Outriders should have been a cash cow, but it isn't.
More than a year after Outriders came to consoles and PCs, People Can Fly revealed in a recent financial report that it still hasn't seen a dime from Outriders. According to People Can Fly, Square Enix still hasn't released royalties because the "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."
Of course, things could have changed between then and now as the report only counts the royalties as of December 31. Even so, that's eight full months of turning over zero profit for a game that we previously used as an example of why video game demos work.
The shift from generic sci-fi co-op shooter to a pseudo-live-service game set to get its first major expansion, Worldslayer, later in June, might have caught People Can Fly off guard, but, you have to give the studio credit. It's just a shame that its popularity did not translate into profit for Square Enix and People Can Fly.
What's interesting here is that Outriders is not Square Enix's only financial failure. Marvel's Avengers and Guardians of the Galaxy both failed to live up to the company's expectations. Most recently, Babylon's Fall joined Square Enix's string of money pits.
Perhaps all of these disappointing high-budget projects were the main reason why Square Enix off-loaded its three biggest Western studios and a huge chunk of its non-JRPG IPs to Embracer Group for a very low price of $300 million. But, if Outriders didn't make People Can Fly and Square Enix any money, then why is the Japanese publisher holding on to it? If we were to make an educated guess, then Square Enix probably sees the silver lining with the upcoming expansion. Not to mention, Outriders does have franchise potential.
Ultimately, this isn't all bad news. If People Can Fly is still working on and supporting Outriders, then it means that the game still makes financial sense for both the developers and the publisher.
Fingers crossed, People Can Fly's next financial report won't paint a similarly bleak picture.