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How a team of two used no-code in 2011 to create one of the biggest indie games, generating more than $30,000,000 in revenue

💡 the lessons you can take from those entrepreneurs

Heyo 👋 Jordan here,

It's 2011, and you want to build your own product.

  1. You're going to use no code.

  2. You're going to stay on point and create your vision.

  3. You're also going to make a raving community and 15 million in sales.

That's exactly what Ari Gibson and William Pellen did in their minuscule game development studio charmingly named Team Cherry.

🐞 The Hollow Knight history lesson in 30 seconds

Team Cherry's grand slam project is the platformer game, Hollow Knight.

Here's how building it went:

  • In 2011 Ari and William started building the game as a passion project using no code.

  • In 2013 they launch a Kickstarter campaign for AU$35,000; they managed to pull off AU$57,138.

  • Between 2013 and 2017, Ari and William worked full-time to build the game (which 4X-ed in size); tight on funding, most of their money soon started coming from personal savings.

  • In 2017 they released Hollow Knight on Steam and the game exploded in popularity.

  • During 2017-2018 they released 4 free expansion packs & released the game for consoles (Xbox, Playstation, and Nintendo).

  • They sold over 4,000,000 copies.

  • The game generated over $30,000,000 in revenue (est.)

Done! You're all caught up. Now:

Here are the 3 pillars that allowed them to build this massive hit:

🕺🏾 Uniqueness

Fantasy with swords, magic, and dwarves is common. It's amazing, too — reading Tolkien was one of the most memorable parts of my childhood.

So it takes a lot for someone to shake this up massively.

But Ari and William didn't just shake it up. They threw it in the corner and sculpted something completely new.

You see, Hollow Knight is a game about bugs. All wonderful and peculiar bugs, with funny voices, but still... bugs.

But because of that, the game became memorable. It's easy to see it once and recognize it 2 months later. This is especially hard in the overcrowded market of game development.

Steam, the biggest game distribution platform, has 34 new games released every day. Games take months, if not years to develop and you might not even get seen on the day of your release because one of the other 34 titles seemed more interesting.

And Hollow Knight stood out.

👋 Community

Starting a Kickstarter campaign and netting $1000s of dollars has been done so much that it's easy to forget what stands behind that. 

Building a powerful community.

And this was a core tenet in Team Cherry's approach to building a product.

Just 1 year before they launched Hollow Knight on Kickstarter, another game appeared.

That game, called Land of Strife, was by an unknown studio called The Carbon Concept. An enthusiastic team of builders was looking to make their big break.

But they didn't leave Kickstarter with the lofty sum of $25,000 they aspired towards, no. They managed to collect a grand total of $2.

Someone's mom was feeling supportive, we guessed. Yes, this was my studio back in the day, and I didn't get any of it. 

But Ari and William did. They started building a community day 1. That community supported them through the start, the Kickstarter campaign, the rough years, and the release of the game. They're still supporting them while they're building the second game from the series.

Build trust in people, start an unstoppable movement and you'll be able to get anything in life.

But how do you do that?

✅ Consistency

You build a massive project day by day.

You build a community day by day.

You win day by day.

Ari and William showed up every day. People started trusting them. Therefore they started investing in them. Simple, but not easy.

In fact, less than 20% of their total revenue was made in the first 3 months of the launch (less than $6,000,000). They made 80% of their total revenue by continuing to show up.

If you take one lesson from this email, that should be: Show up!

Your biggest fan,Jordan

💡 Idea of the Week

“The difference between a novice and a master is that a master has failed more times than a novice had tried.”

— Koro-sensei

⚙️ Tools, Apps, 'n' Gadgets

Here are today's picks:

  • EbSynth — Get your paintings to come to life. I'll use this in a video.

  • CleanShot — That's what I'm using to make my annotated screenshots.

  • Tana — A fascinating task management app. Probably won't get me to stop using Notion, but it's one of the things I'll be trying out soon.

👋 Enjoying this so far?

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🔦 Creator Spotlight

I'm surprised I never mentioned Kieran before. Kieran Drew is one of the most inspiring writers on Twitter those days — he quit the safe and profitable job of a cosmetic dentist to pursue passion instead. And pursued he did.

Find him on Twitter, or read his newsletter below:

📰 Last Week with Jordan

One Tweet on Notion👇

And one Tweet on entrepreneurship👇

That was it for today. Have a great week and I'll see you next Sunday!

— Jordan

PS: Help me out by sharing this with a friend who'll find it useful 🫶