I don’t normally like business news, but I can write all day about indie designers done good. Prison Architect – the alpha-funded, Early Access, prison management game from Introversion Software – has sold 250,000 copies and made $8 million. That’s a lot for a team that only recently risked bankruptcy.
Prison Architect has been on sale since September last year, which means it’s not just selling a lot, it’s selling fast. It’s even sold more than all other Introversion games combined over their entire lifetime, including Uplink, Darwinia, DEFCON and Multiwinia.
When I last spoke to Prison Architect’s lead designer and programmer Chris Delay, he talked about how bad things had become by the end of 2010. They were worried they’d go to jail for trading in insolvency, and they’d put together a backup plan for establishing zombie Introversion, whereby the name would continue solely as a holding company for selling their back catalogue. Chris even applied for programming jobs at other UK developers. For which he was turned down.
Prison Architect was initially sold in alpha directly via its own site, and was later part of the first batch of Steam Early Access games. It’s become the very model of how to release a game in that manner while still respecting your audience, delivering monthly patches to add major new features and regular devblogs to update the community about what’s coming. The game itself remains a bit buggy at this stage, with a lot of features still to come, but I’ve sunk over a dozen hours into it and look forward to playing more.
It’s great to see them now doing so well. Probably they should release some Fort Knox DLC for ideas on how to design their own money-stashing vault. Or perhaps they could just look at Craig’s feature on the best Prison Architect jails. Or perhaps they could just keep it in a bank and use it to fund more interesting games like those they’ve been creating for the past twelve years. Yeah, that one.