I’m tired. So I’m selling my game that just went viral.

Renato Massaro
Sep 14, 2014 · 7 min read


My name is Renato Massaro, and I’m the sole developer of the game Hacker Experience (proof), an online hacking simulation game where you play the role of a hacker working for an evil corporation. At the game, you can hack virtual servers, develop new softwares, mine bitcoins, work on missions, hack banks and much more.

It went viral in a matter of minutes. Hacker Experience was on the front page of Hacker News for hours, and was featured on many sub-reddits.

I released it yesterday at 4 p.m. Central Time. By the end of the day, it had 2000 registered users and 1000 online.

Now, about 30 hours later, there are 6000 registered users and 1500+ online.

Unique visits over time
Pageviews and detailed informations

I’m a 21-year-old currently studying Applied Computer Science at University of Winnipeg. I received thousands of emails and messages and notifications on the last few hours. There is no way I can keep up with this. After spending two and a half years working on this, I’m simply too tired.

So I’m selling it. I never sold a software before, so I won’t put a price on it. You do. If you want to buy the game, contact me at renato@hackerexperience.com with your offer. Please keep in mind I spent two and a half years building this game as a side project, so make a serious offer.

With the purchase, the buyer will receive:

  • authorization to use the name Hacker Experience and the brand NeoArt Labs, or change them to any other name.
  • Complete source code (written in PHP with some Python on the backend. More details below).
  • Current user & forum database.
  • root access to the current server. The monthly server expenses would be covered by the buyer.
  • full access to New Relic monitoring and Piwik Analytics reports.
  • Access to cloudflare account.
  • Access to hackerexperience.com domain.
  • Authorization to change anything in the game.

(Feel free to ask for anything else that I might have forgotten.)

More informations & profitability in case you are interested below.

Profit & Expenses:

There are two main ways to earn money with this game. One is using Google Adsense.

These values are estimated, but I believe one can get at least $20–$25 per day. That’s about $750 per month.

The other way to earn money, and the main way I guess, is selling premium account. The whole game is based on the freemium type.

Currently, the premium features are not pay-to-win. This means the premium user have no tactical advantages over the basic user. At this current strategy, I expect no more than 1% of players to sign up. Still, that would be about $250 per month on an average price of $4 / month.

However, a more profitable setup would be to offer the premium user actual advantages. For example, users would be extremely interested on something that could speed up the duration of their process. (For those who don’t know the game, a process would be, for example, downloading a software. This takes some time depending of your internet connection).

This and more advantages could lead to, I believe, at least 10–15% of user conversion. At $4 / month with the current 6000 users this would be over $3500 per month.

(I can’t show actual results for the current premium membership because the payment gateway is not ready. Actually it is, but I had some problems switching from sandbox mode to live mode, so I still cannot accept payments and therefore no one is able to actually buy it. Rookie mistake, I know.)

At the current stage of the game, one would be able to get about $1000 per month with both ads and user membership.

With a few minor adjustments, one would get more than $5000 per month.

(Keep in mind those are estimated values and could be way higher or way lesser than shown. I explained my calculations, feel free to do yours too. I honestly believe this is a realistic assumption, because even though there might be currently a hype (due to the recent “viralisation”), the user base will grow.)

So yes, suppose you make an offer of $60,000, you would probably have your money back in one year.

Monthly expenses:

We use this dedicated server hosted at OVH. For about $116 per month, we have access to 64GB ECC RAM, Xeon E5 3.7 Ghz, 360 GB of SSD (at RAID 1) and 500 Mbit of networking. These specs are more than enough, as you can see below.

It’s also a nice way to brag with friends.

As you can see, CPU usage is fine, peaking with 1500 users online. RAM usage is almost fixed at 4GB.

Oh, we use Slackware. In case you want to change the server OS, we have a how-to with every detail we used to configure the server, like virtual hosts configurations and softwares needed. You should be able to set a vanilla Slackware running in no more than 1 hour. Another OS would probably be in less time.

The webserver is Nginx 1.7.2 compiled with PHP 5.5.16 and MySQL 5.7.4 m14.

We also use Cloudflare Pro, at $20 per month.

Source code, bugs, support and stuff

If you are interested on the game, you should pay attention to this part.

The game is written mostly in PHP, using Python for some backend (cron jobs).

There are about 60kLOC in PHP, and 2kLOC in Python.

We do not use any framework. The PHP code was written completely from scratch. This give us some performance boost, however it might be a little more difficult to understand the code.

I started coding this game when I was 18, before joining CS university, so you might see some workarounds here and there. Although I was learning new technical and programming design concepts, not always was I allowed to apply them to the code, since this would mean “rewrite everything”.

Therefore, do not expect perfectly written and perfectly documented code. We use classes, but perhaps in a “non-conventional” way.

That doesn’t mean you wouldn’t be able to understand or modify it. I believe someone could hack the code after 1 or 2 weeks studying it thoroughly.

I can offer some programming support. Specially on the first weeks you would have lots of trouble understanding the code, and I would be able to know the exact location of a bug almost instantly. So I could help with stuff like “what this class / function / variable does?”, “where can I find the code that processes the download task?”, “I have this bug. Any ideia where this might be coming from?”, and stuff like that.

If I can help, I would happily help. Can’t promise instant replies though because of my classes, but in a few hours you might get most of questions answered.

Softwares have bugs. We had a beta-test right before the launching, covering every aspect of the game. Many bugs were identified and fixed.

Since the launch, many bugs were also detected. I have no time to fix them, there are tons of messages that I’m trying to answer but it’s impossible. Also, it’s very hard to debug given that I’m alone on the development task.

I believe there are blocker bugs for about 10% of the users (guessing high). With some work you might reduce it for about 1%. You can manually fix some of the bugs messing around on the database.

I believe 30% users experience visible bugs. However most of those are actually features, described on the game wiki. I have no time to show to those users that it’s actually a feature, though.

After understanding the code, and also with my help, I believe you should be able to modify the game without problems. As long as you know PHP, of course (it’s not difficult, though).

I don’t know if only one person would be able to work on both game support and programming. Having two persons would be nice, but if you are good enough you would probably “survive” if alone.

That’s it. Questions? Feel free to mail me at renato@hackerexperience.com.

Edit: The game is currently localized at both English and Portuguese languages. Adding a new language is fairly easy, since we use gettext and most of the strings can be easily translated on a .po file.

Brazil alone is responsible for about 15% of Google Adsense earnings, and 30% of users. If you consider Brazil as responsible for 10% of all earnings, and that Brazil’s success is due to the portuguese language, adding a new language would mean an additional $500 per month. If you spend $500 to translate it, seems like a good deal.

    Renato Massaro

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