A Right Old Racket: Recettear Profits

By Alec Meer on September 29th, 2010 at 8:32 pm.

Ding!

While the games industry at large continues to have a nice little a panic about declining retail sales and just a handful of games cornering the market, indie’s looking masterfully strong right now. Yesterday, we got a sense of how many money-hats Minecraft’s Notch gets to wear, and now we hear that marvellous profiteering/dungeoneering hybrid Recettear has “done what we barely hoped it would do.” I.e. sold a whole bunch, and given the folk at translator/co-developers Carpe Fulgur enough money in the bank to make this kind of thing their actual, honest-to-God jobs.

26,000 copies sold to date, which may not sound like much compared to the numbers you hear, say, Microsoft kicking about for Halo: Reach, but the difference is profound. This is a small project made by a handful of devs, translated into English several years later, distributed solely online, with no marketing budget, no focus-grouping, no magazines penning breathlessly frothing speculative previews for months in advance, no E3 space, no celebrity endorsement…

An independent game can do that well simply by virtue of being a great game. That’s beyond important. Popcap’s CEO has been saying similar, in terms of how he thinks his games can compete with Zynga’s marketing-driven Facebook titles, although the size of Popcap and the costs they need to cover ultimately make that an entirely different argument to Recettear earning enough for Carpe Fulgur to switch to full-time games development.

For us, this means Carpe Fulgur can go do more of the same: spot some delectable Japanese indie title us lot have probably never heard of, translate it, and drop it in PC gamers’ laps. “We hope to announce a couple of very exciting projects in the near future, and we’ve begun to look at a number of future potential titles for localization,” says Carpe Fulgur’s Andrew Dice in this celebratory post. Oh, and he also claims that Recettear’s new-found English-language success has “provided [original devs] EasyGameStation with a massive new stream of revenue that they did not previously have access to.

Well done, all involved. It is deserved.

Also, I note that, in RPS’ inclusion in their reviews round-up, they’ve had to go with ‘splendid’ in lieu of our giving a score. I am totally down with that. Maybe we should replace Optimus’ thumbs with Splendid and Not-Splendid.

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58 Comments »

  1. Vinraith says:

    I’m glad things are going well for them. I’m really enjoying Recettear, and always pleased when an indie that produces work I enjoy sees success for that work. Now if we could just get Arcen firmly in the black, the future would be seriously bright.

    • pierec says:

      Good thing is that Arcen’s financial troubles are no more, apparently.

    • Vinraith says:

      @pierec

      Where’d you get that idea? They had a nice sales spike from the publicity surrounding their troubles, but that doesn’t remotely translate to them being in a sustainable position yet. They’re still looking at various ideas to help get them out of their slump. On the up side, they’re talking about another AI War mini-expansion late this year.

    • pierec says:

      Silly me. I misread (and skimmed through without giving it much thought and attention to be frank) that clarification post from Arcen Games website. Sorry!

      I hope that porting AI War to Unity will help their situation. It would be delightful to play it in Linux.

    • Matzerath says:

      Pierec, I think you might still be confused.

  2. pupsikaso says:

    Great to hear more and more indies doing great. Means I can play more and more of the games I like!

  3. Dominic White says:

    A key thing of note here: In one month, the English version managed to sell more than the Japanese version had in three years.

    EasyGameStation are, understandably, more than a little pleased, and will probably be begging CF to translate their other games.

    • Dominic White says:

      Oh yeah – to elaborate, the reason the Japanese version sold so poorly, comparatively, is because the Japanese indie scene, while fairly strong, has no unified distribution system worked out. More often than not, games are sold in boxed/DVD-cased form at comic fairs and speciality webstores. Digital distro really hasn’t caught on yet.

      Although given that Recettear has been a runaway success by Japanese indie standards, that may change soon.

    • Dreamhacker says:

      Honestly, does any game that isn’t an eroge/galge sell? After that old RPS article on japanese PC gaming and some independent research, I’ve reached the conclusion that there is no PC gaming market in Japan, only console games and smut… :|

    • CoyoteTheClever says:

      Well, the Touhou Project might beg to differ.

    • Dominic White says:

      There are a huge number of indie PC devs. Not many major studios, though. They all tend to cluster around niche distribution platforms, though. This will hopefully change over the next year or two, though, and we’ll see more Japanese indie titles coming to the west.

      Hopefully official translations of the Touhou series will happen. That’d be nice. Although there’s already full unofficial english patches for the whole series.

    • Clovis says:

      So, when I play something like this I’m thinking, “Wow, this is definitely a Japanese game.” I’m used to that sensation when playing games that are insanely popular in Japan. It seems really bizarre that the game is basically doing a whole lot better in it’s non-native language. Especially when the graphics (cartoon style), dialogue style, play style, etc. are all very Japanese. Weird.

    • Dominic White says:

      It’s purely a matter of marketing and distribution, rather than region. Carpe Fulgur really did their homework, and have figured how how to drum up publicity on a near-zero marketing budget. Many indie studios treat ‘marketing’ like it’s a dirty word. They just put a game out there and hope it’ll sell based on quality alone.

      Well, nice as that sounds, it doesn’t work. Many great indie games have completely failed to sell, simply because nobody knows about them. You need to spam all the blogs, talk about it on forums, corner your market and shout about it. Throw free review copies at anyone who might write a decent review, because even if just one person buys it based on the writeup, you’ve either broken even, or made a profit depending on how you view piracy.

    • rargphlam says:

      Four easy steps to promote any indie game.

      1. Make/Translate a good game.
      2. Post thread on SomethingAwful.
      3. ???
      4. Profit.

    • subedii says:

      The fact that there was a demo also helped. As the previous RPS article on PC Gaming in Japan noted, devs generally avoid demos because it’s viewed as having a “lack of confidence” in the product you’re selling.

      Or something along those lines anyway.

    • JimRyanor says:

      Makes me think of one of Kieron’s old speeches.

  4. Premium User Badge

    solipsistnation says:

    Yeah, so, at a little under 20 bucks a copy, that’s about $520,000 (before licensing and Steam distribution fees). That’s pretty comfortable for a company with 3 staff members.

    • Tilla says:

      EasyGameStation gets ‘the lion’s share’ of that though, I imagine Carpe Fulgur’s cut is a third or less of the total profit :/ still enough to keep them going over the next year or two to get another game out, though. And more importantly, they have made connections not just with EGS, but with Steam and Impulse and Paradox and so on, and shown the world they can make something good.

  5. westyfield says:

    You can’t replace Optimus’ thumbs!

    Also, typing that, I realise it’s “Optimus’ thumbs”, e.g. “the thumbs of Optimus”, rather than a new transformer called Optimus Thumbs (all he can do is transform into a big hand), which makes me a little sad.

    • Zero says:

      That didn’t stop Megatron from transforming into the Man from UNCLE gun.

    • Urael says:

      Geek Note:- Megatron from the Robots In Disguise series (‘RID’, 2000) was able to transform into a hand, one of his six alt-modes. If you ever want to retire the Optimus thumbs… :)

  6. Falerix says:

    [url=http://wiki.teamfortress.com/w/images/5/56/Spy_positivevocalization02.wav]

    • Falerix says:

      Apparently I do not know how to hyperlink.

      Anyways, top shelf! That game deserves good recognition.

  7. Nick says:

    I hope this means they can do that strategy RPG they were talking about.

    • Dominic White says:

      Territoire? That’s well into development. Apparently the demo was just released in Japan. And it seems very likely that CF will be translating it at this point.

    • DrGonzo says:

      They would probably sell a lot more copies if they didn’t give their games silly names. I’ve told loads of people to buy Recettear but the name puts people off before I can even tell them the premise. And then even if they liked the sound of it it’s rather unlikely they will remember the name, or spell it right.

    • Dominic White says:

      Man, yeah. Those wacky Japanese games and their strange titles, unlike such great ones like Left4Dead, Crysis, Half-Life and other such random barely-coherent mashups of words and letters

    • Dominic White says:

      Also ‘Territoire’ is literally ‘Territory’ in French, and given that the series is set in fantasy-france, that makes sense.

    • DrGonzo says:

      I wasn’t commenting on disliking the names. As much as Crysis etc may be bland stupid names and no where near as fun, they are easy to remember. And probably most importantly easy to stick in google.

    • Aerozol says:

      The name pulled me in a little.
      I certainly wouldn’t buy it if it was called ‘Shopkeeper x6: Alpha Omega Thunderdome’. It obviously didn’t put many other purchasers off either (?). If it’s a different game, give it a different name, as far as I’m concerned.

    • Miko says:

      Definitely agree that ‘Recettear’ is a poor name. It might as well be called ‘Spraodasf’ or ‘Ruodrtu’. Leaving off ‘Recettear’ and just calling it ‘An Item Shop’s Tale’ would’ve been something of an improvement.

      Not sure about ‘Territoire’. It’s pleasant enough, but what’s wrong with ‘Territory’? If it’s like other Japanese games set in a sort of cod-medieval pseudo-Europe, it’s not set in France any more than it is in Portugal, England, or Austro-Hungary, and it’s not as if the game itself is going to be in French.

      Also, 26,000? It was highly placed on Steam’s Top Sellers for most of a week, so I keep expecting to see another 1 on the front of that number every time I look at it.

  8. noobnob says:

    Some indies with they could sell 5,000 copies of their games.

    Word of mouth, DD and the lack of japanese games that aren’t dating sims on the western PC market were pretty vital for the success of this game, IMO. Have yet to try the full version, perhaps in the future…

  9. Sardaukar says:

    Is it too much to hope for a portable port? This is exactly the kind of game I’d love to see on the PSP and DS.

  10. laikapants says:

    I cannot properly grok Recettear (issues with the execution, not the art direction), but I’m certainly warmed by this news.

  11. David says:

    I very much wish that you could change the click through text on the home page from “Read the rest of this entry” to “Capitalism Ho!”

  12. DuckSauce says:

    Great news, since I heard about Monster Hunter here on RPS I’m kinda interested in that, though I doubt carpe fulgur is gonna pick something like that up soon?

    • Tilla says:

      Do you mean the Monster Hunter mmo? Because the rest of the Monster Hunter series has already been officially translated and released here, albeit all for consoles.

    • DuckSauce says:

      I wasn’t pointing to any in particular, but it was the MMO I saw I believe.
      Anyway, if they’re around for consoles that’d explain why I didn’t know about it :P
      PC fanboy speaking :)

  13. Unaco says:

    Congratulations to them… But, I can’t forgive the song on that trailer, and I’m not really a J-RPG type person. Still, it’s good to see their success.

  14. Beef Assistant says:

    Awesome! Congratulations, Carpe Fulgur! This is great, I can’t wait for more.

  15. Little Tohya says:

    Hurrah! Fantastic news for a wonderful little game.

  16. D. Gates says:

    I’m wondering how well Cave Story’s been doing. It’s pretty much the epitome of Japanese indie success. I saw a photo of an ad for the WiiWare release plastered on the side of a Japanese skyscraper — right next to an equally-sized Final Fantasy XIII ad. That a 6-year-old one-man project was getting equal billing with Square Enix’s flagship is huge for indie gaming.

    Visual novels technically are video games, but they’re so different from the western concept that they should be classed as a separate medium altogether. They’re pretty much entirely text (with multimedia accompaniment), and some can hit triple-digit hours of play time. Kinetic novels are a subcategory with no choices or branches, and can’t really be considered games at all. It’s also a misconception to label them all as smut; not all have it, and when they do it’s often non-essential (as evidenced by the proliferation of “all ages” versions, smut-free console ports, and mass-market manga/anime adaptations). Likewise, dating sims are just one genre within the larger medium.

    • TCM says:

      That was a photoshop the team made up for E3 a year or two back.

  17. haircute says:

    Very pleased to read this. Congrats, Carpe guys!

    btw: great game. My sister and GF ended up scooping it up for themselves.

  18. SpinalJack says:

    Good news for all concerned. Now lets hope they can hire a proper web designer and not use eye hurt colours for reading

  19. fallingmagpie says:

    Recette can still hang her open sign on my candlestick.

  20. Reverend Speed says:

    This feature compares interestingly with a new piece on Gamasutra: http://www.gamasutra.com/view/feature/6153/the_voxel_agents_year_one_.php?page=1
    The trials and tribulations of a new indie games developer, one that isn’t doing quite as well as Carpe Fulgur.

    Then again, they’re not on the PC, are they?!

  21. bildo says:

    who wants to argue about the games art? anyone? ;)

  22. Soobe says:

    I’m looking at Recettear in my Stream list right now: 37 hours played.

    Good god has it really been that many?

    The only other game to complete with that over this last year would be Just Cause 2 at 53 hours.
    I guess what I’m saying is the games brilliant fun.

  23. Joflar says:

    “Capitalism, Ho!” could’ve been a better title for the game. I was always pronouncing Recettear with a soft c and thought it was just a jibberish title. Its a decent joke in the game but dammit 2 years of high school french forced that pronunciation on me and it angers me greatly. Territoire is cool name though.

    • Gutfried says:

      Capitalism, Ho! sounds more like a Saints’ Row expansion

    • Miko says:

      Whereas “Capitalism Ho” would just have people assuming Tear was the titular character.

  24. Tony M says:

    I wish Metacritic would display non-score reviews in the same way the review round-up did it, so I can use it to find reviews. Then again, it probably goes against Metacritics founding principle to admit that someone can produce a worthwhile review without a number attached.

  25. Secatus says:

    I’ve got to say, it’s places like RPS that can really make the difference for games like this. I’d have never given the game a second look if it wasn’t for this blog.

    • Ysellian says:

      Yeah, I’m wondering just how much RPS has helped contribute to that number. I would never have gotten the game if it wasn’t for RPS.

  26. Brer says:

    Yes. With the possible exception of XNA-based XBLA titles, console development (even portable consoles) requires expensive dev kits. That was why XNA was supposedly going to be a big deal.

  27. Adam says:

    I would buy Ruodrtu.

  28. themysticalninja says:

    I brought a copy :D This makes me feel glad. I should actually get back to playing this game.