noise and get eyes on their product in recent years.
“The changes in digital distribution and greater-than-ever self-publishing capabilities coupled with larger companies taking a vested interest in buying stakes in -- or purchasing outright -- successful indie developers [make it challenging],” Murphy explained. “Being -- and staying -- in that ‘triple-I’ space is harder to do nowadays. Again, we consider ourselves beyond fortunate to be in that place!”
There have been some concerted efforts to combat discoverability in the indie space. Storefronts like Steam and the Epic Games Store have taken steps to help in that regard. Elsewhere, some indie developers have taken matters into their own hands with initiatives like the Kowloon Nights indie fund.
“We need to realign the power dynamic between developers and publishers. Publishers can bring a lot of value and expertise, but it’s important that the deal terms reflect everyone’s contribution,” Kowloon Nights co-founder Alexis Garavaryan told GameDaily in January. “Independent studios put in an enormous amount of human, creative and financial capital into their games. Writing checks is a lot easier than making games, but that is not always reflected in the deal’s terms or the amount of control publishers can exert over the creators.”
Luckily, Re-Logic got in on the action before discoverability became a major issue.
As for what’s next for Terraria, Murphy said that the team is getting ready to release the last major content update for the game.
“The biggest news item on the horizon is the long-awaited Journey’s End update that will come first to PC and then roll out to mobile and consoles as soon as possible afterwards,” he explained. “Journey’s End is going to be the fourth -- and final -- major content update to Terraria. We are currently working hard to get things all pulled together and ready to share with the fans. We do not have a release date yet, but we will share one just as soon as we are able!”
Despite Journey’s End being the final major update, Murphy said that Re-Logic still has plans to grow Terraria’s user base beyond its release.
“We really feel that, even at 30 million sold, the full potential of the game in regards to reaching more gamers is far greater. We look forward to seeing players enjoying Terraria, and introducing their friends and family to our amazing sandbox metroidvania classic for years and years to come,” Murphy said.
Finding success in the indie space is harder than ever, and early adopters like Re-Logic are part of the reason why. Not only did Terraria manage to get in on the ground floor of the indie boom of the late 2000s and early 2010s, it helped to shape the indie space into what we see today. Terraria’s success has been a carrot on the stick for many of the subsequent developers that have popped up since, and it’s not an understatement to call the game one of the pioneers of the current indie landscape.
For more stories like this one delivered straight to your inbox, please subscribe to the GameDailyBiz Digest!/* =$comments; */?>