To say that Dead Cells was (or is) a success is a gross understatement; the game achieved wonderfully high scores across the board from critic reviews, has been received in a very positive light from fans around the world, and has managed to shift a fair few copies in the process. The Switch has played a large part in this, too, with developer Motion Twin recently confirming that sales on the console have outsold those on PS4 by a ratio of four to one.
Steve Filby, ex-marketing manager at Motion Twin, recently spoke with GamesIndustry.biz about this huge success, noting how streamers, press, and events played a part in getting the game's name out there. One of the earlier steps involved getting demos of the game into the hands of streamers, although Filby went against the norm with Dead Cells.
"Basically the strategy with the streamers was to do the opposite of what most people do. Most people are going to try and get the biggest streamers they can, and that includes spending money on them. So we did the opposite."
"We started off with streamers with 0-5 concurrent [viewers], then 5-25 concurrents, then 25-to-100, 100-to-1,000, and that happened progressively over three months with the demo version. And about two or three weeks before launch, we were pitching the full version of the game to all the top-tier YouTube and Twitch guys with an embargo... By the time those tier 1 and tier 2 [influencers] were playing it, they'd already seen the guys we'd hit previously playing the demo, and a lot had sent us code requests."
Essentially, rather than splashing out the cash early on to reach the biggest names, Filby built up the game's reputation in a more organic way, forcing those big-name streamers into playing the game out of a necessity to be relevant, rather than to receive a paycheck. This way, Motion Twin had top-tier streamers playing the game without even having to pay them.
From here, attention moved on to press and events. Filby's first action involved following gaming press on social media to learn how they source their news, eventually making sure that Dead Cells appeared in those places. This managed to promote the game in new, and just as important areas, helping it to secure slots at events such as the Indie Megabooth at E3.
Filby tells GamesIndustry.biz that Motion Twin "spent about $150,000 on pre-launch marketing, with $90,000 of that simply being employees' time as they did the legwork associated with a proper campaign." The rest of that budget went on events, which turned out to be a key move; the game's growing reputation and appearance at key events helped Motion Twin to land key meetings with the likes of Nintendo, resulting in the Switch version we all know and love today.
The whole interview is an interesting read, so make sure to check it out here if you're interested. It's certainly an interesting approach to marketing, and one that has very clearly worked wonders for the studio.
Have you enjoyed playing Dead Cells on Switch?