We caught up with producer/designer Dave Crooks to find out how the last year has been, and to see how Enter the Gungeon reached the 1m sales mark.
Congratulations on Enter the Gungeon hitting 1m downloads. How did you feel when you reached that milestone?
Surreal. We've been keeping track of our sales for a while, and when it became clear we were going to hit a million sometime this year, we were all pretty dumbstruck. Honestly, "over a million" is a really fun threshold, but we've been well past the point of shock for months. None of us expected anything like this to happen. We're very grateful to all the people that spread the word that our silly game was worth playing, and hope that they're pleased with what we have in store for them over the coming year.
What’s the ratio of PC to console with those sales?
Console sales have been very strong, but PC definitely had the largest audience for Gungeon, with the vast majority of those sales being through Steam.
Prior to launch, what were your commercial expectations for Enter the Gungeon?
I remember the team saying: “If we pay our publisher back, and get us back to the savings we had before we started development we can make another game and be really happy.” That would have been about 45,000 downloads. Every so often, we'd say to each other: “What if it does better? What if we hit 100,000 downloads in our first year?” It was a dream that we had to keep telling ourselves to just not even think about it because it was too hopeful, and in the thick of development, too stressful. To us it seemed like we weren’t getting much attention from the press, and our Steam forums were mostly silent… we really had no idea that there was a huge number of gamers, and I think certainly The Binding of Isaac fans, quietly looking forward to the release.
We'd say to each other: 'What if it does better? What if we hit 100,000 downloads in our first year?' It was a dream that we had to keep telling ourselves to just not even think about it because it was too hopeful, and in the thick of development, too stressful.Dave Crooks, Dodge Roll Games
Why do you think the game has been so popular?
It is really hard to say but I think there are a few reasons that contributed to the success. The first and most obvious one is that the game is good. I still enjoy playing it, and I thought there was no way that would be the case this far away from it. We really tried to get into the player’s head while we tested the game: what’s too hard?, what’s too annoying?, how can we make the player feel more awesome? We hit a good balance of depth and difficulty with a cute aesthetic, bringing in a wider audience. When I showed the game in Korea, I had moms come up and play, kids in tow, and it was clear they had played before. It was fantastic to see.
The next, which I just mentioned, is that we struck a chord with a portion of The Binding of Isaac fans. I think we had a really solid chunk of content at release that people good dig into, and I think we priced it right. The other thing, and there's no way to know how much this helped but- we put a lot of ourselves into this game; what we like, what we read, watch and play. The game is extremely referential. We give a nod to everything from fantasy novels like the Lightbringer Trilogy, to shows like Cowboy Bebop and Community, and of course a million movies and games (like the orange, from Godhand). When someone finds a reference, I feel (and hope) that they feel closer to the game and us while they are playing the game- we certainly love it when people found them! There’s even a page on our wiki all about them: http://enterthegungeon.gamepedia.com/References
I also think we got really lucky with our release timing. The game was ready in a nice window where there wasn’t a huge roguelike to do battle with. And finally: streamers. Their support has been wonderful and we really can’t thank the people who are broadcasted Gungeon enough. You are our heroes.
Has releasing post-launch content helped extend your sales tail?
Absolutely. And we will continue to release more stuff over the next 12 months. Releasing an update pops your game back into view on Steam which generates sales even if the content update is free, and when people play it, all of their friend’s get a notification. At some point we will do a paid (and larger) update, and you can ask me then what I think about releasing free content vs paid content, at least with regards to Gungeon. Regardless, free content generates good will, and happy fans tell their friends- which is I suspect has done wonders for Gungeon over its lifetime.
Why do you think the roguelike/roguelite genre has exploded in popularity in the last few years?
I’ve answered this in other interviews but I still believe it to be true. I think it comes down to two major shifts in the world of gaming:
The first is the return of the hard video game. Demon’s Souls didn’t do this on its own, but it certainly was the standard bearer. After a decade of streamlined and E for effort games, From Software rolled in and reminded everyone that it was ok to demand practice, and fun to engage with difficulty.
The second is the streaming revolution. Streaming games isn’t going anywhere, it isn’t a fad, it’s an industry and the people who are commanding huge audiences on Twitch and Youtube need content. Sure they can play the new releases, but to have a bread and butter game that you can jump on every day, that is deep enough and challenging enough to be interesting for hundreds or thousands of hours is fantastic. A good roguelike, with procedural elements is a perfect fit for people who are working 6-7 days a week on-stream.
I’ll also add that, the average gamer is now over 30 years old. They have jobs and kids, a game that is new every night but can be enjoyed in shorter sessions can be perfect for a busy person. The fact that many roguelikes are styled after older genres probably doesn’t hurt.
What is the future looking like for Enter the Gungeon?
We are currently working on two updates. One will be released in the next few months, that is about the size of the Supply Drop Update that we released in January. The focus there is getting revenge on every Gungeon player’s most hated character, and to add a ton of new item and gun combinations, as well as several community requested convenience features. This update is sort of like the director’s cut of Gungeon. When it is released, the game will finally include everything that we wanted to put in the game for launch but had to cut for time- plus several extras. It will also make the player more powerful, more often- some of the new combos are crazy, and we think the community is really going to dig them.
The second update is a larger expansion, with new floors and characters. We have some groundwork done on it already but it won't be in full production until the other update is out. You can expect it sometime in 2018.