Outriders was released in April 2021, heralded by developer People Can Fly and publisher Square Enix as the future of the looter-shooter—and while we found it a bit of an inconsistent experience, the early signs were of a positive commercial response. Square Enix boasted of 3.5 million players the month after launch, calling it “the company's next major franchise.“
Then things went a bit quiet. By August, developer People Can Fly was grumbling about being left in the dark by Square Enix about how the game was doing. And now, the lid's come off and it looks like: not very well.
A new financial report from the studio addresses Outriders and says that, while it was entitled to royalty payments should the game sell well enough, “The Group received no royalties from the publisher for the period to December 31st 2021, which means that as at the reporting date net proceeds from the sale of Outriders were insufficient to recover the costs and expenses incurred by the publisher to develop, distribute and promote the title. This was confirmed by the royalty statement for the fourth quarter of 2021, received by the Group from the publisher.”
That's suddenly not sounding like Square Enix's next major franchise. It should be kept in mind that the initial player figures were also boosted by the game being available on Xbox Game Pass from launch: so it seems plenty of people just tried Outriders and swiftly moved on.
People May Fly remains committed to delivering at least one more DLC for Outriders, which according to the document is called Outriders Worldslayer and will be released in 2022. But it does not have any expectation it will receive any royalties from the project: “There can be no assurance that net proceeds from the sale of Outriders in future periods will be sufficient for the publisher to recover the costs incurred and to pay royalties to the Group.”
If nothing else, this shows how misleading early player counts and publisher braggadocio can be—particularly when talking about a live service game, which aims to keep players returning over the long-term. It also raises a bit of a question over how good a decision Xbox Game Pass was for a thirdparty game that was sold at full price elsewhere. Outriders was fun enough but it never felt like a serious contender against something like Destiny 2.
People May Fly, however, seems committed to a similar path with its next game. This is called Project Gemini and referenced in the financial report as “a Triple-A game that is being developed in partnership with the publisher Square Enix Limited. Its scale is comparable to that of Outriders. The Group expects that the game will reach completion by the end of 2024.”