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' Review – A Rich Sandbox with a Side of Game Design

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.

– – — – –

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.

Newsletter graphic

This article may contain affiliate links. If you click an affiliate link and buy a product we may receive a small commission which helps support the publication. More information.

Ben is the world's most senior professional analyst solely dedicated to the XR industry, having founded Road to VR in 2011—a year before the Oculus Kickstarter sparked a resurgence that led to the modern XR landscape. He has authored more than 3,000 articles chronicling the evolution of the XR industry over more than a decade. With that unique perspective, Ben has been consistently recognized as one of the most influential voices in XR, giving keynotes and joining panel and podcast discussions at key industry events. He is a self-described "journalist and analyst, not evangelist."
  • –Will–

    Just started playing this yesterday and am having a lot of fun. Some terrific immersion and interactivity there. Definitely sets the bar significantly higher for what will be expected VR.

  • Alextended

    Indeed, very effective marketing with those Node videos and other media. I wonder how things would have gone if they didn’t have that relationship with an existing popular channel for the initial hype to start rolling and then every other creator and VR media outlet to start jumping on that bandwagon. Of course it won’t pass Beat Saber overall, it doesn’t have enough appeal for that, it’s just more marketing hype to present it like that. Beat Saber launched in early access after all so it was a slow burn as it got better and more well known before they even started real marketing efforts at all.

    Shame about the game, the Road to VR review was spot on, if less critical than it should be. The more I played the more i disliked it to the point I’ve uninstalled it, neither the main game nor the so called sandbox are well done (and the promised critical saving patch half measure won’t, er, save it). There are tons of better VR games with actually working polished systems and overall great experiences rather than a disjointed mess of ideas hastily implemented for the sake of pretending it raises a bar or is next gen or whatever when it actively hampers the gameplay experience and shows a lack of game design know-how. It’s just physics, it’s not innovative nor does it raise the bar if it’s so misused.

    • mirak

      The physics are good but the interaction with physics are bad.

    • alboradasa

      I think the hype was there before the Node videos- I remember getting excited about some of the tech demo videos- and it’s the kind of game that lends itself very well to viral videos, so if not the Node guys then someone else would have done a similar job. But their huge popularity definitely helped.
      I agree the game was massively rushed, I can’t work out if that’s because of the upcoming release of Alyx or just the sprawling nature of the development. Even the name Boneworks suggests that it started out as a reverse kinetics experiment that grew and grew into the weird Frankenstein’s monster of a game it is today.
      I still think it deserves a lot of praise though.

      • David Mulder

        I would guess it just was a question of money. The spend – for an indie game – quite a long time developing it with a non-insignificant team, so at some point you just have to release it.

      • Alextended

        Yeah but if one of the popular channels without a relationship to them for example made the first popular videos of it while actually being critical of the shortcomings of the systems instead of praising everything like their friends did maybe it would have had a different trajectory. Hell, maybe it would have become a better game as they strived to change that perception as the media hype starting quite early on.

        Not everyone follows developers and looks at cool prototypes and shit outside such mainstream channels, I’ve been following some of them long before I got into VR myself, Hover Junkers seemed like one of the first games to solve – within its own style and setting – the then infamous locomotion issue as everyone tried to be creative so people don’t get sick when it turns out they should have just used the commonly used in non VR games locomotion methods because people get accustomed to it (unless they actually do get motion sick) after all, ha. Cool inventive days still.

    • adsf

      i mean if you dont like the sandbox or how the physics are implemented then the games just not for you but that doesnt make it bad. the immersion i get from having to be conscious of my body, like in real life, makes it amazing for me

      • Alextended

        Yes, I already said the game’s not for me captain obvious, that I deletied it was a good hint at that, or so I thought. But that’s not because of a vague “it has physics and sandbox” but rather that it has “shit physics and shit sandbox”, those things will be done better eventually by people who know how to design games and gameplay unlike these amateurs.

      • Trenix

        You really overestimate the game. It was nowhere near reality.

    • Dicknanigans

      No one is more entitled than a gamer with an opinion

  • mirak

    The game is simply bad with HTC Vive controllers.
    Also I don’t like how your body physics and interactions are implemented.
    You can’t feel force in VR, no need to make the physics and movement sluggish.
    The body awareness is just bad, I prefer not see arms than see virtual disjoined hands and wrists.

    • adsf

      the body presence is what makes its awesomely immersive for me, but i can see how if thats not what you want it would be anoying. Too bad thats the premise of boneworks, so the game just isnt for you.

      • Alextended

        Read the Road to VR review of Boneworks, it can be done better so that the issues this guy has with it are minimized, Boneworks just botched the implementation horribly, in a race to be the first to what most everyone will eventually be doing regardless and be called innovative. That you have a body doesn’t mean it has to react like the world is made of springs and trampolines or like you’re playing as Michael J. Fox (love the guy).

        • asdf

          …wow did you just have an argument entirely with yourself?

          also i know nimsony lol He and as well as the boneworks dev are rightfully geniuses in their own but one is a company that has to pay their employees and had to work on other aspects of the project to release it. Unlike nim who will be there eventually but can just keep working on arm physics alone.

          but like you said not going to argue a fanboy, just going to argue yourself and a wall. *cough close minded much cough*

          • mirak

            but an option to disable the arms is doable …

          • Baldrickk

            Not if you want a physics body in order to be able to properly interact with the environment.
            All you could do is not render it. And that would be worse, because you can’t even see it.

          • mirak

            you only need the hands, like in 99% of the games

        • mirak

          I remember in contractor you could see your arms, but it was possible to disable it, so I did.

  • Ragbone

    Up, down, left, right, A, Start.

    • Baldrickk

      ^v^vAABB START you mean?

  • 3872Orcs

    Well deserved! it’s a fun game! Looking forward to future Stress Level Zero titles :)

  • JesuSaveSouls

    I played it and passed it.The sandbox and arena modes are nice rewards after passing the game.Look forward to updates that would add more gameplay options.A intense,interesting and climactic game.

  • NooYawker

    It would have been 3,000,030 but I returned my copy after I played just shy of 2 hours. Way overhyped.

    I do see the potential for it to be the Garry’s Mod of VR. But as a game, it’s a pretty shitty game.

    • Trenix

      Even Garry’s Mod was better.

  • How this game sales compare to major non VR games?

    • Brian Brown

      Boneworks is 25th or 26th on the Steam ‘Top Sellers’ chart. This is really good since we’re right in the middle of the Steam Winter Sale, and Boneworks is selling at full price.

      • Baldrickk

        And it topped the chart on release too, above the star wars game released at the same time in initial sales.

      • Alextended

        Boneworks didn’t even launch at “full price” whatever that means, it launched at bargain bin price, which yes, boosted its numbers. Also obviously the top sellers are switched around constantly (weekly?) so you can’t judge more people than whatever game bought any of them since on the previous week the games that were above it could have sold 1000x more, just everyone interested in them got them already so not as many got them on the same time frame as Boneworks, they’re literally zero meaning charts.

        • Brian Brown

          It did launch at full price, and was not on ‘sale’ for the Steam Winter Sale. Also, it was 25th or 26th best selling game on Steam when I posted. I never thought fanboyism would permeate VR forums, but here it is. SMH.

  • Brian Brown

    Using the Valve Index controllers makes this game better. I tried using my Vive wands, and it sucked. So far I’m loving Boneworks.

  • Trenix

    After a few hours I uninstalled the game. It was overall lacking in every aspect and joy that you can find in a game or in a virtual world. I have no idea what this game provides that others do not. I figured this in the beginning and people convinced me to play anyway. I was pushed into the hype, but that’s the only thing this game had going. In the future, this game wouldn’t even be remembered. Whether it’s a physics game, puzzle game, or some sandbox, it did nothing to stand out from it’s competition besides marketing.

    Herd mentality is all I’m seeing. This has been a disgrace for VR. I’d recommend plenty of games for new VR players, but this wouldn’t be one of them. If I just got a VR headset and this was recommended to me as the top game, I would probably not only return the game, but even the headset. The VR community is becoming it’s own worst enemy, they’re desperately wanting to find that one game to make people purchase a VR headset. Boneworks isn’t it, but I’m certain Alyx will be.

    • Baldrickk

      “It did nothing to stand out” are you joking?
      Name another game that gives you the same level of interaction with your environment.

      Yes there are games that do climbing arguably “better” like Climbey, though that comes at the cost of realism.
      There are games that have more realistic guns, like H3VR, which could be described as “gun porn” But don’t have the same sort of gameplay.

      What competition does it have right now, except for Alyx, that has a AAA budget, and more than the square of SL0’s employee count working on it?
      Speaking of, it’s also worth noting that Boneworks, while still being early in development was added to the Valve Master List. It has had a significant impact to how Valve has approached making Alyx. Probably enough to say that Alyx would not be anything close to what we’ll see on release if not for Boneworks.

      As for recommending for new players? Don’t.
      The game itself begins with a warning that it’s for advanced/experienced VR users.

      It’s a good example of the direction VR is heading in, which may very well entice new players onto the platform, but I wouldn’t recommend it as a starting game.

      • Trenix

        Pavlov is better for shooting, not just a little, but significantly better. Also Blade & Sorcery is very similar to Boneworks without the annoying, time consuming, and boring puzzles. It also does everything far better in regards to climbing, attacking, stabbing, and so on.

  • They made a great marketing with those videos on Node, especially because they showcased in a funny way the best features of the game, of course not showing the worst parts (e.g. the fact that the comfort level is extreme). Well deserved sales for this reason

  • dogbite

    I’ve spent more money at the movies and sometimes gotten 2 hours of disappointment, so for the price I am pleased with the time spent (so far). While not a $60 AAA title, it is a set piece for what’s to come.
    The success of the title is encouraging for further development on it, that would make it even better and that itself is a good thing. So far though, I can’t complain about the dollars/hour of entertainment value.

  • wheeler

    Man, some of the commenters here just seem bitter about the reality that people actually like the game. It has a “Very Positive” rating on Steam, which is amazing for something that requires such hardcore VR legs. It’s not just hype and “herd mentality” fueled by the dev’s marketing connections. People actually like it and it deserves the success it has received.

    There is jank and physics wonk (which must be real torture for you OCD and “high polish” types) but, yes, people played the same game as you and enjoyed it despite its faults. And when it works, it’s like nothing you’ve ever experienced before. It’s a first stab at something that represents the future of VR interaction. It doesn’t necessarily need to be as uncomfortable or janky as this, but you certainly need to have everything generalized consistently under the physics system to truly realize the full potential of VR interactivity. It is beyond the capacity of developers to hand-tune or even conceive of every potential interaction. They’ve given VR gamers an idea of what the future of VR interaction can mean and like it or not VR gamers will be judging future games by that standard. So if you’re a VR developer that wants to succeed, maybe reconsider putting out another highly polished but interactively simple/abstract/sterile walking simulator

    • Alextended

      You and others sound bitter people don’t like it and try to convince yourselves they’re wrong to have a differing opinion because it’s not as vocal and popular. Do you also find the top selling music today is the best and the standard by which future music is judged and also that the Wii was the best console ever and the standard by which later consoles are judged and also that the highest grossing mobile video games are the best video games ever and the standard by which all future video games are judged? If not, you’re a hypocrite. If yes, lol.

      • wheeler

        Setting the personal insults aside, I have no issue with people not liking the game. There are many people I would never recommend this game to.

        What I do have an issue with is a minority of highly vocal users straight up denying the positive response from tons of actual users and writing it off as all hype and marketing for whatever reason. If it’s something you didn’t personally enjoy or if you don’t like the direction it’s taking VR–whatever the reason–that’s fine. Post your review(s) and leave it at that, but don’t deny reality (the actual response from the overall market). The marketing budgets of large AAA developers cannot bamboozle gamers into thinking they’re enjoying games when they’re not, and some indie game dev’s youtube connections cannot do so either. All of that hype only increased user expectations and they still emerged successful. The consensus is already in and I have no reason to be bitter.

        That Beat Saber is a great game doesn’t need to be defended. The sales
        and user response reflect that as well. But it’s also extremely
        conservative. They took a simple comfortable mechanic and did it *very well*. That deserves credit but it’s not really that innovative and I think this
        medium needs innovation, especially with respect to hard technical problems. SLZ took a huge risk by doing something fundamentally different and technically challenging in a way that is unique to VR, and they came out successful–that is extraordinary.

        Yes, for many people future games will be judged by what SLZ has done. Users are looking at the level of interactivity that Boneworks allows and saying they want more of that, and when a future game doesn’t have that (in a context where it makes sense) something will feel missing. It’s similar to how for many people Blade & Sorcery (another “top 5” VR game with its own share of deniers) has ruined the direct-mapped “styrofoam sword” combat typical to your average VR game with melee elements.

        • Alextended

          That’s a lot of words to repeat the same shit nonsense you initially said and I argued against, you bring absolutely zero new points to the discussion and only pretend you were insulted when you’re the one with the stupid and insulting connotations about people who don’t like the game in the very first post of yours. Don’t dish it out if you can’t take it. if people judge future games by what this shit tier game brought to the table then it’s only gonna be easier for them to seem good because it really is so badly done in every single way. Sadly that sort of user who is lacking in critical thought buys by marketing, not by quality, so even though there already are tons better games than Boneworks, indeed, they’ll never even consider them as nobody told them to buy them. But the next game that they do buy based on hype, for example Alyx, will only seem that much better and show them what an actually good VR game looks like so that’s a plus.

    • shadow9d9

      There are soooo many games on steam that are very positive that have gotten awful reviews. Steam ratings mean the least.

  • tiberius99

    There is nothing revolutionary about the inverse kinematics of this game. As a matter of fact, even Skyrim VR mods do a better job at it.

    And inverse kinematics is not a substitute for full body tracking, at best it can complement future tracking solutions. Until such time however, it is simply unviable for complex physics interactions, and Boneworks is a perfect demonstration of that fact. The increased sense of embodiment in the few instances when it does work is completely negated by the disconnects in my immersion whenever it doesn’t work, which is most of the time btw.

    If this were the future of VR, then you can already start to work on a eulogy for it, because the game plays like an early hackjob of a pancake game that’s been hastily ported to virtual reality.

    And all the other “revolutionary” features commonly associated with Boneworks were pioneered by the likes of H3VR or Blade and Sorcery. It’s pure herd mentality that is driving this gushing enthusiasm for Boneworks, propagated by ignorant people who have little to no experience with the medium. Kudos to Stress Level Zero’s marketing department.

  • shadow9d9

    I read the reviews. They were universally tepid. I didn’t buy. As usual, marketing and hype sell, not a game being good.

  • WyrdestGeek

    Boneworks is a cooler name than Beat Saber. #JustSayin

  • GrimmyReaper

    Really glad it is selling so well. The game (now with Save points THANK YOU) is super fun and once you get the hang of things, reloading, stabbing and platforming become second nature.
    I feel like Blade and Sorcery was like a preview
    Boneworks is the first to really push this interactions in an actual game.
    And now we have Saints and Sinners.
    I have never played so much VR as I have now.