Hi-Fi Rush has received immense praise since its shadow drop on January 25, but developers are urging indie devs not to follow in its footsteps despite its success.
Shadow drops are admittedly some of the most exciting events in the gaming industry. Gamers often anticipate releases for months, building up hype that games may or may not live up to. And this cycle of reveal, build-up, and release can become arduous.
So, when a shiny new game is revealed during a showcase, and a corporate suit says, “and it releases… today!” of course, it’s going to cause a stir. Developers and publishers bypass the monotonous cycle of game releases, making it easier for their games to be well-received when there aren’t any expectations.
Knowing this, why don’t more developers shadow-drop their games? Well, despite the success of the recently stealth-dropped Hi-Fi Rush, many developers are urging indie devs not to follow in its footsteps, claiming marketing is still the key to a successful launch.
“Indies, do not do this”
Like clockwork, the praise for Hi-Fi Rush was joined in tandem with the sentiment that more developers should shadow-drop their games. As PC Gamer put it, “More game releases to be treated like a Beyoncé album drop.”
This brought developers out of the woodwork to share why they thought this wasn’t good advice. Developer Alex Rose retweeted PC Gamer stating, “Indies, do not do this. you are not Beyonce and you are not Xbox, I am praying that you market your game and don’t just drop it and hope it sells”.
Rose wasn’t alone, as Philip Tibitoski – creator of Bugsnax and Octodad – also shared his own advice, “Don’t shadow drop your game out of the blue unless you have great 1st party support, an excellent pre-existing reputation as a studio, and an exclusivity deal of some kind that’s fully paid for the dev of that game already.”
While many assume Hi-Fi Rush is an indie title that’s just so happened to launch to success, that isn’t the case.
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The game was developed by Tango Gameworks (The Evil Within 1&2, Ghostwire Tokyo), and was published by Bethesda Softworks (Fallout, Doom, Deathloop). It was also available on day one on Xbox Game Pass and had multiple front-page advertisements on Xbox consoles.
This train of thought made its way around the comments of various posts on Twitter. A surprise drop only works if “you’re already famous” or “if you have a massive backing to push through the noise.” It was also shared by one of the members of the Hi-Fi Rush team.
Kelly (@kelllombardi), the Global Product Marketer at Xbox, expressed that there isn’t a “one size fits all” marketing approach. “Was surprise dropping Hi-Fi the right call? One thousand percent yes,” she stated, “Does that mean it’ll work for every game? No.”
She advised that developers trust the process. While a shadow drop was the right call for Hi-Fi Rush, Kelly claims it can be the perfect recipe for a mediocre product when applied to others.
This Hi-Fi Rush controversy is reminiscent of Vidoegamedunkey’s Big Mode announcement. Many spectators jumped the gun, claiming Dunkey would fail because he had “no experience” in the gaming industry. Gamers are again jumping to rash conclusions, this time stating that traditional marketing should be scrapped and replaced exclusively by shadow drops.
But as Kelly stated, that won’t work for everyone. Eager indie developers seeing the success of Hi-Fi Rush should heed the advice of experienced devs, trust the process, and do what’s best for their game.