No Man’s Sky has been a one time purchase since it was launched 5 years ago. How can Hello Games continue to update the game without charging a single dollar? Is it sustainable? I have been wondering about this a lot. I did some digging and these are some of the things I was able to find.
Launch: According to Superdata article, No Man’s Sky made 78 Million USD from digital sales during the first month of the launch. (No man’s sky also had a physical retail launch). (My guess is during launch year, it generated around 100-130 Million USD revenue (not profit))
Now hard facts, looking at the Hello Games’ (No man’s sky developer) financials, just before January 2018 (1 and half year after launch) they had roughly 82 million USD cash left. out of which half 41 million was taken out of the company for something (to buy office space? long term investment? cash payout to founders? I don’t know). So January 2018 in hello games company had 41 million USD cash. In late Summer 2018, came the first Big “Next” update, which generated roughly 35 million USD by October 2018. In summer 2019, came the “Beyond” update which generated 25 million USD.
As of October 31 2019 (3 years after launch. and last publicly available financial), they have around 100 million USD cash left. They have a burn rate of 6.2 million USD a year (salary + admin). This means without additional money, they can keep updating no man’s sky for 16-17 years. (Not to say that they should update no man’s sky that long. They have already gone above and beyond of what’s expected)
2020 and future: No man’s sky surely made significant money in 2020 with “Origin” update. (How much would be know around October this year when the next filing will be made public) They also released “The Last Campfire” game but revenue from that small game would hardly be a million or two. No man’s sky has been part of Xbox game pass since 2020. So Microsoft should also be paying some money as well. This being said there are surely diminishing revenues. But profitable nonetheless. Meaning their current net worth should be well beyond 100 Million cash (107 million net worth) at 2019. (My guess for current net worth would be 125 Million USD)
No man’s sky has been a unique case. It’s an indie game that has generated AAA level of revenue. (My guess is close to 180-200 million USD revenue in its life time with roughly 10 million copies sold (5.4 million PlayStation, 4.4 million steam, 2.4 million Xbox) (source: playtracker) I would argue that a AAA game studio (with much higher burn rate) would also have been able to break even with sales and revenue of No Man’s Sky for 5 years post launch support. But Of course, breaking even is never enough for publicly traded parent companies of AAA devs. For any indie team like Hello Games, this is very rare and more than enough to sustain for decades.
At any time, Sean (who owns 50% which equates to 60 million USD) and other founding members can pack up and buy an Island and retire but they decided to stay and make No Man’s Sky better and so far it has paid them well financially. Sean has said in interviews that Hello Games are also developing something new as ambitious (if not more) as No Man’s Sky. My great many wishes for amazing, hard working, inspiring folks at Hello Games.
Hello Games filing history
(Note filing numbers are in pounds. I have converted them in USD and also rounded them for simplicity.)