Punch Club 2: Launching a Sequel to A Game That Caught Lightning In a Bottle
Back in 2016 we launched a game called Punch Club. It's a pixelart fighting management sim designed to be brutal.
The game had decent traction on social media due to absolutely gorgeous looking GIFs, yet we had challenges getting actual hype going. Gaming press largely ignored it. Influencers weren't extremely interested.
We got decent traction at events by producing a special build that had a condensed experience. You'd play for 15 minutes, get a condensed version of the final game's first hour, and would get what it was going for. This gained some traction with influencers and got some brand awareness. Nothing to shout about though.
We were recently coming off of trends like Twitch Plays Pokemon and were thinking about how to do something completely unique. Earlier in 2015 we had pioneered Twitch Integration with the launch of Party Hard, where twitch viewers could control in-game events.
A simple idea was born - why not allow Twitch to Play Punch Club? And follow-up -- release the game only if they beat it? The idea was so simple and elegant that we immediately figured out how to do it technically on Steam and Twitch.
In short we pulled a rabbit out of a hat. Caught lightning in a bottle. Everyone started talking about it. The hype was real and all over, and we generated over $1m in sales in the first couple of weeks.
For context, the original Punch Club had about 3k wishlists before Twitch Plays Punch Club, and about 10k on launch. This is 7 years ago, so Steam has changed as a platform and these numbers don't get you any sales today.
7 years later, we launched a sequel
On July 20 2023 we launched Punch Club 2: Fast Forward on PC, Xbox, PlayStation, and Switch.
Overplanned, and for good reason
We decided to get a very tight marketing plan together and overplan it. We could've launched earlier in the year and risk not getting placement from consoles on their social media, and also to possibly slip the launch date. It's extremely difficult to plan when there's a chance of missing your date. So we built ourselves a 6 month buffer that was used for an overplanned and well executed marketing campaign.
Teaser & Announcement
Shortly before announcing it we posted a teaser on social media, it got hundreds of thousands of views across Youtube and Twitter.
It's a good idea to post teasers in general because you're at the mercy of algorithms. People like to share that they know what's coming, creating immediate engagement. It was crucial for us to reach fans of the original game, and that meant re-engaging with them on social media. People who engaged with this teaser were more likely to get the actual announcement, and helped algorithms on social media to show Punch Club 2 to similar people.
During the actual announcement we wanted to reach as many new players as possible. This is a major reason why we decided to go sim launch across PC and consoles. It helps you a lot to have the so called "stamp of approval" from consoles. Less games launch on consoles, and by announcing and launching across several platforms you leverage a halo effect. Our announcement trailer was posted across official Xbox and PlayStation channels, as well as got coverage on Nintendo websites.
After the announcement and some cross promotion the game was off to a great start, accumulating awareness and Wishlists.
Here's the actual Wishlists graph:
Launch Date + Pre-Orders + PC Gamer Show
Steam Next Fest
We wanted players to get a taste of the game early. We also didn't want to launch the demo during the Steam Next Fest. A little known fact -- it's a good idea to have a live demo that has a lot of users and feedback way before you get it into the Steam Next Fest. We found it's not a good idea to actually launch your demo into it.
So in May we launched the demo. It had 45-60 minutes of condensed gameplay which influencers absolutely loved. We got meaningful organic coverage from it, and some press.
Launch Date + Pre-Orders + PC Gamer Show + Cross Promotion
We announced the launch date alongside Pre-Orders and cross-promotion on Steam during the PC Gamer Show. tinyBuild sponsored the pre-show leading up to it, and that's where we dropped the launch date and pre-orders. The whole show was about 10 minutes and featured exclusively tinyBuild content.
The Launch Date got picked up by console Youtube channels which is fantastic and gave a boost to overall awareness of the game. This spiked usage in the demo again, and we did a deal for the original Punch Club while also heavily promoting it in tinyBuild's Publisher Sale.
The Steam Next Festival - trending demos need to be longer
We were pretty confident going into the Steam Next Festival because most of the players who tried it thus far actually beat it. What could've gone better is discoverability during the actual festival. Looking at data where we secure top spots during events like this, the common denominator is time spent in-game. While we had a solid 40-60 minutes of gameplay, and most people beat it, demos that end up trending and get algorithm favorability have a higher time spent.
Our best demo so far had an average of 16 hours time spent. This is an important note to devs - find ways to make demos longer if you're going into a festival. In our case it was a challenge, since the game is story-driven and spoiling too many moments in the demo could negatively impact the full game experience.
The Launch - at twice the price
Punch Club 2's launch went smooth as butter. Many of the issues we flagged during extensive playtesting were either already addressed, or being addressed in hotfixes. Console builds were stable from day 1.
What's interesting is the sequel costs 2x of the original's price. So comparing copies sold isn't fair. So here are some bitesized stats:
35% ahead in sales for the first couple of weeks compared to the original
Launched with just over 100k fresh wishlists*
Currently at 200k+ wishlists
Anticipating meaningful sales during discounting
Extra investment into QA paid off big time
Launching on consoles day 1 helped elevate the hype
Building in extra 6 months to market the game helped the final product's quality and commercial success
Many developers these days talk about wishlist aging -- and it makes sense. The theory is that the more fresh your Wishlist is, the more likely a person is to buy the game on day 1. Since we decided to go for a very planned out schedule without risks of delays, all of the 100k wishlists were accumulated this year. This resulted in a high day 1 conversion rate, and results above and beyond game launches with 100k "older" wishlists.
Marketing in Asia
The original Punch Club's first launch weeks saw most sales from the US and Western Europe. For a couple of years now we've been growing marketing capacity in Asia, and the graph above shows it off. 24% of copies sold and 18% of revenue came from Asia for Punch Club 2 compared to low single digits for the original.
On Launch Day, we were also in the top 7 on Twitch due to a large Japanese streamer.
Bulletpoints to finish off this post in no particular order:
Total $1.4m gross in 18 days
Median time spent in game is over 10 hours. This is 2x of the original. This stat directly correlates to how well your game is going to sell.
Launch Stream helped visibility during launch with 3k viewers on the Steam page before the game launched. This secures you in an additional spot on the Steam homepage. Youtube's launch stream peaked at 2k concurrent viewers, and Twitch at 1k.
User rating is a solid 80%, and this is a direct result of solid QA
We got positive ROI on tracked advertising post-launch through reddit & google ads. Pre-launch ads didn't yield positive ROI.
Pre-Orders generated over 10k copies sold on PC and Xbox, these are important for day 1 online concurrent player counts
We peaked at 5.5k concurrent players on Steam 2 days after launch
We also got a music video by JT Music, enjoy it below
I want to thank the dev team at Lazy Bear Games and our publishing team at tinyBuild -- the amount of work that went into this launch is incredible. 7 years ago it was just me and the founders of LBG launching it, and today it's dozens of people coordinating a complex beast of a launch.
Hope this was a useful read! Follow me on Twitter - https://twitter.com/anichiporchik