A little over a year ago, Valve announced a new policy that stands to benefit the studios and publishers behind the best-selling games on the platform: from October 1, 2018 onward, any game that makes over $50 million on Steam will benefit from an 80/20 revenue split for copies sold after the milestone. CD Projekt Red's The Witcher 3: Wild Hunt just hit that milestone, and it's probably only one of a handful of games to do so.
CD Projekt Red celebrated the achievement on its Twitter account dedicated to investor relations; the studio is a publicly traded company on Poland's Warsaw Stock Exchange. Given that The Witcher 3 launched in 2015, its lifetime Steam revenue is surely quite a bit higher. In June 2019, CD Projekt Red announced that The Witcher 3 had sold over 20 million copies across all platforms, over half of the series' total units sold at the time.
The accumulated revenue from sales of The Witcher 3 on @Steam platform for the period of time between October 1st 2018 and today has exceeded 50M USD. As a result, we are now getting 80% on any subsequent sales of TW3 on Steam.— CD PROJEKT IR (@CDPROJEKTRED_IR) February 20, 2020
Thank you all for your support! pic.twitter.com/JgNgrrI5h0
Steam announced its revenue milestones for high-selling games just a few days before Epic launched its own digital storefront and pointedly challenged Steam over its base 70/30 revenue split. Today, until a game on Steam crosses $10 million in revenue, Valve takes a 30 percent cut of sales. After $10 million that cut goes down to 25 percent, and after the $50 million threshold it levels out at an 80/20 split. On top of challenging Steam's market position by making contentious exclusivity deals, the Epic Games Store has offered a base revenue split of 88/12 to all developers since it launched.
To put The Witcher 3's Steam sales milestone in perspective, it ranked somewhere between the 13th and 24th best-selling games on the platform in 2019. Steam doesn't offer more concrete ranking or revenue information than that in its year-end list, but that means The Witcher 3 is only one of a few dozen games (most of which are recent triple-A titles, with a few exceptions like GTA 5 and Final Fantasy 14) that could have possibly passed $50 million in Steam sales since October 2018.
Furthermore, we know that The Witcher 3's sales have been greatly helped by the debut of the Netflix adaptation of Andrej Sapkowski's Witcher novels. The NPD Group reports that in December 2019 alone, sales of The Witcher 3 shot up 63 percent year-over-year across PC, Xbox One, and PS4 (the numbers are even more impressive when factoring in sales of The Witcher 3's recent Switch port).
So, while this is an impressive feat for a nearly 5-year-old game, The Witcher 3 hitting this milestone also illustrates just how difficult it would be for other titles to reach it. It also puts into perspective why CD Projekt and Epic operate their own digital storefronts—if your games can sell that well on Steam, why only make them available there?