OCT 21, 2014 • Another PC game from an independent studio is starting to attract a wide audience. Space Engineers from Keen Software House in Prague has sold more than one million copies since it appeared as an Early Access title on Steam a year ago. The game reached the 500,000 sales mark only last May. Keen reports Space Engineers has 230,000 weekly active users and 675,000 monthly active users. The player base is primarily split between Europe (46%) and North America (44%). Space Engineers is a $19.99 digitally distributed sandbox game where players design and construct their own ships and structures in space. There is a creative mode with unlimited resources and a survival mode where resources must be located, harvested and refined. Last August Microsoft Corp. announced that Space Engineers would launch on the Xbox One in the future with a one-year console exclusive.
Impact: Once again consumers are expressing their desire for more good PC sandbox games with their money. Steam’s Early Access program provides the opportunity to fund and play titles in development, which is similar to what Cloud Imperium Games has been doing with Star Citizen. Now that Space Engineers is officially launched it has a solid player base that is growing. This all reminds us a lot of Minecraft, another PC sandbox game, that was released as a developmental alpha in May 2009 and had amassed 800,000 paid users by December 2010. The full release did not appear until November 2011 when there were already 4 million paid users. Minecraft has also done very well on console since 2012, which recently led Microsoft to acquire the title’s studio, Mojang. While independent studios might be best suited to develop hit sandbox titles, Microsoft seems quite eager to specialize in these franchises and profit by them. The beauty of sandbox games is that they encourage obsessive tendencies of people hooked on creating their own unique environments and constructions, which eats up hours of gameplay. Feeding consumer creativity is a hallmark of PC games including Civilization and The Sims. Whether retro simple or highly polished and up to date, what is obvious is that demand for well-executed sandbox experiences has never waned. What has changed is that major publishers do not seem to have the skills to nurture successful sandbox titles anymore.