Hellblade hits half a million sales and developer Ninja Theory explains how it did it

Hellblade hits half a million sales and developer Ninja Theory explains how it did it

Ninja Theory's Hellblade has sold 500,000 copies in the three months since its release.

That's according to a tweet from the studio (below), in which the studio notes that the project is finally profitable.

In an accompanying developer diary, the developer goes into detail about how the launch went.

The team says it was anxious about how the game would be received, particularly due to its mental health subject matter. There were also concerns about technical failings at launch, but ultimately the team was "overwhelmed" by the feedback it received for the game.

Ninja Theory's Dominic Matthews also talks about Hellblade's place between indie and triple-A. In the first week, the game sold 250,000 units. So far it has generated $13m in revenue; the project took three years with a team of - on average - 20 people.

"The game continues to exceed our expectations - we weren't expecting the game to break even for nine months," said chief creative Tameem Antoniades. "Yet, we have cleared it in three. This is a big deal because I'd say less than five per cent of developers make the breaking even point. It's more like two or one per cent. Yet [Hellblade] came out of no where and surprised everyone."

The team also goes into detail about how it funded the game - it took a co-production grant from Wellcome games in order to research psychosis, took loans - which have now been repaid - as well as UK Video Games Tax Relief. The rest came from Ninja Theory's own profits from the likes of DMC: Devil May Cry and Disney Infinity 3.0; this constituted more than half of Hellblade's development budget.

Ninja Theory also shouts about the virtues of community marketing; how its fanbase and the developer diaries it posted helped raise awareness of the game where a publisher would normally spend millions. Pre-orders were also strong enough for Ninja Theory to roll out a digital marketing campaign.

The developer also managed to raise more than £60,000 for mental health charity on World Mental Health Day from sales of its game

The team has in the past said that the game beat its internal expectations for the game. PCGamesInsider also called out Hellblade as a great example of prudent game development - one with small budgets and thus smaller sales expectations.

Matthews will be talking at PC Connects London on January 22nd and 23rd about the performance of Hellblade.

PCGamesInsider Contributing Editor

Alex Calvin is a freelance journalist who writes about the business of games. He started out at UK trade paper MCV in 2013 and left as deputy editor over three years later. In June 2017, he joined Steel Media as the editor for new site In October 2019 he left this full-time position at the company but still contributes to the site on a daily basis. He has also written for, VGC, Games London, The Observer/Guardian and Esquire UK.