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How Goose Goose Duck hit 700k CCU on Steam
We talk to the devs about it. Also: 'state of the industry' survey & more...
[The GameDiscoverCo game discovery newsletter is written by ‘how people find your game’ expert & company founder Simon Carless, and is a regular look at how people discover and buy video games in the 2020s.]
It’s another week already here in GameDiscoverLand - where all the trees are made of wishlists, and you need to make sure you don’t fall in the impressions river. (You’ll get sucked up into our Hype mechanisms, and we’ll have to dislodge you with a broom.)
Oh, before we forget, 4 days left to get 30% off your first year of GameDiscoverCo Plus. For $100-ish, you get data (Steam pre & post-release, and ‘recent’ public console, Epic, Quest charts for new games!), Discord access, extra weekly newsletters, & more…
Deep dive: inside Goose Goose Duck’s viral smash
So, you may have heard that a ‘social deduction’ multiplayer game called Goose Goose Duck recently went viral on Steam. But you may not be aware of just how viral - it actually hit 700,000 CCU* (!) on the service 11 days ago. The game reached 800k CCU, including mobile versions, around that time. (*Concurrent users.)
To give you context: that ranked it in the Top 3 daily CCUs, & Among Us’ all-time Steam CCU peak was 447,000, a couple of years back. (BTW, Goose Goose Duck is F2P, peaked at #13 on the Steam global revenue charts, and monetizes via cosmetics. Gameplay is, as you might expect: ‘find and vote out the evil goose killing everyone’.)
So we thought we’d take a look at what happened, especially because Goose Goose Duck has been available on Steam since October 2021. And having multiplayer games reach their peak CCU months or years after release is extremely rare. (It did get picked up by Western streamers early in 2022, but never made it much past 20k CCU.)
We sometimes get people asking - ‘my F2P game launched slowly, how about a big turnaround plan?’ We refer them to the following Arrested Development meme re: resurrecting stalled titles on PC/console:
In fact, we did some client research recently that led us to conclude that most F2P games on Steam get peak CCU on launch day, and then settle at between 6% (for a continually updated game) and 20% (exceptionally well-retaining titles) of that CCU.
But Goose Goose Duck, like a handful of other titles such as Stumble Guys, has really bucked that trend. So let’s work out why - with help from Goose Goose Duck co-creator & Gaggle CEO Shawn Fischtein, whom we chatted to last week:
The game is an ‘Among Us’ fast follow, with deep options: Shawn noted a couple things he thinks helped: “the incorporation of [voice] chat as a fundamental [in-game] mechanic”* using lobby & proximity chat vs. using third-party services, and a host of silly costume options. But we’d add, as TheGamer notes, there’s six game modes in GGD, and new gameplay elements, like a ‘Mummy’ role in the Egypt map, that mix things up. (*Open voice chat does seem to add toxicity at times, though.)
The team understood how big ‘social deduction’ could be in China: Fischtein says that he worked as a consumer behavior analyst in the Chinese market, “where social deception games such as Werewolf are highly popular.” And you may recall from our interview with the Dread Hunger devs - also big in China, also social deception - that the genre was under-served in video game form there.
This ‘viral moment’ - from BTS’s V - really mattered: often, we’re skeptical of a single ‘viral moment’. But in this case, it really happened - K-Pop supergroup BTS’ V, aka Kim Tae-Hyung streamed the game on Nov. 14th, 2022 on WeVerse, and the boost started then and just kept going. (He is incredibly famous.)
Steam’s ‘gray market’ viability in China drew PC players: though BTS is a South Korean pop group, the vast majority of the new Steam reviews (& our estimated new players) for the game are Chinese. Goose Goose Duck isn’t officially available in China - it hasn’t passed government approvals on PC or mobile. But Steam provides an attractive ‘unofficial’ place to play the game.
Thus, GGD’s player count skews PC-centric due to availability. In fact, an English-language review from a Chinese gamer on the U.S. iOS App Store version says: “I like your game very much. Unfortunately, the model I use is Apple. I can only download the game from the Apple Store in other regions, but it cannot be downloaded in China. This is really a pity... I like it very much, so I downloaded it from Steam on my computer.”
So, we’re in a weird ‘opportunity space’ where Chinese devs aren’t allowed to launch games without government approval, but overseas devs can still reach them. (I also wonder whether social deduction games will pass Chinese gov guidelines, given the wanton and random cartoon beheading that happens?)
So, if we were going to explain why Goose Goose Duck suddenly got so big, we’d say: cute, fully-featured Among Us clone, plus ‘social deduction is massive in China’ and still under-served by domestic games due to gov approvals, plus a heart-throb BTS member playing your game at the right time. Quite a combo, really.
And the other games we’ve seen actually grow CCU majorly on Steam post-launch - see this GameRefinery piece on Stumble Guys cloning Fall Guys - are often ‘non-PvP social multiplayer titles that are heavily based on an existing hit’, but add features faster, or are on extra platforms. (Let the ‘cloning’ debate continue… I’m wincing slightly.)
What’s next? The Goose Goose Duck team has been GaaS-ing it up since launch, with Shawn noting “minor updates every 2-3 weeks, with more substantial updates every 6-8 weeks.” New game modes/maps abound & most recently some limited time Chinese New Year-themed cosmetic gacha. It’ll be interesting to see where it goes from here…
PC/console game devs: the state of the industry?
Since I worked there for 15 years, and helped start the OG version of this study, it would be remiss of me not to link to the GDC 2023 State Of The Industry report (free reg. required), which polls >2,000 game devs about all kinds of industry-related matters.
Of course, this isn’t a perfect cross-section of the biz - mobile devs are certainly under-represented, as they are at GDC itself. But for us PC/console discovery nerds, it’s pretty interesting. So let’s look at some of the highlights:
PC is a big deal, game dev platform-wise: you can argue it’s a ‘lowest common denominator’ platform, which is why 65% of respondents (above) said their current project had a PC version. But that’s also its strength! Also notable: a strong showing for PS5 (33%) & Xbox Series S/X (30%), with Switch down at 18%.
Business models? all over the place: the diversity of this space is its strength, hence 50% saying they were making paid games, 36% ‘free to download’ ones, and extra monetization including paid DLC (25%), paid in-game items (23%), paid in-game currency (19%), in-game ads (10%), and inclusion in paid platform subscriptions (9%). And only 4% with the blockchain-based monetization…
VR is a Meta Quest world right now: 36% of those those creating for VR said their next game would be on a Quest headset, vs. 18% for PlayStation VR 2, and 12% mentioning some kind of iOS/ARKit combo - perhaps some of them including the upcoming Apple AR device in that category?
Consolidation? Not good for devs: when asked “What kind of impact do you think the wave of major acquisitions (Microsoft, Embracer Group, Netflix, etc.) will have on the video game industry?”, 17% thought it would have a positive impact, but 44% thought it would be negative. Interesting anon comment here: "The budget increases seem beneficial to teams, but the concentration of IP ownership into fewer and fewer hands presents a threat.”
Anyhow, there’s a lot more in there - including work/life balance, unionization, blockchain and player toxicity questions. So go grab the report if you’d like to take a look…
The game discovery news round-up..
You know what? We haven’t given you enough information yet. So it’s time to parcel out a little bit more, before we disappear from your inbox, and re-appear on Wednesday with some more goodness:
An interesting Kotaku post about Sony’s intent pivoting away from PS4 compatibility: “In the new [PlayStation] video published yesterday (above), we see a montage of 23 games coming out in 2023. And only eight of them are coming to both PS4 and PS5. And all of Sony’s exclusive games, including Spider-Man 2 and the Horizon VR spin-off, are skipping PS4 entirely.”
The creators of smash hit automation game Factorio - which has never been on sale on Steam, whoa - announced a price increase, and it’s interesting due to the justification: “This is an adjustment to account for the level of inflation since the Steam release in 2016.” One responder jokes: “I think I paid $20 for early release which means I spent $0.004 per hour” - so I think the devs will be OK.
Just Netflix things: its Q4 results said video games had made “good progress”, mentioned the Too Hot To Handle dating game (based on the show!) was its “biggest game launch to date”; some LTD download estimates for Netflix mobile games back that up - nearly 3 million DLs. (Also check how indie darlings did!)
Microsoft x Activision update? The EGDF (European Games Developer Federation) put out a paper supporting the acquisition, and Microsoft has promised a U.S. court not to close the Activision Blizzard deal before March 31st, so that the FTC’s opposition process can grind inexorably onwards.
December’s game streaming trends from StreamElements & Rainmaker.gg? “Twitch has leveled off [viewing hours] in November of December of 2022 at its lowest point of the year [at 1.6 billion]. However, looking back at Twitch in 2019 prior to the pandemic, it has doubled in hours watched.” So up a great deal, and then down some?
We knew VR title Gorilla Tag was a hit, but didn’t realize it did this well before recently graduating to the main Quest store: “A new interview from GamesBeat reveals that Gorilla Tag, the free-to-play VR multiplayer hit, made $26 million in revenue from in-app purchases while it was on App Lab.” Also: 2.3 million MAU and 760,000 players on Christmas Day. (It’s another social-centric game with voice chat, btw.)
There’s a little bit of data on Amazon Prime Gaming’s 2022 over at their PR head’s Medium: there was a “more than 25% increase in [free game/DLC/items] claims over the previous year”, the total RRP of the games was >$2,300, and the ten most-claimed games included some Fallouts, a Far Cry, and World War Z: Aftermath.
Want to see a TikTok that made somebody’s wishlists go waaay up? The developers of Bread & Fred have a Twitter thread about that: “Wishlists before the TikTok: 9.5k Wishlists now: 140k… People that had played the demo before: 20k People that have played the demo now: 350k.” (Their demo is free, online co-op and very accessible, so perhaps final wishlist conversions won’t be as hot as deeper games.)
Some Roblox things: the 2022 year in review post from CEO Dave Baszucki is useful context, playing up that “more than half of the people on Roblox are 13 and older”, and Polygon ran an interesting piece on why and how the platform is trying to ‘age up’ its audience & experiences, and improve its parental controls.
Microlinks: Microsoft has laid off many entire teams behind Virtual, Mixed Reality, and HoloLens; Tencent, NetEase, miHoYo & others to benefit from 88 new Chinese game licenses for games such as Honkai: Star Rail; Devs object to Indian government lumping video games in with gambling in oversight.
Finally, we’re big music game fans here at GameDiscoverCo. So how about a video which riffs on the UX of 25+ rhythm titles in just two minutes? We have that:
[We’re GameDiscoverCo, an agency based around one simple issue: how do players find, buy and enjoy your premium PC or console game? We run the newsletter you’re reading, and provide consulting services for publishers, funds, and other smart game industry folks.]