Hypercharge: Unboxed, the strange case of an indie on the crest of the wave ... released five years ago

Hypercharge: Unboxed, the strange case of an indie on the crest of the wave ... released five years ago


If you are a regular visitor to Twitter and have a social bubble composed for the most part by professionals, journalists and personalities from the videogame sector, you will have come across in the last few weeks some short sequences of Hypercharge gameplay: Unboxed, a original toy shooter that for no apparent reason has recently gone viral on the platform, grossing millions of views in just a few days.

In fact, the reasons behind Hypercharge's social explosion are obvious and can be identified by taking a quick look at the clips circulated on Twitter. Seeing puppets, action figures and toys escape from their packaging to do battle in some arenas inspired by our old childhood bedroom can only arouse immediate curiosity, and the first thoughts that came to mind watching those videos we bet were the same as many other people: "but when does this stuff come out? And what platforms? I want to play it now."

You should have seen our face, when after some research we discovered that Hypercharge: Unboxed, developed and Published by a team of 5 developers known as Digital Cybercherries, it is not a promising pre-alpha indie, but a complete game that has been around for a while, both on PC and Nintendo Switch. The fact that we have never heard of such an apparently inspired title gave rise to the idea that it was a project in development, even if it was not entirely our fault, as we will see shortly.

In this article we will talk about one of the most successful marketing moves of the last few years, analyzing a case study that could teach the university courses of social media management in the years to come.

Small Soldiers becomes a video game

At first glance, Hypercharge seems to have much higher production values ​​than indie classics. not very transparent, in any case there is a surprisingly valid game, which has all those qualities capable of emerging from the trailers that appeared on Twitter. Hypercharge: Unboxed is a first or third person shooter that sees us fight as an action figure, in some PvE and PvP modes where you face off with other toys, governed by AI or human opponents. In its cooperative, local and online declination, the title is configured as a four-player tower defense in which the objective is to protect three bases arranged in different parts of the map from enemy waves, with the help of defenses that can be erected by collecting the resources scattered around the setting.

Next to this mode, which is a bit the main one of the whole experience, we find a multiplayer sector set in the same arenas of the co-op, in which they face up to 8 players in violent shootouts who, however, do not always manage to give a sufficiently precise feedback of the shots, a symptom of how there is still work to be done on the netcode front. The game, moreover, is the work of a team of only five developers and, although some flaws are present especially in the field of gunplay, it is surprising how high the general quality that the studio was able to achieve with so few development resources.

In short, Hypercharge: Unboxed will not be remembered as one of the most solid shooters in the history of the videogame, but all in all the Cybercherries creature did not in any way deserve the cold reception received at launch. Steam statistics indicate that the title before the boom of these weeks had never exceeded a thousand active users, a symptom of how, net of its qualities, it was soundly ignored at the release.

Phenomenology of a marketing coup

One of Hypercharge's arenas How do you bring back a video game with real values ​​from oblivion? Probably doing the exact opposite of what Cybercherries did at the time, since none of us remember the existence of his shooter. In this case, what happened on Twitter can be traced back to the so-called "buzz marketing", a type of initiative aimed at exponentially multiplying interactions and discussions on a particular product, using word of mouth in the first place, instead of traditional ones. forms of promotion. We will never know if behind the explosion of Hypercharge: Unboxed there was a cold and calculated strategy of some marketing guru, or if the incident was the result of a lucky chain of events that Joe, the Twitter page of the game, he didn't even know he was going to unleash.

In any case, it all started with a shrewd relocation of the Hypercharge brand, which was no longer to be a failed indie, but a promising project in development: in the Twitter page has suddenly disappeared any reference to the versions already currently available on Steam and the Nintendo Store, and all communication has turned to an Xbox version coming in the near future. The name of the profile even hints at a link through which Xbox players can register, winking softly at the presence of a beta which, however, turns out to be a simple newsletter. Nothing the tweets say is admittedly false, but by choosing what to omit and what to imply in a very subtle way, the study helped fabricate a strange collective hallucination that caused interest in the game to skyrocket. br>
When, following some very aggressive promotional tweets, the videos were relaunched by some Twitter personalities linked to the world of video games, Hypercharge: Unboxed has definitely completed its parable out of the world of the dead. Cory Barlog, Tom Warren, Jeff Grubb, Jake Luky and many others have expressed their esteem and interest in the game on their profiles, bringing one of the videos to the monstrous quota of 14 million views. The buzz translated into a tangible result for the studio, which saw Hypercharge reach the fourth place in the ranking of the best sellers of Steam, even if looking at the data of the platform, the title continues almost inexplicably to have a number of very active players. low, often under 500.

The figures go in opposite directions, and right now it is very difficult to predict whether Hypercharge will be able to emerge once and for all from the anonymity that has so far characterized its life cycle, or whether it is destined to disappear as almost always happens to media phenomena that shine with the reflected light of social media. As we have told you, the title has obvious qualities and its eventual arrival on Xbox, perhaps in the Game Pass, would be able to give it more time in the spotlight. If it intrigues you, our invitation is to try it firsthand, thanks to a free demo on Steam, maybe coming back here to tell us what you think. Summer won't revolutionize you, but a few hours of fun are guaranteed.

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