Wowzers: Torchlight II Sells A Bazillionty Units

By Nathan Grayson on July 26th, 2013 at 10:00 am.

I imagine Runic has made more than 12 gold.

Holy cow, everyone. People bought a videogame! Look at all these HOT NUMBERS, sensitive bits conjuring curiosity from behind the slimmest of dollar signs. Yes, I know this sort of news isn’t typically very exciting, but I think Torchlight II warrants an exception to that oh-so-sacred of RPS rules. Runic’s finished taking count on the fingers and toes of all its employees and their many pet millipedes, and the total tally’s come out to two million. In ten months. That’s pretty huge for a PC-only ARPG from a developer not named Blizzard. But then, Torchlight II did a rather incredible number of things right.

Unsurprisingly, Runic president Travis Baldree is taking the news pretty well:

“I’d just like to say a big thank you to all the players who offered their suggestions on what we could improve, and who stuck with us and supported us during development. It wouldn’t have been possible without you, and we’re humbled and grateful at your response.”

I believe it, too. Torchlight II stands out as a game that’s exceedingly fan friendly, and it’s been rewarded for it. Meanwhile, it’s continued to in turn reward fans with things like mod/Steam Workshop support and – well, let’s face it – a total lack of Diablo-III-esque server and economy troubles.

Basically, Runic’s success sets a good example for other PC developers to follow, and it should be applauded. No, Torchlight II isn’t the most innovative game (and it still has some unresolved network hiccups; get on that, Runic!), but I’m happy to see a developer keep its soul and its bank account. Bravo.


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  1. Runty McTall says:

    I know it’s total speculation, but how much money do you think that translates to? I mean, if they get $5 of the sale price (by way of a ballpark example), then that 2million just translates into $10million. I say “just” because I understand that making games, even with a small studio and such like, is expensive and Torchlight always seemed to have a decent polish which spoke of reasonable resources being applied to it.

    Also, with lots of games going on deep discount sales relatively quickly after launch, you wonder how many of the 2million sales would even have returned $5 to the publishers. Genuinely curious how this works out for them and how long it can float them while they make another game.

    • gravity_spoon says:

      I don’t think those number include sales through Steam since Valve doesn’t disclose that data much. Neither does it include the sale of game during Summer Sale event. So no. I’d have to disagree with you on everything. Not counting in the Steam sale and/or weekly discounts, the game was $20. Your estimate of $5 comes out of nowhere at all.

      • Detocroix says:

        Those selling stuff on Steam do get pretty good charts. Whether or not Runic included all those stats to their own stats isn’t answered here.

      • suibhne says:

        Valve doesn’t publicly disclose Steam sales stats, but it seems like you’re suggesting it doesn’t disclose sales stats to its suppliers, either. That’s pretty much impossible; if it were true, the parties would never be able to draw up a contract. And we’ve seen plenty of other devs release pretty detailed Steam sales info for their titles, so it doesn’t seem like Valve has any issue with at least some info being released on a title-by-title basis.

      • stupid_mcgee says:

        I’m sure it does include Steam sales. Valve doesn’t tell the public about its sales figures. They most certainly do share those figures with the developers and/or publishers.

        As for figures, the recent Summer Sale saw TL2 go 75%-off, for $5. Steam’s typical cut is 30%. That means Runic sees $3.50 out of each sale during Steam’s Summer Sale. It’s gone on sale before for 50% off, so that would be $7 for each 50%-off sale. TL2 is normally priced at $20, so they would get $14 out of each sale.

        If we do this in an even spread and presume a 1/3 normal-price, 1/3 50′%-off, and 1/3 75%-off, we get $9,333,324 + $4,666,662 + $2,333,333 = $16,333,319.

        If you want to round that down a bit, go for it. But it’s easy to conclude that they’ve made well over $10,000,000. Considering how well early adoption was for TL2, I could see it being around the $18 million mark.

        -edit- Forgot that Perfect World is also selling TL2, but I seriously doubt their cut is any steeper than Steam’s, so I don’t think it would skew the figures.

        However, all sales from Runic’s own store are 100% profit, so that would skew early adopter numbers more in their favor.

        • Runty McTall says:

          Thanks all. From Wikipedia it is seems in 2009 they had about 30 employees and it took them about 3 years to make TL2. $18million over 30 employees for 3 years is $200K each, which is actually less than I expected ($18million seemed like a lot) but probably enough to comfortably float them to the next game.

          • stupid_mcgee says:

            Basically, yeah, they’re floating by. Comfortably, mind you, but they’re not Scrooge McDucking it into a moneypool.

            I mean, I’m sure they’re earning good salaries, but there’s also the cost of rent for their office space, equipment, promotional material and advertising, taxes, as well as employee benefits like health insurance and so forth. And employee benefits can really add up!

            To give you some perspective on wages, though: 45% of the USA earns under $25,000 a year in personal income and 45% of households earn under $45,000. Poverty level is $11.5k for personal and $25k for a family of four. Living in Seattle, where Runic Games is headquartered, costs roughly 15% more than the national average, with housing costing well above the national average (just over 30% more).

            BTW, those poverty levels are absolute poverty. If you are a family of four earning $25k a year, you are struggling hard.

            -edit- in case anyone’s wondering what the “so forth” might be on insurance… Not all health insurance covers everything. For example, some health plans do not cover dental. Or, they might cover dental checkups, but not dental surgery. Some do not cover vision. Some will cover checkups and doctor appointments for vision, but not for the actual glasses and/or contacts. Some businesses also provide life insurance and even auto insurance. Sometimes (most of the time, actually) employees pay for this, either partly or entirely, but there are some businesses that will pay the entire sum of their employees’ benefits. Then there’s also 401ks and so on. Employee benefits can really blow up a budget here in the USA.

          • Apocalypse says:

            If I remember correct Chris Roberts showed us some numbers of total cost per developer in his Star Citizen crowd founding campaign and with those numbers we can assume that torchlight indeed payed for itself already, but the comport zone is not really big.

            The cost per company employee were iirc between $125,000 and $175,000 per year, this includes office space and tools and computers, …
            Sounds reasonable to me, and shows that even with $200,000 revenue per employee and year of development they have not got enough income to finance another game fully.

          • stupid_mcgee says:

            Around $125k to $150k seems reasonable. Also, keep in mind that these are only sales for the first 10 months. There might not be a lot of future sales for the full price (most who would pay full price likely already have), but I think it’s perfectly reasonable to expect an increase of about 50% of their current revenue within another year or two due to more big sales events that could rake in a an extra few million.

            To quote Bill Murray in What About Bob?, “baby steps get on the bus, baby steps down the aisle, baby steps…”

          • Runty McTall says:

            Thanks again, this has all been interesting stuff. It’s funny, I started with a rough estimate of $10m and thought “that’s not a whole lot in the scheme of game development”, then $18m seemed a reasonable estimate and I thought “Wow, that’s actually not bad!” and now I’m back at it not being a particularly comfortable amount considering the cost of keeping a studio going and the relatively high risk nature of games development (one flop and you’re in big trouble).

            Obviously this is pretty speculative stuff (if lots of sales were upfront at full $20 price, through Runic’s own site then the arithmetic can shift dramatically) but it’s interesting to consider the economics of game development.


          • stupid_mcgee says:

            Yeah, it really does seem like a lot, but when you compare to a lot of AAA games, it’s next to nothing. By estimates I’ve done, CoD probably costs about $90-$120 million, conservatively, to make each and every single year. The reason why CoD’s yearly development cost is so high is because both Infinity Ward and Treyarch work simultaneously on a staggered release schedule for the series. So, I include the costs of both studios when estimating the cost for each yearly release. Also, Activision has been bragging, for the past two years (maybe more?), that they’ve spent $100 million on advertising, alone. So, for each CoD game that comes out, you’re talking about roughly $200 million.

            I’ve heard others say that their estimates are more around $250m to $280m. I’ve heard quotes of over $200 million just in studio costs alone, which is possible, but extremely doubtful considering GTA V is estimated at $135m in development costs, and that’s for several years worth of development. (estimated $109m in advertising)

            This is one reason why many investors are weary about the idea of acquiring Activision. Yeah, CoD sells a ton of copies and is a huge money maker, but if that franchise dries up, it can be a very costly decline if they don’t downgrade costs if/when consumer demand starts to wane.

      • squareking says:

        I was happy to pay full price for TL2 instead of waiting for a sale because I knew how much attention and care they were putting into it based on previews, conversations with the community and my experience with TL1. This is neither here nor there, really, just a note.

        • Apocalypse says:

          This remembers me of something that reduce revenue per copy even for the early adopters. 4-packs. We got one for example for full price on steam. That is even for a release sale only 9.97325€ /copy of revenue for Runic Games.

    • Njordsk says:

      No idea, but considering they keep making them I’d say “enough to survive”.

    • Detocroix says:

      Their normal selling price is lil under $20, I’m guessing quite large part of their numbers come from pre-Steam sales. Also as it’s €20 and £20 in EU, they probably are getting much higher average price per unit than $5. The sales most likely did push the sold units number up quite a bit, but they were selling well at launch too and have been quite up on Steam charts all the time.

      Not to forget everyone pissed off at D3 at least considered, if not bought, Torchlight 2 around the launch :)

  2. L3TUC3 says:

    I was about to purchase the sale when I noticed I had already bought the game in a previous sale back in January, but simply hadn’t the space or time to install it yet.

    Much to the rejoice of my best buddy who bought the game previously also, but never played it.

    We will set off on a grand looting adventure together soon.

  3. dagudman says:

    Considering that Torchlight 2 did so well, I wonder how Path of Exile and Warframe did.

  4. lowprices says:

    Hmm, another attempted comment lost to Horace’s infinite hunger. 2nd go: Huzzah for Runic, both Torchlights were lovely. My only hope for Torchlight 3 is that the story is more determinedly light-hearted. The stories for the first two weren’t interesting, but they were really quite straight-faced about it. If I’m going to half pay attention to a plot, I’d rather there be a few jokes along the way.

    • Hypocee says:

      …like King Crab The Ostentatious Crustacean?

      • lowprices says:

        Moments like that were rare though. For every moment like that there was an awful lot of uninteresting “Blah blah blah Ember, blah blah Corruption, something something Guardians” in textboxes. Plots in ARPG’s tend to be excuses, but I’d like more humour in my excuses.

  5. MarcP says:

    “(and it still has some unresolved network hiccups; get on that, Runic!)”

    It does? I have been lucky enough not to run into any issues, even when playing with overseas friends (and I’m the kind of guy who moans about his ping when others feel nothing).

  6. Raiyan 1.0 says:

    ” Runic’s finished taking count on the fingers and toes of all its employees and their many pet millipedes, and the total tally’s come out to two million.”

    Grayson, you are lovely, you know that?

  7. jrodman says:

    Now, I wonder if they can make a comment on the mac version that was promised.

  8. Howard says:

    Yeah, great. Now if they would only fix the massive, game-destroying bug with Embermages that has been in it since day one, I might actually be able to play it again…
    Totally lost faith in Runic after this farce.

    • Film11 says:

      Which is..? Playing an embermage I’d like to hear more about this.

      • Howard says:

        The bug is this: When you play an Embermage in multiplayer, the clients start to screw up badly and desync. What this means is that you will suddenly start to get insta-popped as an embermage and the frequency of this increases the longer you play. The reason for this is that the shit-poor network code they wrote actually gets so badly out of sync that it corrupts your character. If, when it start happening, you keep an eye on your toon, you will notice that they will suddenly stop showing as the name you gave them and will instead appear as “EMBERMAGE”, a Level 1 toon. At this point, your toon has the mana and health pools of a level one guy and will be instantly and constantly killed by even the weakest mob on the screen.

        Furthermore, once this corruption happens, it cannot be undone. Your character is ruined forever and while they periods in which you are lowered to level 1 are small, they are enough to render you utterly pointless in the higher level zones as you simply cannot walk into a room without dying. There is a huge thread somewhere on their forums that has been tracking the fault for endless months now but not once has Runic even tried to address this flaw.

        • Film11 says:

          That sounds rather serious. However I’ve got a few questions. You say the corruption is permanent then go on to talk about “periods” of being reduced to level 1, which implies to me that you return back to your normal level once one of these “periods” ends. Is that the case?

          Also I’d disagree with your statement about Runic not even trying to address the flaw: This thread is quite active with developer posts – although the activity seems to have dropped off in the last couple of months which is disappointing.

          • Howard says:

            What I mean when I say that it is permanent is that the bug alters your save file so, if the bug were ever fixed, your toons who already have it would continue to have it. The bug causes the corruption in the first place but once corrupted, there is nothing can be done to stop your toon bouncing up and down between level one and their actual level.
            Just wish I could find the damned thread now…

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            I dunno. For a team of supposed “professionals”, Runic can sometimes show a glaring lack of professionalism. There were a number of game-breaking bugs in T1, one of which was a random-level glitch that just happened to remove all the entrances and exits in a dungeon where one of my (max level) characters got stuck. Runic simply responded with “We’re aware of the issue, but we can’t fix it. Sorry.” I ended up having to use a hex editor to get my char back, and the game labeled him a Cheater as a result. Stay classy, Runic.

            There have been enough accusations of sloppy QA directed against Runic to make me wonder how much effort they actually put into fixing the worst bugs in their games.Or if they even put any effort into them at all.

          • drewski says:

            Well, you cheated. Do you expect Runic to check every single hex edit that occurs anywhere by any user in Torchlight to see if it’s justified?

            You can’t expect the game to know that you only cheated to fix the consequences of a horrific bug.

            The cheating designation was fair. You’re right to be mad about the bug itself and Runic not fixing it, but you can’t really expect Torchlight not to tag hex edited characters as cheaters just because you happened to do it this one time because the game broke, honest. Even though it’s true.

          • jrodman says:

            Cheating is not an absolute. It requires context.

            Using a debugger or hex editor to remove a character from a broken level in a game is not cheating by almost anyone’s definition, which would be the context. The only way this would be cheating is if you believed that using a hex editor is always cheating. Which would make it cheating, but only for you.

            Foisting your judgements on others is in bad taste!

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            drewski, I emailed a follow-up to Runic and asked them if they could remove the “Cheater” header from my character’s profile. They were aware of the context, but they denied my request nonetheless. That’s a pretty shitty thing to do if you ask me.

            Anyway, the fact that Runic felt the need to affix a rewardable Cheater tag to a single-player game seems to speak volumes about their initial attitude towards Torchlight’s user base.

          • drewski says:

            @ jrodman – I think you’re splitting hairs. Runic designed the game, they decided hex editing was “cheating”. Yes, it’s only cheating yourself. But it’s a single player game…why do you care what Runic think? And I’m not “judging”, just observing. I’m not remotely bothered by how people choose to play their games.

            @ SkittleDiddler – fair enough, but as above, why do you care what they think?

          • SkittleDiddler says:

            I care because I’m a customer who paid money to play both of Runic’s games. I have certain expectations in that regard.

  9. TheMopeSquad says:

    I hate this game so much but still played for nigh on one hundred hours. Hopefully all this success can turn a half-assed second game into a fully-assed third game. Hire someone to actually write and implement a story, do NOT make another desert level, and have a fourth act that isn’t just the same floor over and over and over and that would be a good start!

  10. trjp says:

    If sales figures related purely to how well a game did in it’s genre, then Van Helsing should sell WAY more than 2M then – because it’s a better ARPG than TL II by a country mile and a half…

    • Baines says:

      Sales figures don’t.

      Torchlight II rode the [insert name of Blizzard game that RPS automatically, and with neither warning nor explanation, eats your comment for mentioning] wave. If Blizzard hadn’t made such a public mess with [insert game name], then Torchlight II would have stayed a footnote, rather than being hyped as the savior of the [insert game name]-like genre.

      Torchlight II itself is an average game at best. It looks pretty, it looks big, and it takes a while to complete. But it is also shallow and limited.

      TL2 got a lot of hype before release for being bigger and better than TL1 (and even RPS joined the hype train), but some of that was just a fiction.

      It has an expansive, randomized overworld. But that overworld is boring and empty, without enough “game” to justify its existence except as a bullet-point “*Contains large overworld*”. The randomization was also overhyped, with it really being just random placement of a few “everything looks the same” interchangable tiles. The randomization is further rendered pointless by the overworld areas being so mindnumbingly boring and dull during your first game that changing it on a second game actually makes it slightly worse.

      It has a more complicated and expanded enchanting system that “fixes” the TL1 enchanting. If by “fix”, you mean “removed all entertainment, interest, and variety from”. Lots of enchanters that you have to search for, who do all sorts of themed enchantments that people just ignore. Rather, the “smart” play is to stockpile any serious items until you find the one or two enchanters that offer the best enchantment sets, and enchant everything in one go before they run off. Because the enchantments in general are boring, and the system has a few enchantments that are simply better than everything else.

      It has official mod support with official mod tools, promised to release around the release of the game. But when the game came out, the mod tools were always described as in the “polish” stage. Runic had to clean them up and write all the documentation. Runic eventually stopped even responding to questions about the mod tools Around half a year later, and after modders figured out how to do a lot of the work directly themselves, Runic finally released the official mod tools, which lacked features and had gaping holes in the documentation.

      There were all sorts of design issues with the game, and decisions made by Runic that even when explained just left people scratching their heads. Like the preemptive nerfing of the Outlander, because Runic felt the Vanquisher was too easily a one-stat build. Except all the TL2 classes are easy one-stat builds anyway (just with physical range Outlanders facing extra hurdles), so why was the Outlander and Dexterity/Physical Range Weapons singled out? Particularly when Runic simultaneously created the possibility of Focus-based Outlanders, aka Glaivelanders, aka Easy Mode Outlander.

      Or just sloppiness, like a dungeon area that too often blocks the player’s view with a wall and camera angle combination that can block half the view of a walkable area (and then has you fighting enemies in that hall, enemies that you can’t even see.)

      • mechtroid says:

        The game-that-shall-not-be-named is simply the spam hueristics getting so many messages about “DO YOU WANT TO GOLD FOR YOUR [GAME NAME]? PLEASE THE CLICK RIGHT HERE!”

  11. Klempky says:

    I bought TL2 during the Steam sales and was really horribly underwhelmed. As much as people rag on D3 for having a poor loot system, it was still the most entertaining ARPG I’d played in years because the combat was so fun and legitimately involving. Going back to the ‘classic’ “stand in one place, hold shift, spam potions, occasionally kite”-style gameplay that Torchlight held onto was excruciating, and no amount of named weapons could make up for it. Not to mention boring skills that you couldn’t truly respec (and could fuck yourself over by leveling them up rather than letting them scale at lower tiers), still having to micromanage attributes like it’s 2000, and an aesthetic that couldn’t figure out if it was going to be funny or grimdark. The whole game just felt like it was trying to cash in on D3′s shortcomings without actually doing anything to make the game stand out in any fashion, and the people who complained the loudest about Blizzard’s choices were never going to stop doing endless Baal runs in the first place.

    • drewski says:

      Runic were designing Torchlight II a long, long time before D3 was released – I think that’s a silly criticism.

      It’s clearly trying to ape “classic” ARPGs though so if you’ve gotten used to how D3 does it, no doubt it does feel anachronistic. But that’s not a design flaw, it’s a design choice and clearly it’s resonated with a lot of people. But fair enough if you’re not one of them, nothing’s for everybody.

      • Baines says:

        Stuff like the heavily limited respec were intentional, even though Runic *knew* that many players wanted a more useful respec feature.

        The Respec potion was one of the most popular mods in the first Torchlight, along with mods for more storage space. Runic knew this, and ignored both. Runic told people that they could just use mods to gain those features in Torchlight 2 once the mod tools were released (and then spent half a year not releasing the mod tools).

        I believe Runic even had the code in place for Respec potions. I want to recall that the Torchlight 1 mod itself simply enabled an item that was already present in the code, but which Runic had disabled. At the least, Runic already had the code in place to enable it.

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