Making the Switch

Samurai Punk take the leap to Nintendo with Screencheat: Unplugged

Melbourne games studio Samurai Punk recently launched Screencheat: Unplugged on the Nintendo Switch – marking their first foray into publishing with Nintendo.

Supported with funding through Film Victoria’s Games Release program, Screencheat: Unplugged is a remastered version of Screencheat, which was also funded by Film Victoria, providing an opportunity for Samurai Punk to focus on what the community loved about the game and strip back the rest.

Directors Nicholas McDonnell and Winston Tang talk to us about reimagining the game for this new platform, share what they’ve learned since creating the original, and discuss why this has been such a successful release – including how Film Victoria’s Games Release program has helped.

 

Congratulations on your recent release of Screencheat: Unplugged. What has the initial reception been like and can you share some of the reactions?

Nick. The reception has been incredibly positive. We’ve received reviews in the low to mid 80s which is a full 10 points up from the average of our old release. The fans are loving it despite a few technical teething issues and the community has been incredibly positive and supportive. See a review in AnyDay Reviews here, Swith Era here and Gert Lush Gaming here.

You received funding from Film Victoria especially for the release of the game. How has this impacted the success of Screencheat: Unplugged’s launch into market?

Winston. The Film Victoria support we received allowed us to pour far more resources into this remaster and launch that we had previously planned. We originally planned to do a simple port, but securing funding from Film Victoria gave us the confidence to go all out for this remaster and polish and remake almost every aspect of the game. We were also able to hire our PR firm in the US who handles our press and influencer connections. They’re much more skilled at press outreach than us and also 100% dedicated to getting results, which allows us to focus on community and grass roots efforts.

Screencheat: Unplugged was originally the first-person shooter Screencheat, which you’ve designed from the ground up for the Nintendo Switch. Why did you decide to move the game to this platform and what was involved in the process?

Nick. We saw the Switch as a really great opportunity for the studio to take its first dive into publishing a game with Nintendo, which was always a dream for our team, and Screencheat’s local multiplayer focus was perfectly suited to the platform. The Switch also seemed healthy from a sales perspective which meant we could make some good estimates for revenue.

Film Victoria’s Games Release program is in part about encouraging business partnerships with experienced consultants in order to create the opportunity for skills development, which will help the studio in the future. Who have you engaged to help market Screencheat: Unplugged and what have you learned in the process?

Winston. We’ve hired Stride PR to handle our marketing efforts. From them, we gained a greater understanding of the competitive market and how to find an effective launch window. We went back and forth with them to find a good spot to release during the crowded holiday season, but eventually settled on an ideal date that would allow us to hit the holidays but not be drowned out by other huge games.

Samurai Punk also received early development support from Film Victoria for Screencheat. What’s changed about the game since then and how has your company developed?

Nick. Since our original grants, Samurai Punk has grown to nine people and now has a space in The Arcade. The game itself has grown hugely; when we first applied it had about half the content that it has now, and overall we have smoothed out the experience over two years based on public feedback. We took about two years off from the project before coming back to the Switch version, which benefited greatly from this time away. We were able to take the lessons we learned and make something even better than the original for the Switch, and focus on what the community loved about the game, stripping out the stuff we had just added for the sake of it.

You’ve recently been creating some new YouTube content, which features the two of you discussing various aspects of your company and games. Can you tell us about the strategy behind this?

Winston. Our video diary series is one aspect of our larger community and social media strategy. We want to be able to connect with our fans and community on a more personal level, so we have our Discord and streams where we chat with them, and the video diaries are a great way for us to share some of our more intimate stories with the community. Plus, we love learning about behind the scenes stories of games, so we’re happy to share our experiences with the world too.

What are some top tips for releasing a game that you could share with other developers? 

Winston. Don’t expect your first game to succeed. I’d recommend developing and releasing small games to start out, gain that experience of shipping and build up your skills to get to work on bigger games in the future. Too many people pour all their hearts and energy into their first release, only to see it fail and then lose motivation to continue afterwards. Failure is an important teacher, so it’s better to ship something, fail fast, learn from it and then hit each subsequent project with greater wisdom and experience. Treat it as a marathon, where the first game is really just the warm up.

 

To hear about the origins of Samurai Punk, watch their video here.