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Outward is not a mainstream role-playing game. Its world embraces brutal difficulty, to the point in which just carrying a basic set of armor, a weapon, and the gear you need to survive is a challenge. The map doesn’t point you into any direction, and even the weakest foes can be lethal.
And yet, more than a million of you bought it.
Publisher Deep Silver and the Nine Dots game studio announced Tuesday that Outward had eclipsed 1 million copies sold. It launched March 26, 2019, and it’s also on the Epic Games store. And the second piece of downloadable content (The Three Brothers) is coming December 15.
I was curious how these sales broke down. Do more folks own Onward in Europe than in North America? How do they engage with it? Are they longtime players, grinding out different builds, or do folks drift in-and-out as the mood takes them? Learning about how Outward is doing can help others as they decide just how they want to approach hardcore PC RPG development.
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Turns out Americans are RPG masochists. That explains a lot about the past four years here in the States. And this surprised the folks at Nine Dots.
“Our strongest markets have been the U.S. in first position, then Germany and Canada,” Nine Dots CEO Guillaume Boucher-Vidal said over email. “When we started designing the game we expected the German market to be strong as it’s Deep Silver’s home turf and we knew our game would appeal to their sensibilities — looking at other double-A RPGs that have performed well there — so that one did not surprise me.”
Nine Dots is still waiting to see how Outward is doing in Asia. It didn’t release in Japan or other territories there last year.
“We brought Outward to Asia well after our main launch and for Japan specifically, we’re just about to see how we’ll perform there,” he said. “While we’ve had a Japanese localization for some time, we haven’t had the launch in that country yet, so the jury is still out on how Asian market adoption will fare after we look back in another six months.”
But the place he’s most keen on learning about his … Nine Dots home turf of Canada.
“One thing I’d be curious to learn is which factor was more influential in gaining player interest in Canada. Was it between surfing on the same media new that typically targets the U.S., such as [GamesBeat], or the fact that we’re a local studio based in Quebec.”
Outward is a single-player RPG, but it’s different than a Baldur’s Gate or Mass Effect in that it mixes in aspects of survival games like Ark: Survival Evolved (in addition to being difficult). So players are going to engage differently with it. I was curious about how folks are approaching their time with Outward.
“I was surprised by two data points that would appear in opposition: our average playtime is close to 30 hours per player, yet less than 10% of our players have completed one of the four storylines,” Boucher-Vidal said. “It seems like a lot of players get lost in our world, exploring outside and raiding dungeons, while often foregoing the story. In that sense, it seems that a lot of players play our game like they would an Elder Scrolls title, rather than your average RPG.”
And you can see how people are treating this like an open-world RPG from stats from elite players.
“I am also surprised by the amount of hours our most dedicated players are putting into the game. There are many of them with 300 to 600 hours of game time in Outward, while at first I anticipated it to cap at around 160 hours,” Boucher-Vidal said.
And it turns out Outward’s focus on difficulty helped foster this surprise.
“To be honest, the level of challenge had the effect I was hoping for: reinforcing our community’s collaboration, bringing players together in co-op, generating frequent discussions about different strategies and maintaining a great wiki.”
Current consoles ahoy?
The PlayStation 5 and Xbox Series X/S should make for great RPG platforms, if for no other reason than their speedy solid-state drives get rid of load times. And I can see the appeal of playing a hard RPG on my couch — it works for the Souls games, after all.
Nine Dots is thinking about this.
“We are currently exploring our options. My current impression is that it makes sense to support the new consoles if we want to keep our current momentum going, unless there are some unforeseen costs involved, but I try not to commit too early. With our small team we can only focus on so many things at once, and the recent Stadia release and finishing the second DLC in less than six months was already stretching us quite thin. We’ll quickly jump onto this question once we get The Three Brothers [the second DLC] ready for launch on Xbox One and PlayStation 4.”
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