Developer Motion Twin celebrated the release of free DLC “Rise of the Giants” for the roguelike-metroidvania indie hit Dead Cells by announcing that the game had sold over two million copies in May of this year. Dead Cells launched back in April of last year to glowing reviews and several prestigious awards, including The Game Awards for Best Action Game.
Since then, sales of Dead Cells have increased to 2.4 million, according to a recent interview with Destructoid. French studio Motion Twin’s Steve Filby sat down with Destructoid during PAX West, and they talked about the breakout success of Dead Cells and what Motion Twin’s planning for the bright future ahead.
For a little background, Motion Twin previously announced this past August on Steam that due to the incredible success (particularly on the Nintendo Switch) and enthusiastic player base of Dead Cells, some studio members want to continue working on the game by keeping it fresh with future updates and potential new content. The rest of their small studio, however, is ready to move on to the next endeavor, which is yet to be officially announced.
Motion Twin is quite unique, structured as a “worker co-op” that functions best with a team of eight to ten people. According to GamesIndustry.biz, the development team formed back in 2001, making web games until Steve Filby came on board to help shift the team’s focus over to the growing mobile market. It didn’t quite pan out, and Dead Cells became Motion Twin’s unified last ditch effort to stay afloat, being pieced together from multiple scrapped projects that different team members were working on.
The success of Dead Cells gave Motion Twin the opportunity to grow the company, scaling up by hiring more developers and envision larger projects, but Filby and designer Sebastien Bénard didn’t want to change the co-op recipe. At Motion Twin there’s no “boss” — every worker has both equal pay and equal deciding power, so keeping it small keeps the machinery running smoothly.
As soon as it gets past eight to ten people, [Motion Twin] have to start having managers and paying attention to the business, and they don’t want to do that.
Now that Motion Twin is ready to begin working on something new, branching out with the new development label Evil Empire makes the most sense. Evil Empire will be responsible for everything Dead Cells. “We built the Evil Empire team out starting in the end of January,” Filby said to Destructoid. “We built update 13, 14, we’re working on update 15 now, and we did the bugfixing and everything for ‘Rise of the Giant.’ We wanted to cut our teeth before we announced to the world that we exist. When you’re handing off your game to another team, it’s like, ‘Who are these guys?’ Let’s prove we can do stuff.”
Filby explained to Destructoid how inter-label interactions will work between Evil Empire and Motion Twin. “They’ve got veto right on everything we do [at Evil Empire]. They are prototyping on their side – they’re working on their next project – and we’re sitting on the other side of the office building more Dead Cells. The idea is that we take advantage of their wealth of knowledge, and they take advantage of the fact that we’re more interested in business and building more games and getting bigger.”
You have this community that loves your game and they want content till you’re dead.
As far as the future of Dead Cells, Filby sees a few possibilities, but acknowledges that “there’s a couple of limits.” On these limits, Filby explains that “the first one is money. If the game ever stops being profitable, then you can’t keep working on it. The other is the artistic limit. You can’t just continuously add content to a thing. You can turn it into a Frankenstein. There’s a definite limit.”
Filby still sees the potential for more Dead Cells content. “I think we can do a few cool things, maybe like extra branches, different game modes, that kinda stuff, but then eventually we have to start thinking about ‘Do we do a Dead Cells 2? Do we try and do what Risk of Rain did and do a 3D version? Do we try multiplayer?’ The thing is, when you’ve got such a great universe, you can do heaps of stuff.” First on Motion Twin’s Dead Cells agenda? “More content, big system changes – that’s this year.”
Dead Cells is available for the Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC platforms as well as iOS and Android.