Dwarf Fortress

Beloved Indie Developers Become Overnight Millionaires With Steam’s New #1 Game

20 years after brothers Tarn and Zach Adams—collectively known as Bay 12 Games—began developing the procedurally-generated fantasy game Dwarf Fortress (which has been available as freeware since 2006), publisher Kitfox Games released it on Steam for $29.99. Until this point, the game has been solely surviving on donations (the Bay 12 Games Patreon page brings in a little over $10k each month). But now, the Adams brothers are about to be swimming in cash.

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Within 24 hours of its Steam release, Dwarf Fortress broke its two-month sales goal. In less than a week, it surpassed 300 thousand sales, meaning that after Valve’s 30 percent cut, the Adams brothers will split about $6 million between them—and that’s just based on sales from a few days ago. As far as we can tell, Dwarf Fortress is still flying into people’s carts on Steam. It’s been added to more than one million wishlists and received nearly 12,000 reviews for an “Overwhelmingly Positive” score.

Basically, fans are loving it—even for the most ridiculous reasons. And that’s great for the Adams brothers, who told PC Gamer in 2019 when they announced a Steam version of the game that if they somehow made millions (which they thought unlikely), they would “pitch it away as fast as possible” and use the funds to pay for things like healthcare.

“People expect me to take care of myself, that’s what I’m going to do, make sure that my health is in order, make sure that the game is in order, and the rest of it? You know, there are a lot of people and animals and other stuff that are in trouble. Kids that don’t have school supplies,” Tarn said at the time.

Now, he tells PC Gamer, “I’ll have to rework … my, uh, whole life, figure out what the heck’s going on there. I don’t really have any ideas or plans right now. I’ve just been thinking about dwarf stuff.” 

“My wife has plans,” Zach says. “We live in a tiny little house, so buying a new house, that’s a major goal.”

As for the rest of it, Tarn tells PC Gamer that Bay 12 Games plans to grow the tail on Dwarf Fortress for as long as possible and “be responsible with what we’ve got, now, for the rest of our lives really.” It’s a humble answer, but that makes sense—the Adams brothers have seemed rather humble about their incredibly popular and influential game for years. Seeing its Steam release surpass their wildest dreams—and so quickly—doesn’t seem to have changed that.

(featured image: Dwarf Fortress Steam)

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Samantha Puc
Samantha Puc (she/they) is a fat, disabled, lesbian writer and editor who has been working in digital and print media since 2010. Their work focuses primarily on LGBTQ+ and fat representation in pop culture and their writing has been featured on Refinery29, Bitch Media, them., and elsewhere. Samantha is the co-creator of Fatventure Mag and she contributed to the award-winning Fat and Queer: An Anthology of Queer and Trans Bodies and Lives. They are an original cast member of Death2Divinity, and they are currently pursuing a Master of Fine Arts degree in creative nonfiction at The New School. When Samantha is not working or writing, she loves spending time with her cats, reading, and perfecting her grilled cheese recipe.