Valheim has proven once again that quality core gameplay and a heavy dose of love and passion can beat out all the bells and whistles in the world. The dev team at Iron Gate Studio, coupled with Coffee Stain Studios, have made massive waves in the gaming world with their beautiful and engaging Viking survival game. Now, Coffee Stain is dishing on the game’s success, and the struggles that came with it.

‘Valheim’ experienced wild success

Iron Gate’s Valheim has experienced incredible success since its release on February 2, 2021. In its first week, the game sold 1 million copies. In its second week, 2 million. As of early march, the game has sold approximately 6 million copies. 

“We knew from the beta period that the game was well received by players, who played more than we thought they would — that set us up with quite positive expectations. We were confident that the game would do well, and definitely sell in the tens of thousands in the first week,” Sebastian Badylak, executive producer for Valheim at Coffee Stain Studios explained to Games Industry.

For an indie game studio, this is huge. In fact, so huge that it came with some hurdles. A small but dedicated studio like Iron Gate is bursting with creativity and passion, but they just don’t always have the resources they need to keep up with the incredible demand for Valheim updates and fixes. 

“The small development team of five people would still be bottlenecked the way they are now, even if there were significantly fewer players,” explained Badylak. 

“We just have to roll with the punches because some bugs are just not that easy to foresee and some need more time to get to the bottom of. So the anticipation and demand is bigger, and that makes the team’s velocity appear slower even though it’s exactly the same as it was before launch.”

“It’s one of those situations where we obviously want to keep up with the growing demand and we want things to be done quicker, but in the end it’s just not humanly possible to some extent,” Badylak added.

Coffee Stain dishes on Iron Gate’s winning formula

Over the last few years, it’s become apparent that Coffee Stain Studios has a keen eye for games that have heart. The studio has found unparalleled success not only with Valheim, but also with the beloved Deep Rock Galactic, developed by Ghost Ship Games, as well as Satisfactory, developed by Coffee Stain. 

According to the Coffee Stain crew, Valheim ticked all the boxes for a winning formula.

“The way that the game doesn’t present everything it has at first glance has also helped. It’s created a sense of discovery — the way we’ve seen the community discover the game is similar to how people were waiting for the next episode of Game of Thrones and speculating what would happen,” explained Coffee Stain CEO Albert Säfström.

“We had that with the launch, where the community were discovering mechanics rather than the game revealing them all in the first 15 minutes.” 

As for their success in publishing the game, Coffee Stain isn’t shy about praising Valheim and granting the dev team the credit they’re due.

“But that’s definitely down to [Valheim] being the right game at the right time, and above all being high quality,” said Badylak.

“Valheim in some ways validates what we’ve been doing so far, and it makes me more confident about the way we’re doing things,” added Säfström.

“This way of not heavily monetising things… With Valheim, we’ve shown that you can make a very successful game — both in terms of the amount of players and financially successful — without focusing so much on how you’re going to make all of the money.” 

“Again, this feels like a validation of our approach, that we can continue focusing on the players and there’s room on the platform to be rewarded for that,” Säfström concluded.

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