Dead Cells Interview – The Success, Unplanned Mobile Release, and What’s Next

Dead Cells Interview – The Success, Unplanned Mobile Release, and What’s Next

It’s safe to say that Dead Cells, the rogue-lite metroidvania from developer Motion Twin, is one of the most successful and influential indie games to be released in the last couple of years. Since its Steam Early Access release in 2017, the game has reached impressive sales numbers, inspired several indie developers to create their own tough-as-nails rogue-lite metroidvania games, and has gained a loyal fanbase. Recently, a new update for the game, “Who’s the Boss?”,  was released for PC bringing a variety of new and awesome weapons, brand new enemies, and so much more.

Curious to know more about the game’s tremendous success and what the future holds for Dead Cells and Motion Twin, we chatted with Steve Filby, managing director at Evil Empire Studio. Evil Empire Studio is made up of ex-Motion Twin members, and the studio has partnered with Motion Twin to continue to work on Dead Cells.

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Brad Crespo: Dead Cells clearly is considered as one the best indie games of all time, as it has won numerous “Best Indie Game” awards and is loved by many. With Dead Cells on multiple platforms, how well has the game performed, sales-wise, on each platform? 

Steve Filby: So, we can’t necessarily say much about performance for each platform. There’s stuff that we can and can’t say — Switch has been incredible; I can tell you that much. If Dead Cells had come out on Switch and PC at the same time, Switch would’ve done better than PC. But because PC had a good headstart, having launched first in August 2018, PC is clearly the king of sales. PC has been really, really great for us, followed by Switch, and then, of course, PS4, and Xbox One.

BC: I remember, not too long ago, Noisy Pixel covered that Dead Cells actually reached 2 million in sales. Do you have a current sales number? It doesn’t have to be precisely accurate, but I’m just curious. 

SF: I think we’re at about 2.3 million, at the moment. Sales are still growing quite nicely, and we’re happy with that. Having said that, one of our partners just released Dead Cells worldwide on mobile.

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BC: Oh, I didn’t know that the game is now on mobile — interesting! Which partner handled the mobile release?

SF: A friend of ours has a company called Playdigious, and those guys specialize in bringing PC games to mobile, especially games that would never work on mobile. The team takes a PC game and is able to change it, mush it, scramble it into a mobile title and make it into something special. From our experience with Dead Cells on mobile, Playdigious has done an excellent job making the game a good fit for mobile.

BC: Did you and your team step in to help out with the game’s mobile version, or did you give the team sort of free reign to do what they wanted with it? Basically, what was the development process like?

SF: We’ve actually done mobile games before we decided to focus on making PC games, but we realized that mobile games weren’t our cup of tea too much. We thought of the idea to bring Dead Cells to mobile; however, everyone thought it would be too hard and didn’t want to do it. But when Playdigious came to us and said, “Hey, we’ll do it and give it a shot.”

We then gave them basically three months to come up with a prototype, and Playdigious mentioned: “If we’re able to get it to run on mobile, will you then sign a contract and make it deal?” So, we said “Yeah, sure” and well, they did it! Our job for the mobile release basically was to provide quality control, mention what works and what doesn’t work, and provide game design tips, but they were the ones predominately responsible for making the mobile game feel like Dead Cells.

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BC: Looking back, Dead Cells was always intended to be on PC. That said, prior to Dead Cells‘ PC launch, was there ever sort of a vision for the game to be on mobile? 

SF: No way, haha. We stopped making mobile games in 2015, and as far as we were concerned, that was going to be it — that was going to be the end of us doing anything mobile. The mobile game scene has a ton of great things with it, like Pokemon Go and the whole location-based gameplay mechanics that can’t really be done on other platforms, but the store systems for mobile games are, for the most part, focused on and designed for free-to-play games. Since we didn’t want to make free-to-play games, we decided to just leave the scene.

To be honest, we didn’t even plan to bring the game to Switch — we initially wanted to just bring it to PC, and if that worked and sold well, then we would consider releasing it on other platforms.

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BC: Crazy how things can change, huh? Speaking of changes, there’s a new update released for Dead Cells. Is that for all platforms? 

SF: At the moment, the update is only available for the PC release. We’ve just been really busy, lately, but once the update gets through the certification process for the other platforms, then more players can enjoy all the new content that the new update brings. Players can expect the update to come out in the next two to three weeks [week of September 9 or week of September 16].

BC: It’s fantastic that Dead Cells continues to get so much support even though it’s been out for a good while now. What does the future look like for Dead Cells? Could we expect DLC, is there a sequel in the works, and/or is the team focusing on something else entirely? 

SF: We’re actually working on a strategy right now for the future of Dead Cells — that’s actually one of the reasons why we came out here to PAX West to talk to partners and share that we’d love to still work on Dead Cells, and also gauge what fans would like for us to do with the game.

That said, we have the Motion Twin core team that is focusing on coming up with prototypes for a whole new type of game, that’s in a completely different universe — it has nothing to do with Dead Cells. Of course, it’s still very much in the prototype stage, so right now, the team is just trying new things.

The rest of the team is focusing on Dead Cells, so we can say there will be more updates and more DLC on the way. As far as “Dead Cells 2” or multiplayer in Dead Cells goes, we don’t know yet.

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BC: You mentioned that the team is working on a new title, which is definitely exciting. Given the success of Dead Cells, will the new title be in the same rogue-lite, metroidvania genre? 

SF: Yeah, so the team will most likely explore a new genre for the title. But having said that, the discussions in the office are like, “Well, we clearly did well with this type of game: a combat-based, action game. So why would we not do a game like that?” But then some team members feel like the team as a whole should move onto something new, having spent four years making the type of game that is Dead Cells.

So basically it boils down to if they can make a game, in a new genre, that everyone likes, then they’ll do that. But if not, the team will probably do another action, rogue-lite game. After the success of Dead Cells, we thankfully have the opportunity to explore something new, if we want to.

BC: To wrap things up, what would you like to share with Dead Cells fans? 

SF: Obviously, thank you all so much for the support and for getting us to where we are today. Stay tuned for more from us, and we’re not finished with Dead Cells just yet.

Dead Cells is out now on Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and iOS. The game is set to launch on Android sometime later this year.

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