The Ascent generates $5 million at launch as latest example of thriving indie market

The surge in gaming that has elevated the industry over the last 12-18 months has been a rising tide lifting all boats, and that includes indie game developers who pour their heart and soul into low-budget projects that often result in a kind of creativity lacking from many AAA titles. Highlighted by games like Hades, Spiritfarer, Valheim, Sable, Cris Tales, and many others, the indie landscape has never seen as much breadth and quality as it does today.

While a crowded marketplace can make discoverability, and ultimately game sales, incredibly challenging, the number of success stories appears to be on the rise. Curve Digital’s cyberpunk-themed game The Ascent is the latest example, as the title amassed $5 million in sales during its launch weekend. The Ascent quickly climbed to the top of Steam’s global charts after its release, and Curve said that videos about the game across YouTube and Twitch generated more than 10 million views.

Curve included The Ascent in Microsoft’s growing Xbox Game Pass subscription service, as many indies do nowadays. Some would argue that including a game for “free” in Game Pass means some sales are lost, but Microsoft has repeatedly claimed that the Game Pass effect is quite the opposite, boosting sales overall for developers because inclusion in the service greatly heightens a game’s awareness. Undermine, for example, recently hit 500,000 downloads in part thanks to Xbox Game Pass. Igor Gritsay, co-founder of Sad Cat Studios, the team behind the platformer REPLACED, praised Game Pass because “Microsoft actually cares about the indie market… [and] they provide funding and marketing reach.”

Steam’s massive 120 million monthly active user base has opened the door to a very wide audience for indies as well, and regular Steam sales and the recent Steam Next Fest have given savvy indies a way to promote their titles. Valve’s Steam Deck launch later this year could give indies another opportunity to take advantage of, especially in a market where numerous indies have done well on Nintendo Switch’s eShop.  

Interpret’s New Media Measure: Global Profiles™ shows how important indie developers have become to the games business on a global scale, as 44% of Chinese gamers, a third of Indian gamers, 29% of American gamers, and 27% of Brazilian gamers have purchased at least one indie game in the past three months.