Action-physics adventure game Boneworks released earlier this month to a strong reception despite little formal marketing. The title surpassed 100,000 players in its first week, reeling in an estimated $3 million in revenue despite being available on just one of several key VR platforms.
Boneworks’ First Week Sales Milestone
Not long ago it was news when a VR title reached $3 million in revenue across all platforms more than a year after launch. When Beat Saber launched in Early Access on both Steam and Oculus PC back in 2018, the indie project made waves for selling 100K units for $2 million in revenue in its first month, and has since gone on to become, as far as we know, the best selling VR game to date.
Now Boneworks, the action-physics adventure from veteran VR developer Stress Level Zero reached an impressive milestone for an indie VR release, selling more than 100K units in its first week, the studio confirmed. A rough estimate against the game’s $30 US price point suggests that game generated somewhere in the neighborhood of $3 million in revenue in its first week (though this doesn’t account for regional pricing, Steam’s 30% platform cut, refunds, or free keys given away by the game’s developer). Even more impressively, the game reached this milestone despite being available only on Steam at launch.
Boneworks’ launch was so successful relative to other VR games on Steam that the title ranked in the highest tier of Steam’s ‘Best of 2019 Virtual Reality‘ ranking (which ranks by gross revenue for the entire year), despite Boneworks having launched just two weeks before the list was published. That means the game earned enough in two weeks to be comparable to the sales of games that have been earning revenue for the entirety of 2019, like Beat Saber, Gorn, Superhot VR, Pavlov, Blade & Sorcery, and Skyrim VR.
Content Marketing Success
Beyond pushing the envelope in physical simulation for VR interactions, Boneworks‘ launch success appears to have been driven largely by non-traditional content marketing.
Stress Level Zero founder Brandon Laatsch was formerly part of the major YouTube channels ‘Freddiew’ and ‘Node’, and leveraged his significant experience and connections in online filmmaking to expose Boneworks to an audience far beyond the core VR community.
Since April 2018, 10 videos showing off Boneworks at various stages in development were published on Node or Laatsch’s own YouTube channel, garnering more than 21 million collective views. The most successful of the videos (‘Boneworks – Next Gen VR Gameplay!‘) was released in April 2019 and has pulled in 6.7 million views alone.
The videos, which demonstrated compelling physics-based VR interactions, also spawned countless GIFs which were shared both within and beyond the VR community.
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Boneworks is only available on Steam at present. While it isn’t clear if the game will eventually come to Oculus’ PC platform, the studio has confirmed that a game ‘in the Boneworks universe’ is in development for Oculus Quest (though details are still scarce). Considering the game’s computationally-demanding physics simulations and limited comfort options, it’s doubtful that Boneworks will ever launch on PSVR due to the system’s limited processing power and Sony’s more stringent comfort standards. That said, the ‘Boneworks universe’ Quest-focused game could be perfectly suited for PSVR as well.
Update (December 31st, 2019): Clarified that the $3 million revenue figure is a rough estimate based on the $30 US price point and the confirmed 100K players in the first week. The estimate doesn’t account for regional pricing, Steam’s 30% platform cut, refunds, or free keys given away by the game’s developer.