Hone Your Lovecraft: Eldritch Creator Spills Sales Figures

A face you can trust.

It’s sometimes hard to gauge from the outside exactly how successful an indie game has been, so I’m always interested when developers release figures. David Pittman, creator of Lovecraftian first-person roguelike Eldritch, has done just that. In a post-mortem posted on his blog, the former 2K Marin developer outlined the steps he took in leaving his old job, building the game, and was even kind enough to include some graphs.

First of all, he explains what prompted him to go independent in the first place – aside from the interminably long development of The Bureau: XCOM Declassified:

“In March, my wife Kim received a sizable bonus payment for her work on the Skylanders games. It was enough to pay off her student loans as well as mine, which she graciously offered to do. I suggested that I could instead take that amount and use it to fund a few months of independent development. We discussed it for a week, and the following Friday, I gave notice at 2K. Between Kim’s investment, my savings, my 401k, and a very significant number of unused vacation days, I estimated I had enough funding to survive until just about the end of 2013. It was time to get to work.”

Development was, compared to most indie games, absurdly swift. Start in March, announce in September, ship in October, expansion in December. While that accelerated pace was required due to the Pittman’s limited funds, there’s something inspirational in the can-do attitude and the practical details of Eldritch’s development. Pittman didn’t flounder around in a kind of creative stupor till something popped out; he made a plan and executed it.

At the end of the post, he outlines some of the rewards for his work in graphs like this one, showing the spike of the most recent Steam sale.

(The figures here show gross revenue, and so Steam, Humble, the taxman, etc. take their cut of everything. Pittman is left with around 43% of the gross.)

Eldritch was a modest success, earning back its investment three-times over and providing “enough that I will get to keep making games independently for at least another year.” Which is good news, because Alec liked the game quite a bit.


  1. Premium User Badge

    Lexx87 says:

    I read those numbers as millions then :D

    Good for him, nice to see indie success.

  2. InternetBatman says:

    $30k isn’t a bad take home salary for a year’s work, especially after taxes and in a country with a decent healthcare system. The best part about it is that he’ll keep making sales. Not a ton, but a fairly noticeable amount once he has a few games of similar note.

    Also, as a weird aside, I can now block my own comments.

    • tobecooper says:

      Of course you can. You’re Batman.

    • Shuck says:

      “$30k isn’t a bad take home salary for a year’s work, especially after taxes and in a country with a decent healthcare system.”
      Yeah, but but you know he lives in the U.S.A., right? Plus, he’s in California where, for two people, anything less than $30K (pre-taxes) actually puts you below the poverty line. So luckily he made a lot more than that, otherwise that very well could have been the end of his indie career.

      • deadly.by.design says:

        They used his wife’s bonus to finish off student loans. When you’re out of debt, $30k goes a lot farther.

        So, while it seems he actually got more than that, $30k net still wouldn’t be a bad result for a one man indie band dev.

        • Shuck says:

          The poverty line isn’t based on whether you have pre-existing debts. In the SF Bay Area, $30K is still pretty close to “I’m living in a garden shed” level of income. Seriously – a prefab garden shed in a backyard rents for upwards of $1100 a month where I am, and I’m not living in a high-income part of the Bay Area. (Also, considering it cost more than $30K to make the game, if he’d only made around $30K, he would have been dipping into savings for further game development.)

        • LionsPhil says:

          We must all have a bad case of the mornings, because I read that they didn’t do that, but used the money to fund the game development instead.

    • frightlever says:

      I just realised what you meant by “decent healthcare system”. I was trying to figure out if you were being sarcastic, but he’s in Canada, duh! I just assumed he was American, but I really should know better.

      Edit: Okay, so the inconvenient comment above blows that theory out of the water. As you were. I’m going back to sleep. I’m experiencing my first half day with a Windows 8 tablet and I feel depleted.

    • ArtyFishal says:

      What are you talking about? He made over $215K.

      • darkChozo says:

        ~$100k minus ~$31k in expenses, if I’m reading this properly. $215k is gross revenue before Steam and taxes.

  3. SkittleDiddler says:

    Eldritch is a great game. Congrats to the Pittmans.

  4. SillyWizard says:

    Ugh he should see if he can bundle it with MagRunner. Weirdo-Cthulhu-themed games for errybody!

  5. Metalhead9806 says:

    Eldritch would have sold more if it caught on with the streaming community on Twitch. That’s how Binding of Isaac, Don’t starve, The Pit, Rogue Legacy and most recently Risk of Rain made it big.

    Thousands of viewers buy games played by those variety streamers like ManvsGame and Lethal frag.

    Sadly for some reason Eldritch never caught on. Thankfully people were willing to take a chance on it when it was up on a deep discount. Now he can develop for another year and make a different game.

    • JP says:

      I suggested to him on twitter that he simply rip off one of Spelunky’s killer features and do “Eldritch Daily Challenge”, as I think that would be very good bang-for-buck to drive sales via streaming recommendations. Watching Chris Remo’s Spelunky runs on Twitch was what made me cave in and buy that game after a long period of holding out for a Linux port.

      Also the game has all the platform support needed to be in a future Humble Bundle, hoping that happens and makes him some money.

      He’s probably reading this thread so I feel creepy talking about him. Hi Pittman!

    • ColCol says:

      eh, I’m not sure, it is a good game but it is not the same as those games listed. Eldritch, It can be beaten very quickly and has very little replay value. It could have used a little extra development time spent towards (possibly) diversifying play-throughs. I was hoping that there would be some (more) expansions, but this post-mortem make it seem like the developers plan on moving on.

  6. Carra says:

    And still on my to buy in a steam deal list.

  7. Phoibos Delphi says:

    Pittman´s Model seems to be working. Fthagn!

  8. Thiefsie says:

    I suspect we’ve hit the zeitgeist of lo-fi (cheap art assets) one-man (or tiny team) randomly/procedurally generated, replayable rogue-ish games for the indie scene for now.

    I would think that if you were trying to make a game like this now you would be wary that it may not be such a runaway success being that the cream of the crop (namely MineCraft, Spelunky, and less-so Rogue Legacy, Binding of Isaac, and probably again less-so Eldritch [being that I haven’t played it but it doesn’t appear as deep as the others here]) are out and about and more developed than whatever you may be working on.

    I think this genre needs some evolution and myself personally am really tiring from the lo-fi aesthetic that is obviously much cheaper/easier to develop. A little like how the platform genre has over saturated also since N+/Meatboy/Terraria/Dustforce/Samurai Gunn/Super House of Dead Ninjas etc have taken off. Leading to games like Starbound etc. which are almost rehashes/reskins.

    A good example of a bit of evolution in the genres respectively would be (both by Klei funnily enough) Mark of the Ninja and Don’t Starve. More of that please, perhaps like No Man’s Sky and DayZ/Rust etc?

    • jrodman says:

      I think a lo-fi game doing something new especially if the aesthetic supports the new direction is fine. And really repeating to do this indefinitely with quality gameplay would probably work for a nearly infinite number of hits.

      But originality and quality gameplay are both hard.

  9. psepho says:

    It’s really great to read about someone making a plan, sticking to it, and executing it ahead of schedule. I think Pittman sets a great examle of how to do one-man development right.

    I bought Eldritch in the Steam sale and am looking forward to digging into it when I have time. First impressions are great.