Unleashing Creativity and Earning Potential: Highrise's Journey Beyond $250M in Revenue

The platform has earned more than $250 million online, a towering success story for player-modded economies that is setting a new bar for what ‘indie’ means today. Interestingly, Highrise is also a site where even the most rudimentary of doodles can earn money, thanks in part to an unusual and often tricky relationship between creation, community, and commerce. Let’s unpack the process.

Highrise: A Hub for Digital Creatives

Central to Highrise’s success is how it encourages user-generated content, through its own user-generated design programme: Highrise Ideas. Users can submit designs for anything from wacky wigs to bespoke clothing. ‘Napkin doodles’ as they’re called are voted on by the community, with the most popular realised as in-game items. It enriches the virtual economy while creating a novel revenue stream for fledgling artists.

The Secret Sauce: Empowering Players Without a Single Line of Code

So, Highrise is not just a clever way to democratise the creation process, it is also the hero’s journey, turned into a democratised experience. Anton Bernstein, CEO of Pocket Worlds, which developed Highrise, describes the virtual world as a lush oasis where ‘players celebrate their individuality’, because ‘you can dress up your avatar to look like yourself, or how you think you should look’, whether on the virtual dancefloor or sitting in the online coffee shop. And the Ideas programme, which showcases real cross-platform virtualisation, is a bittersweet coda to a success story: people who are not necessarily artists or programmers have become commercial creators by putting existing cultural products into another world.


The launch of Highrise Studio this year further demonstrates Pocket Worlds’ dedication to encouraging creativity at every level. Studio offers the player a suite of development tools designed to make it easy to create projects in Unity and deploy them with only a few clicks in Highrise. This adds value to users as well as creators who will earn more via the Creator Exchange Program, a reward system that compensates creators for their contributions to the ecosystem.

Navigating the Marketplace: From Primary to Secondary

The highrise thrives through the economics of its own market, where things sell for more in the Secondary Market than in the Primary, creating an ecology of resale. In fact, this market model underwrites an entire culture that is based on the paradox of enterprise. And once the bridge has crossed, the game has begun, with every user an entrepreneur.

The Community's Role in Highrise's Meteoric Rise

We can’t talk about Highrise’s successes without also mentioning the important part its community has played in its fate. Lovers of fiction, games and fantasies, they’ve helped to see the apps through to the Ideas programme, and become part of the story of Highrise Studio creations.

HIGHRISE STUDIO: A Beacon for Budding Creators

Every time Highrise passes another $250 million milestone, Highrise Studio finds itself back in the spotlight. It’s so much more than a product. It’s a petri dish for inspiration. It’s a means to an end. It’s a way to evolve. It’s a vehicle for dreams. It’s a new venue for the amplification of the Highrise community. It’s a way to engage our community in creating dreamscapes and bringing them to life, in ways that are as innovative as they are sexy, in ways that are as consequential as they are ergonomic. It’s a channel to put the superpowers of the dream-makers in the driver’s seat of their digital imaginings, and the distant planet of their dreams.

Exploring the Essence of HIGHRISE STUDIO

Highrise Studio isn’t just a feature. It’s a sign of Highrise’s ‘Ludic philosophy’, or the belief that ‘the game is for everyone, and begins when people realise that all sorts of things can happen’, as explained by the Highrise wiki. Studio allows Highrise residents to, in effect, develop their own games, where they can write and publish their own notes and set up encounters of their own. They can bring any city they want into Highrise and create as many versions of it as they want. The world inside Highrise is ‘more a container than content’. In doing all these things, Highrise shows that it is as much a venture to help people dream up new ventures, as it is a home. As another game designer, Jane McGonigal, describes in her book Reality is Broken (2011): As millions of gamers discover their inner entrepreneurs, every single retail website, app store, or Kickstarter page will see an explosion of game-like creations, unimaginable in the unaugmented world.

To wrap things up, Highrise’s transition from a promising upstart on the information superhighway to a titan of creative commerce is an empowerment story: a story of innovation, creativity and community. As it blazes trails with Highrise Studio and elsewhere, one thing is certain: the future of creation and commerce is about empowering people to make ideas happen, one click at a time.

Jun 14, 2024
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