Derrick The Deathfin Sells Just 5,000 Copies, Makes A Loss

Derrick The Deathfin’s actually a decent game – as our review will attest – but it’s sold under 5,000 copies, making a considerable loss for the indie developer. Speaking to Kotaku AU, developer Gordon Midwood (who I spoke to a couple of times when putting together the first preview) admitted that sales of the quirkly Ecco/Sonic crossover really didn’t reach anywhere near the levels he was hoping for, despite a brief PlayStation Plus price promotion.

He also says that he went £40,000 in debt to fund the game, which included personal loans and credit cards. “It’s entirely possible, or indeed by the looks of things at the moment 100 per cent probable, that sales will never amount to enough to pay back even a quarter of my personal debts,” he said on his blog.


The small dev team – Midwood and one other – only had funding for 11 months, the original targeted timescale. That grew to 24 months, and thus additional funding was needed. And even once the game was done, it’s hardly bringing in enough to buy a Ferrari – Midwood states that he only gets around £1 per sale of the game. “Due to sponsor requirements, revenue shares between those involved, platform costs and so on for each copy of Derrick sold I personally receive just under £1.”

The game didn’t have much promotion pre-launch, though, with very little coverage on any of the gaming sites, and the official Blog barely touched it. “Sony have been very supportive throughout the process of completing and promoting the game,” Midwood said. “They loved the concept and they have been to very easy to work with since then. The publishing and promoting is on our shoulders though, as we can’t afford to pay anybody professional, ha!”

Regardless, the game was pushed live on the same week as the likes of Machinarium, Naughty Bear, Worms Revolution, Retro City Rampage, Joe Danger The Movie and Warlords, at least in some territories. You’d need considerable promotional weight to float above such a crowded week as that, even with a Plus discount.

“I’m not allowed to say exact numbers I don’t think!” Midwood concludes. “It might well be quite a bit under 5k, which I don’t think I’m allowed to say either.”



  1. This is a real shame. Releasing in that week was surely not the best move – I’m sure that would have been Sony’s decision rather than the developers.

  2. The game caught my eye, the price didn’t (even with the PS+ discount, which wasn’t that much). I don’t know if they would have more profit by making the game cheaper or not, but at least for me that was more expensive than I thought.

    • it was under £4 how that was that not a good price?

      • People expect anything outside of AAA titles to be free or 59p these days.

        Not saying XisTG did, but that’s the general feeling.

      • skibadee, you’re right, my bad. I went to check on the price and now I remember; I thought the regular price was high (and still do), and didn’t get it because of some problems with the store and the PS+ thing (I still can’t get my Cubboid from this month, ever since the new store came up it’s been like this). So while the discount price looked about right to me, the regular price still doesn’t.

        And I agree with you too cc_star; I work at a game company and i do costumer support when I can, and it’s unbelievable the number of players that get the free version and then feel outraged when you 1) have to pay 59p to get a locked feature (plus removing ads and all that); and 2) when you play three worlds for free and then have to unlock all the others for 59p. We have ratings where we get one star because “game is great but you shouldn’t have to play to access everything”.

  3. Send it to xbl that’s where real money is. Sony send you to die

  4. That’s a shame.

  5. I bought it.

  6. Games like this should be on the iPhone not home consoles.

  7. It’s indeed a shame if a game is no success, but ultimately that just means the game isn’t good enough in most cases. Sure indie studios have a hard time getting exposure, that’s the whole challenge you chose for, being independent and all. The whole story about micro-payments providing very little income per copy sold is just stating the obvious.

    I guess I am annoyed by the increased attention to failed indie developers (like those guys from that infernal machine style game recently). If they made a game which doesn’t earn any money, why should they receive attention and support, are people waiting to see “their next game” even when they didn’t like the first one?

    All those marketing factors and whatnot are indeed setbacks, but truly good games will surface among the crap anyway! Very few “hidden gems” exist that don’t make a profit.

    Sony saying they liked it is a good indicator, but in the end they are not the market. No developer should count on a marketing budget (or situation) to sell their game regardless of the game quality.

    Yes I am an indie developer myself, I am not looking for self promotion, just getting a bit tired of the *boohoo I’m in debt*-indie stories these past few months

  8. It would be terrible if this kind of cold sales environment effectively kills off this kind of game on PSN. Bad for the devs, obviously, and bad for gamers who like the option of something a little bit different too. But also very bad for Sony, for whom this kind of quirky, characterful downloadable is a big defining feature. Without this page in their portfolio, Sony’s next machine would be that much less enticing.

  9. Indie development is part gold rush, part graveyard.

    Look at Joe Danger 2, despite already earning itself a name & adding loads of content to make it even better value – it didn’t trouble the charts at all, whereas titles backed by Sony or other publishers rule supreme, but even there’s noway of knowing how successful they are at making returns on investment.

    Even on iOS, half of titles released are reportedly never downloaded and a ridiculously high percentage shift fewer than 1,500 total.

    Loads of good stuff doesn’t make it, it is difficult without publisher support, but publisher support can mean you lose control of the project, or they may even not want it anyway as they back fewer & fewer projects outside of their core IPs.

  10. I can’t help think that they’ve shot themselves in the foot on this one. I quote “The publishing and promoting is on our shoulders though, as we can’t afford to pay anybody professional, ha!”. This is marketing suicide. You can build the best car in the world but if you tell no one about it then it’s pretty much going to bomb.

    They ploughed all of their money into a game and left nothing to market it with. Umm… yeah… :-\

    • Indeed. None of the trailers ever explained the game mechanic, just that is was a papercraft fish thing. If they had just said “It’s a bit Sonic-y” then they would have shifted more copes.

      Also the papercraft thing looks nice but they could have just made some blocky characters and put a paper texture of the top, you are whizzing about so fast you never get to see any of the nice stuff.

      • James Marsden did a great job on Velocity’s marketing for practically nothing. Just constantly badgering the big name sites for coverage.

        It worked.

      • Indeed he did. Just checked the Deathfin trailer on Youtube, top comment..

        “I love how playstation and pc games release out of nowhere.”


      • Agreed with you both. There’s a lot to be said for making the effort to get in touch with everyone and create some sort of strategy so you get maximum exposure for a little as possible. However, there’s a time when you have to be honest and realise that unless it goes viral/word-of-mouth then you really might need to have a budget to allow for advertising both off and online.

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