Should Have Sent An Accountant: Starbound Sells A Million

The giant brain world: would not go there.

So it turns out a lot of you like games about exploration and building things. Who knew? Starbound, the game that let’s you do that while travelling a universe of alien planets, has sold a million copies. That’s not bad for a game that only came out on December 4th.

At some point I’m going to stop being surprised by the numbers of copies sold by indie games, but that day is not today.

To put this in perspective, yesterday we wrote about Eldritch, the first-person Lovecraftian roguelike. Eldritch got some press, some good reviews, and has sold around 32,000 copies since its release last September. That makes it a moderate success, and earns its creator enough money that he can keep making games.

Starbound sold a million in a month even though it costs more and isn’t even really out yet. It’s an Early Access game.

Here’s the McDombles performing Get Lucky in the game, which explains a lot of its appeal:

Much like Minecraft and Terraria before it, I imagine a large portion of the audience for Starbound is kids. If our own gaming childhood was marked by roguelikes, strategy games and first-person shooters, and fans of those games have gone on to revive those genres and make things like Gone Home and XCOM: Enemy Unknown today, then what will the generation of kids raised on procedurally generated creation-and-exploration games make when they grow up?

Go ponder that while reading Craig’s thoughts on the beta.


  1. Silver says:

    “I imagine a large portion of the audience for Starbound is kids”

    I’m then 27 y.o. kid…

    well, I got this game for my 13 y.o. sister and also for my girlfriend, and we play it together in our own server.

    Game is cool, girls can scream while encountering monsters and big brute (me!) can protect them.. and they can design the house or a shelter or a castle or whatever :)
    and if they ever get annoyed with me or each other.. there are a lot of different planets and locations to go and start over again :)

    • Martel says:

      I plan on being a kid until the day I die

      I didn’t get this one yet but I’ll probably have to break down and get it at some point, looks fun.

  2. Drayk says:

    I am waiting avidly to try this game. But I wait for it to leave it’s early access state. I would rather play a more complete game.

    • hemmingjay says:

      I can understand that, but you should know that there is probably 10 hours of complete linear gameplay already, but hundreds of hours of freeform play and the experience is just awesome according to about 890k of those million people who already own it.

      • bit_crusherrr says:

        >10 hours of complete linear gameplay

        I did all the current Quests in 2 hours, that includes the penguin ship. There is a lot to do outside of those quests but I don’t think Starbound is in a place where it’s worth buying yet. I only have it due to the limited Humble Bundle X sale otherwise I wouldn’t of touched it.

        • ender1200 says:

          By straight liniar gameplay he means reachng sector X, defiting the penguin U.F.O only opens sectors beta.

      • SgtStens says:

        As of the Dec.23d update, there are three more tiered boss quests after the UFO. Easily another 20 hours of gameplay there. Plus I’m amazed at the variety of random stuff you encounter. Terrain-altering meteor showers? Alien monkey space lab? Asteroid field? I’ve easily gotten my money’s worth already, and I don’t mind the impending character wipes so I can start again and find new stuff!

    • Nogo says:

      There’s incredible value here for the current price. And the game is in no way broken or frustrating. It’s only gonna get better (and I say that as someone who isn’t really into this genre.)

      Buy it now before the price goes up, imo

    • anon459 says:

      I’m just afraid that they won’t go on to really finish the game now that they already have everybody’s money. I hate all this nonsense of releasing alphas as finished games, and steam early access isn’t helping. I’ve been forced into playing a few games in alpha because my friends aren’t patient enough to wait for release, and it saddens me to know that we would’ve enjoyed the game so much more if we had waited.

  3. derbefrier says:

    I got starbound over the Christmas break and its a fun little game. Got a private server set up for me and some friends and its been pretty fun. I didn’t even like terreria much but this one has sucked me in for the moment.

  4. Naruyashan says:

    … So it’s basically Terraria in space. Originality at it’s finest.

    • Simes says:

      To the extent that you arrive at a planet in your super-advanced spaceship that can reconstitute you if you die, and then you make a wooden crafting table and a pickaxe etc.

    • phelix says:

      link to

      I’ll just leave that here.

      • BooleanBob says:

        You unscrupulous bastard. What kind of monster just links to tvtropes without any kind of provocation?! Gods, man, it’s only one o’clock in the afternoon! A thousand man, woman and child-hours of productivity, evaporated in an instant!

    • lordfrikk says:

      Everything’s a copy of a copy of a copy.

    • j3w3l says:

      yes and no. It obviously shares a lot of the same features but it focus on exploration a lot more. A whole universe to explore, blue prints and such to discover. Because of this it seems to lack a bit of the direction Terraria gave through progression and boss battling. Beta though and this is improving.

      • bit_crusherrr says:

        So instead of generating a new world when your bored of your current one, you can fly to a new one. Same thing different presentation.

    • adammtlx says:

      This crap again? Get over it. It’s as much “Terraria in space” as Duke Nukem 3D was “Doom on Earth.”


      Originality at it’s finest.

      “Its.” Not “it’s.” If you’re going to make pointless, snide comments at least get that right.

    • Randomer says:

      Call of Battlefield 5 is just Doom on Earth!

    • Lemming says:

      I’m guessing you’ve for some reason shackled your soul to Terraria, then? That’s the only explanation I can conceive for such a vacuous comment.

    • Phasma Felis says:

      And Terraria was Minecraft in 2D, and Minecraft was Infiniminer as a sandbox. Sometimes games are inspired by other games. They’re still fun.

  5. mukuste says:

    > let’s you


    • Shadrach says:

      I was about to remark on this too, but figured someone must have spotted it :D

  6. Steven Hutton says:

    This is a really good game and getting better all the time. I’m really looking forward to the full release. Hopefully the success they’ve had so far will go back into making Starbound even better.

  7. Tony M says:

    This game has Keytars? Theres your explanation for a million sales right there.

  8. Grey Poupon says:

    “then what will the generation of kids raised on procedurally generated creation-and-exploration games make when they grow up?”

    Well, given how most roguelikes have procedurally generated worlds and items and some have digable walls and such I’m guessing they’ll generate pretty much the same stuff. Except more streamlined I guess.

  9. uh20 says:

    a friend has been pushing me towards this game just like he did the early minecraft alphas, the numbers are just going to rise at unsuprisingly suprising rates from here on out.

    • Dances to Podcasts says:

      You mean we’ve moved beyond surprisingly unsurprising already?

  10. Keymonk says:

    It’s worth mentioning that pre-orders have been open for a pretty good while before it came out on Steam. So it’s not just in a month.

  11. Lobotomist says:

    Mind its 1 million after it allready sold 1+ million preorders before

  12. araczynski says:

    to each their own, but that strikes me as stupid. obviously i’m not in the majority on that opinion, but then again i never got the fascination with pet rocks either.

  13. Hypnotron says:

    oh… i get it. Should have sent a poet.

    How’s about a “Speak like a Tamarian” day?

    Hypnotron on the internetz, his arms wide.

  14. Wedge says:

    I just think the whole thing seems viably comparable to the CoD/military shooter genre, ignoring companies/IPs and all, with this being the mainline lineage of success (Minecraft->Terraria->Starbound) and countless other spin-offs seeing varying degrees of sales. The point being I figure it’s a lot of the same base audience created by Minecraft buying all these games.

  15. engion3 says:

    This game is one of the few early access games I’ve purchased. I enjoy booting it up every week or so and checking out all the new updates.

  16. SillyWizard says:

    I can’t wrap my head around these games. (My friend who plays them says it’s because I’m old. No argument there.)

    So if I understand it right, you dig around on planet(s) and use the things you dig up to build…stuff. Which allows for better digging? And maybe hanging some decorations?

    Is that the whole thing?

    (I’m also the guy who can’t play stuff like Grand Theft Auto because it’s too open-world, so….)

    • FredZepplin says:

      Amen, brutha. I was initially excited about this one because the “procedural exploration” thing seems like it would have legs. In it’s current state, the exploration is pretty dull. And the fans seem to be the same as the Minecraft world, so I expect development to follow that path. To each his own I guess. At least the kids these days are creating instead of just destroying…

    • derbefrier says:

      Its not because you are old. Its because you haven’t bothered to learn anything about the game past “2d minecraft”

      There is that part of the game but there are also dungeons, bosses, cool weapons and armor and probably some other things i havent discovered. I was the same way with terreria before I tried it. I didn’t like it all that much(bad platforming in my opinion ruined it) but “minecraft in 2d” is only but a part of the whole experience.

      • FredZepplin says:

        No one actually said minecraft 2d. Usually people use quotes to, you know, quote something someone actually said. I brought up Minecraft because it seems like the player-base is oriented toward prioritizing fancy structures and customization. That’s fine, just not for me.

        I’ve played terraria a bunch. Many many hours. I like it. I find the exploration pretty fun. I’ve played Starbound for a lot fewer hours, but enough to know that the platforming feeling clunky as hell to me. Even something as simple as jumping seems tedious. The combat is so rudimentary. It’s actually worse than Terraria’s combat, which is saying something. Yes, it’s early access. But I have doubts that they’ll change something as fundamentally as movement and jumping now that there are, at this point, millions of people who will squawk about it . “But I’m good at using the clunky as hell jumping system…!”

    • hungrycookpot says:

      Well, let me ask you: do you have any interest in side scrolling action/adventure games like mega-man or castlevania?

      Think of this game as Metroid/Castlevania mixed with minecraft. You explore castles, caves, prisons, kill monsters and find loot. Except many of your tools and weapons were crafted by you, using the resources you mined from your hand-made secret mining base on another planet.

      Craft a grappling hook so that you can swing across chasms, lava pools, to other asteroids etc. Craft an airtank so you can survive exploration of a moon or asteroid field. Find planets with tentacle or robot trees, planets where meteors or ice-chunks fall from the sky and kill you. Dig underground and find an icy core, or a layer made of flesh and bone.

      I dunno man, what’s not to like? It’s true that there’s no end game or last boss right now, but that’s more because it’s early access than it is about the quality of game.

    • NeutralEntropy says:

      Isn’t the draw of a sandbox game, the first major strength, that it engages a player’s creativity and imagination in a way that a linear plot or scripted gameplay sequences cannot hope to? Isn’t the draw of a sandbox game that the player uses the sandbox level, economic system or whatever as a means to fulfil gameplay goals that they define for themselves on the fly within the bounds of the progression system the game has?
      I looked at the theme of starbound and thought the merits of making this supposed terraria in space that there is a sci fi theme to hang your hat on instead of a more amorphous fantasy-rpg-ish-maybe-question-mark theme to draw on. Does it speak for itself that on viewing all the combinations of characters and the lego-set like building materials and items virtually every sci fi franchise from planet of the apes to star trek and star wars was brought to my mind as the starting point of the setting?
      The problem with terraria was when Red tried to expand it in patch 1.2. the progression is based around biomes. New armour, weapons etc found in the new biomes and greater difficulty attached to them. The problem is that each world becomes unmanageable when it is a finite size with 40 biomes shoehorned in and now each one becomes smaller and smaller. He solved by limiting the content in each generated world. The only difference is Starbound took this into account from the beginning and set them within one universe thereby allowing room for growth and future expansion.
      I play starbound and it reminds me of the star trek episodes where the away team is stranded on the planet and has to survive by wits alone and make its way back to the enterprise across many planets. Of course your argument to all of this will along the lines of describing what the developers set out “all you do is mine to make your tools to go somewhere else to mine” I reiterate, all the gameplay goals that I use those tools for and those somewhere that I choose to go to are amorphous because they aren’t nailed down by the developers. Now this isn’t to say you are wrong for not liking this type of play and I am right, rather that I have approached a sandbox game today to experience a more freeform playstyle just like I might approach say LOL tomorrow to experience competitive team based gameplay or metro last light the next day to experience decent FPS gameplay.

    • Zanuka says:

      We built a town with 20 NPCs, 7 guards and turrets that shoot at any flying and ground dwelling enemies, made an underground basement with a jumping puzzle using wiring logic that makes hazards to pop out if you insert a wrong combination and gives you whisky and SPAM food if you succeed. We also have a disco, a bar, a research lab with specimens and busy scientists and cooks, and set up a mining outpost in a nearby asteroid belt. There is also this Apex motel I don’t like to talk about but friend says it is a must in this comment. Also, we can do karakoke and make sacrifices to the dark gods and extract brains and put in on robots that will kill you with rockets and flame-throwers if you are too close. And a clocktower that all NPCs follow as curfew. And this prison with blood splattered everywhere and cryptic messages…

      We also have trees with eyes and brains. EYES and BRAINS. A shroom town and a flesh and bone living core we conditioned to make some cannibalistic Floran people happy.

      And pets that defend you and can’t die.

      Community mods aside, Minecraft can’t do any of that. Starbound offers much more and you need to find the blocks and loot them, not craft them. And will add interesting new things like raiding player ships and some other stuff that will make PvP an interesting asset to include. But it’s ok you are not interested in that, unlike your friend, I don’t push anyone around and call them names.

  17. Zanuka says:

    To be fair, our kids doesn’t get all this “pixelized nostalgic crap” (sic), and replaced the thrill for exploring the unknown and adventure for pure action shooting and gore. Strangely, they still play Minecraft, just because it is a fad on Youtube, not because they actually enjoy it or do anything else but box houses and running from the creepers for an hour and return to their GTAV or CoD in any form and shape imagined. It is a sad thing you can’t share the thrill of exploring and be positively creative with them because they are too used to “have everything done” and their innate curiosity is atrophied. Most of the people I play with in Starbound are +25, and any attempt of dragging our kids into Starbound ended with them going to play Team Fortress 2 after just a measly 15 minutes of playing (and 10 more for 2 of them because they found a base with robots but when the robots were gone, the interest fell behind them).

    So, eh, kids these days…