Content Warning may have just changed video game sales plans forever

Content Warning may have just changed video game sales plans forever
Images via Landfall Publishing

Written by 

Joseph Kime


3rd Apr 2024 16:40

Indie games come and go in the public consciousness. Few have the luxury of outlasting their expected successes without the teams needed to keep cogs turning behind the scenes to support hype, let alone the game itself.

Unless you're Team Cherry or ConcernedApe, there's little that teams can do to achieve serious success - or at least, that's what we once thought. It seems like a real crapshoot to send a game out into the world when the world is so hyperfocused on what it's already playing.

How can a game truly succeed in such a cutthroat industry without a AAA marketing budget and years of grinding for a dedicated small base of supporters? The answer has finally revealed itself - make it free. But only for a minute.

Content Warning's potential is remarkable

On April Fool's Day, a new joke emerged, borrowing from the gameplay stylings of Lethal Company and turning the silliness to 11. Better yet, it was free for just one day - the day that it launched. Only Content Warning wasn't a joke, and it was one of the ballsiest moves that a game so new to the public eye had made in years.

The game asks a group of would-be influencers to venture into terrifying depths and film horrors beyond man's comprehension for the sole purpose of going viral on SpookTube. It's leapt into the public eye not only because it looks like an incredible laugh riot but also because it's time-sensitive. Players could bypass its £6.69 entry fee simply by being one of the first to try it.

It's a method that has rarely been seen in the industry, but it honestly makes perfect sense. Not only does it give the Content Warning a chance to reward those who've been following it through development, but the game's antics are more likely to be reflected in viral clips of monster-hunters flapping in fear and dying in hilarious ways.

Despite it only being a theory a matter of days ago, Content Warning has proved that it works. And it works well.

Content Warning's rollout plan has been incredible

Just days after its free launch, the Content Warning devs revealed that the title has been downloaded by six million players, turned out hundreds of glowing reviews, and has made it to the fourth position on Steam's most-played category. This means it's closely tailing game-of-the-moment Helldivers 2.

This is an unprecedented turnaround for a game that could've simply sunk into a sad resignment but is now climbing the gaming ladder incredibly fast. Content Warning would've comfortably fit into the ongoing trend of silly four-player adventures exemplified by Lethal Company, but already, it has pretty much guaranteed a player base...for now.

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We may only be a few days into Content Warning's life cycle, but already, we could see the start of a new trend - and we could see more games pick up a similar structure to fast-track the word-of-mouth marketing they can receive. Content Warning's every success only further proves how the model can work.

It's unlikely we'll see AAA developers jump into a similar move, but starting with indies, we could see the start of something as consumer-forward as it is brilliant for marketing. After all, you'll take anything so long as it's free.

Joseph Kime is the Senior Trending News Journalist for GGRecon from Devon, UK. Before graduating from MarJon University with a degree in Journalism, he started writing music reviews for his own website before writing for the likes of FANDOM, Zavvi and The Digital Fix. He is host of the Big Screen Book Club podcast, and author of Building A Universe, a book that chronicles the history of superhero movies. His favourite games include DOOM (2016), Celeste and Pokemon Emerald.