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Garry's Mod was originally released as a Half-Life 2 mod in 2004, before being re-launched as a standalone sandbox physics games in 2006. Over the next eight years, it rang up a cool six million copies—an impressive achievement by any measure. But in the year and four months since then, it's sold another four million copies.
Jesus christ. GMod sold its ten millionth copy over new years.
— Garry Newman (@garrynewman) January 2, 2016
With all due respect, I share Newman's apparent surprise and confusion. Four million unit sales of any indie PC game in a single year is remarkable, but to do it in the ninth year of standalone release is unexpected, to put it mildly. Strange, even. Garry's Mod is clearly very good at what it does, but it's been doing it for almost a decade now. So the obvious question is, Why?
Newman attributed much of the surge to YouTube, Twitch, and Steam sales, which he said have been having a snowball effect on sales over the past few years. The more players, the more videos and streams, the more people watching, the more people buying and playing and streaming, he said. The steam sales really boost that effect. On a pretty average day it sells about 3000 copies. On Christmas Day [this year] it sold just over 75,000 copies.
He also pointed out that the age of Garry's Mod, which is built on the Source Engine, can actually work to its advantage. Most Source Engine games run on anything, from the shittiest ten-year-old windows XP laptop to the latest Alienware monstrosity. And it doesn't just run on the shitty laptop, it runs really well. I think that's something we overlook as game developers—awesome performance should be considered a feature, with higher priority than graphics, he continued.
There was a lot of outrage and negativity when we announced that we were going to charge for it so I wanted to show people that this was a good thing. That the money would be used to develop the mod further and allow me to concentrate on it full time. People are amazed that a ten-year-old game is still selling really well—but I guess Windows is over 30 years old, and it's still selling. The only real difference is that I didn't bundle up and re-charge people for the updates we made. Hopefully people don't see it as such a bad thing now, in retrospect.
I'd say it's sure looking that way.
The sandbox physics game Garry's Mod has been around for just about forever—since late 2004, to be precise, first as a mod for Half-Life 2 and then as a standalone release. It's sold more than six million copies since then, and after all this time remains one of the most popular games on Steam, currently holding 11th place on the top 100 concurrent players list. And now, more than ten years later, there's finally talk of a follow-up.
The word came during a PCGamesN interview with Garry's Mod creator Garry Newman, when the site asked if he'd ever consider increasing the game's longstanding $10/ 7 price tag. "We wouldn't raise the price now, I mean we re kind of working on a sequel, so it d be stupid to the raise the price, really," Newman replied. "It s early days. We re looking at having more VR stuff in it—that s the big point of it. And it won t be called Garry s Mod 2."
That's a long way from an announcement, and given the way that Newman and Facepunch Studios work—"at their own pace," you might say—anything more official may well be a long way off. The future of virtual reality may be a factor as well: If Oculus Rift, Vive, or whatever else comes along goes over big, Newman ought to have a lot more incentive to push a VR-centric sequel than he will if they tank.
The internet may break this week under the weight of Opinions About Paid Mods, but it's worth taking a moment to hear Garry Newman's position. As the creator of Garry's Mod a fully fledged paid title with origins as a free Source Engine mod Newman is in the unique position of witnessing the transition from free to paid nearly ten years before Valve's announcement last week.
"It s probably no big surprise that I m all for it," Newman writes on his website. "I sold a mod once and everyone was angry that it was happening, until it happened and they got a much better product than they d have gotten when it was released for free, then they seemed to calm down a bit. It has given me a career for ten years. It s bought me two houses, a bunch of cars. It s created a company that has hired 30+ people."
Newman argues that the fledgling modding marketplace will balance itself out eventually, with supply and demand dictating what sinks or swims, and what's paid or free. In this way, free mods will still dominate.
"Some stuff won t be worth charging for," Newman write. "Some people won t want paying for their stuff. If a mod takes ten seconds to make and someone wants to charge $10 for it then they won t sell any copies because it s not worth it. This is how the market balances itself. They ll either have to lower their price or make it worth the price."
Meanwhile, those unable or unwilling to pay will inevitably find a way to pirate paid mods, he continues, and the possibility of stolen materials being uploaded shouldn't render the whole operation useless.
"There was a time where they d almost completely stopped making PC games because of piracy. Should we really let the fact that sometimes people are assholes dictate what we do? Or should we just deal with it when it happens?"
Newman breaks down the pros and cons for each participant in a transaction, admitting that the benefits are weighed too heavily in Valve and the game developer's favour. "It s obvious that Valve and the game developer need to make money here too, enough to cover costs at least but it s the modder s work that is making the money," Newman said.
"I don t know whose choice that is though, but it feels like someone is being a greedy asshole. This is something that will get better with time."