The developer of That Dragon, Cancer has revealed that the game has sold as few as 14k units.
The emotional title is an ode to the short life of its creator Ryen Green's son, Joel, who died of cancer at the age of five. The game received considerable press coverage, but this hasn't translated to sales.
Green believes that the widespread availability of complete playthrough videos on YouTube is the culprit, leading to the studio putting a Content ID claim on the game's score.
Our studio has not yet seen a single dollar from sales,” Green explained. That Dragon, Cancer was created by a studio of eight, and for many of us it was a full-time effort that involved thousands of hours of work. This huge effort required taking on investment, and we decided to pay off all of our debt as soon as possible.
But we underestimated how many people would be satisfied with only watching the game instead of playing it themselves.
We feel the Let's Play culture adds value to this medium. And for games with more expansive or replayable gameplay, it can directly benefit developers.
However, for a short, relatively linear experience like ours, for millions of viewers, Let's Play recordings of our content satisfy their interest and they never go on to interact with the game in the personal way that we intended for it to be experienced. We have seen many, many Let's Players post entire playthroughs of our game, posting links to all of their own social channels and all of their own merchandising and leaving out a link to our site.”
The Content ID claim is being lifted, but Green has urged Let's Play creators to take more responsibility with the way in which they present gameplay online.
All we are asking in return is that you honour our work, the work you build your livelihood on top of, and acknowledge that when you do it, there is a real cost to developers,” he added. For us, it costs us the ability to continue to share this game through translation into other languages and bringing it to new platforms, along with starting new projects.
If a fraction of those who viewed a let's play or twitch stream of our game left us a $1 tip on our website (less than the cost of renting a movie), we would have the available funds to continue to work and create for the benefit of the gaming and the Let's Play community.”