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Dwarf Fortress developers share earnings report after releasing on Steam

A 462x month-on-month increase in revenue

Dwarf Fortress selling half a million copies on Steam in just a few weeks already indicated that its creators, the Adams brothers, were due a windfall. Now the latest earnings report from Bay 12 Games is here to put an exact dollar figure on that success. Here's a tease: revenue in January was up over 462x since December.

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In December of 2022, the last month when Dwarf Fortress's earnings were driven purely via donations, Bay 12 Games made a respectable $15,635. That's roughly equivalent to what they made in the three months prior, too.

In January of 2023, when Valve paid out the profits from sales of the Dwarf Fortress release on Steam, Bay 12 Games made $7,230,123.58. That's presumably the amount received after Valve have taken their 30% cut, and publishers and co-developers Kitfox have taken theirs. Of that $7 million, "a little less than half will go to taxes, and we're continuing to pay people and new business expenses and such," writes developer Tarn Adams in the report. That means "it's not all personal money, but a lot of it is.

The success of Dwarf Fortress's polished-up Steam release has already led to Bay 12 bringing a new programmer onto the project for the first time. More broadly, it means that the ongoing development of Dwarf Fortress - which is meant to be decades-long still - is ensured, with Tarn and Zach Adams able to cover, as Tarn puts it, "the main issues of health/retirement that are troubling for independent people."

Dwarf Fortress has been a remarkable, beautiful thing for a long time, but its success on Steam never felt inevitable. The past ten years have seen many other games pilfer ideas from it and make those ideas more graspable, as Sin wrote about recently, but I'm thrilled that the OG has finally found a large paying audience. The bird hole is more packed than ever.

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Graham Smith

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Rock Paper Shotgun's former editor-in-chief and current corporate dad. Also, he continues to write evening news posts for some reason.