"It was my goal very early on to create long-lasting brands, and Hello Neighbor was the first to fit that goal," tinyBuild CEO Alex Nichiporchik tells GameDaily.
Indie publisher tinyBuild has announced today that the Hello Neighbor franchise has surpassed 30 million total players worldwide. Additionally, the book series based on the property has generated more than $16 million by way of 2 million copies sold. Developed by Dynamic Pixels, Hello Neighbor is a survival horror game that sees players assuming the role of a child, and must escape and outwit a threatening adult AI.The franchise’s primary audience is made up of 8- to 16-year-olds, according to tinyBuild’s press release.
“We were definitely anticipating an older core audience for the game, and had to take out a few things,” tinyBuild CEO Alex Nichiporchik told GameDaily. “However, I strongly believe it’s like the Batman animated series from the ‘90s; it respected kids by giving them a slightly more adult subject matter, and by doing so gained a following. We just need to be careful about balancing it.”
Nichiporchik said that the collaboration between tinyBuild and Dynamic Pixels began as an accidental meeting at GDC a few years ago. The goal with Hello Neighbor was to make a great game first and foremost, and the teams quickly saw franchise potential.
“The original Dynamic Pixels team is now part of tinyBuild, and we have been working together from day one with the creative leads in the studio. It’s definitely a collaborative effort between us, since we found synergy in getting the game to a wider audience, and integrating their feedback,” Nichiporchik explained.
According to Mike Rafiienko, producer on Hello Neighbor, the original idea was based around playing against an advanced self-learning AI.
“The very first prototype revolved around stealing something from a house,” Rafiienko told GameDaily. “This is a fantasy that many people have -- about sneaking into your neighbor’s house. That primal fear of getting caught in a space you’re not supposed to be in is what drove the original design of Hello Neighbor.”
The publishing philosophy that Nichiporchik has built his business on is centered on franchising, crafting long-lasting properties rather than the one-and-done experiences that have characterized traditional indie publishing up to this point.
“I still believe one-off publishing -- aka indie publishing -- is dead. It was my goal very early on to create long-lasting brands, and Hello Neighbor was the first to fit that goal,” he remarked.
According to Rafiienko, tinyBuild is focused on creating a transmedia franchise for Hello Neighbor, which allows the development team to keep building games set in that world.
“[We’re] rather hands-on; specifically, tinyBuild extends the franchise to other mediums and platforms. The original creative team focuses on the games, and tinyBuild empowers the team to coordinate several game studios working [on] more than one project at once,” Rafiienko said.
Secret Neighbor, the most recent entry in the Hello Neighbor franchise, is an asymmetrical multiplayer game where one player is the titular neighbor, and the others are kids attempting to break into his basement. The neighbor begins each match disguised as one of the kids. It’s reminiscent of recent asymmetrical games like Dead by Daylight in that the neighbor player must use cunning and stealth to pick off players one by one.
“The design philosophy behind Secret Neighbor revolved around deceiving your teammates,” Rafiienko explained. “It’s a very powerful emotion to manipulate someone’s trust when you have other intentions. It’s closer to board games like Werewolf in terms of design, with video game ‘gameplay’ elements taken from games like Dead by Daylight.”
Earlier this month, tinyBuild announced the expansion of its global presence with a new office in Boise, Idaho led by Jed “HakJak” Steen. Steen is the one-man team behind Guts and Glory, and Nichiporchik said that he is well-equipped to run the new development studio.
“HakJak...has a keen sense of fun in video games. It’s a rare case when a developer taught himself physics and was able to make a great comedy game on the first try. The game we’re working on is 100 times more ambitious, but also revolves around humor. So with HakJak in the lead, our vision is to build a fantastic studio capable of delivering on emergent gameplay you won’t see anywhere else,” Nichiporchik said at the time.
With 40 titles released, and four studio spaces across three countries, tinyBuild has been ramping up its future output. According to a press release, the publisher has more than 25 projects in development right now.
Building a lasting franchise is certainly a difficult task, but tinyBuild and Dynamic Pixels appear to be handling it admirably. It may seem impossible for an indie publisher, but it’s important to keep in mind that household names like Minecraft and Journey were developed by independent studios as well. The Hello Neighbor franchise has certainly done very well for itself, and it appears that Nichiporchik’s franchise-first philosophy is paying off.
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