Shovel Knight Sold Fewer Copies In 2017 Than Its Best Year But Made More Money 

Shovel Knight Sold Fewer Copies In 2017 Than Its Best Year But Made More Money 
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A new blog post from the makers of the excellent 2D platformer Shovel Knight breaks down the game’s sales in surprising detail.

Screenshot: Shovel Knight

Shovel Knight was released in 2014 on PC, Wii U and 3DS, the year after it was Kickstarted. It was eventually ported to every other console. Of its two million sales to date, the largest chunk, 24.4 per cent, came on PC, followed by 3DS with 23.9 per cent. Surprisingly though, the Switch led the Wii U version 17.6 per cent to 14.3 per cent despite only coming out last year.

The only other major source was PS4, accounting for 9.1 per cent of the total sales. Perhaps not surprisingly given what other studios have said about their game, Shovel Knight was fastest-selling on the Switch, selling 110,000 copies in the first month compared to 70,000 in the first month the game was out on PC.

Sales per platform as a percentage of total units sold. (Image: Yacht Club Games)

Sales per platform as a percentage of total units sold. Image: Yacht Club Games

The Switch version released with Specter of Torment, the game’s newest add-on campaign, included. That increased the price from $US15 ($19) to $US25 ($32). In the end, Yacht Club says this, combined with other factors such as never discounting the game beyond 33 per cent off, may have helped make 2017 the studio’s highest year yet in terms of revenue.

“Our biggest unit sales and revenue year was 2015 when we sold about 675k units. In 2017, we sold about 500k units, but we earned ~115% more revenue than in 2015!” The studio linked to a number of Steam discussion threads angry the game’s price never dropped significantly, and actually went up when packaged with new DLC, but implies the revenue growth showed it was the right move.

While Yacht Club Games has never commented on how profitable the game as a whole has been, it did say in 2016 that the first expansion, Plague of Shadows, cost approximately $US1 million ($1.3 million) to develop and made them zero money.

Not discouraged, it invested even more, $US1.5 million ($1.9 million), into Specter of Torment, which still isn’t profitable, according to today’s new Yacht Club post, but has managed to do slightly better. Whether its release helped push Shovel Knight sales on the Switch though is hard to tell.

Looking to data across other platforms where sales mostly stayed flat, the takeaway appears to be that the game sold so well on the Switch because a lot of games seem to sell well on the Switch.

Total revenue for each platform over time. (Image: Yacht Club Games)

Total revenue for each platform over time. Image: Yacht Club Games

At the other end of the spectrum, the consoles you’d expect, namely PS3 and Vita, have seen significant sales drops. “We sold about 500 copies on PS3 in April 2016 just in the US,” the Yacht Club devs wrote.

“That seems very high given where the PS3 was at in its life cycle! But we only sold about 30 units in October 2017 on PS3. So, at least for us, that marks PS3’s mighty reign as coming to a close. A similar story could be told for the Vita where we sold 1.8k units in April 2016 in the US. Now we’re down to ~170 units in October 2017.”

Going forward, the studio is working on fulfilling the rest of the promises it made in its original Kickstarter for the game, including a Shovel Knight card game set to release sometime later this year.


  • I have this on PC but never bothered to play it. I kind of want to buy it again for the Switch because I think it’s far more likely I’d actually play it on there.

    • It is seriously one of the best games I’ve ever played. I got it for 3DS (and later Wii U) and it feels great as a handheld. Today’s TVs are too big for the game to feel what I’d call “8-bit intimate”. Play it on Switch for sure.

      • I wonder if that’s why I couldn’t get into it – I was playing on PS4. Might try it on Vita when I go on holidays in a few months.

  • How do they separate out the PS3 / PS4 / Vita sales when the game is cross-buy so it’s just 1 sale for all 3 versions?

    • Presumably they’d be able to know which platform the purchase was made from, and would probably just count it as that?

      • Hmm maybe. Although I don’t think I’ve ever bought a Vita game directly on the Vita itself. Even on PS4 I reckon I make 90% of my purchases through the website rather than on the console.

  • “Plague of Shadows, cost approximately $US1 million ($1.3 million) to develop and made them zero money. … Not discouraged, it invested even more, $US1.5 million ($1.9 million), into Specter of Torment, which still isn’t profitable”.

    Not to sound flippant, but I’d love to know where all this not money is coming from… are George Soros or the Koch brothers secret game patrons? I can’t imagine that any bank would be especially interested in throwing money at something so speculative.

    That is, interested in throwing money at any game, or at least any indie game, not just these ones.

    These aren’t just a couple of uni grads grinding away in their mum’s garage and spending their grandfather’s inheritence, that’s for sure.

    • Did you read any of the other numbers in the article?

      Presumably the additional sales generated through new people purchasing the game with the promise of additional have paid for the development costs. Self published means they’ll be taking the majority of the game’s price themselves. Even if you lowball profits and assume that they only took home half of the lowest listed price of $19 , at two million copies, that’s still $19 million of revenue.

      That aside, yes, it’s quite obvious the lizardmen are providing money to the studio so we don’t notice how they are terraforming the planet. Wake up and unplug!

  • I wonder if they have made a decent profit overall? They got $311,000 from Kickstarter to develop the game initially so I’m guessing they had little in regards to other funding, but enough to make the base game. They sold 2 million copies. Let’s say it was an even split of the original $19, $13 for the sale price and the increased price of $25, that’s $37.8 million dollars. Take 30% off for the the platforms holders and that’s $26.3 million. They self published which I’m guessing saves a fair chunk of cash, but they would have had to pay the devs who did the ports, unless they did them in-house? That’s $6.5 million a year over the last 4 years to run the studio.

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