Let’s retrace the history of Fall Guys, the Mediatonic game that mixes battle royale with Mai dire Banzai, from its origins to its transformation into free to play.
On the wings of the enthusiasm of the transition to the free-to-play formula, Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, a title in the pay of Epic Games developed by Mediatonic and published by Devolver Digital, is about to celebrate its second anniversary. The worldwide success of the “Royal Rumble” of the rubber beans has come to mark the incredible milestone of 50 million players. Given the insane success that characterized this return to the soft scenes of the title, let’s retrace the salient phases together.
It all begins on a late spring night, or rather, just in the evening if you were like us in Los Angeles to watch the game’s presentation trailer. The context is that of the pre-fair conference period that the E3 2019 bandwagon usually introduces and which, in this case, would also have been the last of a real generation.
During that event, in the peculiar and atypical formula through which Devolver Digital presents the trailer carousel of the new upcoming titles, we had the first taste of Fall Guys.
Let us therefore retrace the Fall Guys obstacle course, which lasted two years.
The first impact with Fall Guys
Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout is a game characterized by curves and colors on steroids, as well as a keen sense of humor. The Mediatonic title takes up the formula of Last Man Standing according to the gospel of Battle Royale in a simple but diabolically competitive platform context, opting for exuberant and sparkling level design choices such as those that could season the challenges of what was once the television program Takeshi’s Castle, also known by us as Mai dire Banzai. 60 chewy beans struggling with a crazy platformer, engaged in an obstacle course to the last man, in which either you win or you return to the waiting lobby. The only rule that applies is the law of the strongest. And this Fall Guys proved it from the very first moment, when it was shown in the Devolver Digital parking lot in Los Angeles, outside the Convention Center, on a specially prepared tatami on which the developers were ready to give a hard time.
Imagine yourself in the heyday of the Battle Royale a colorful and fun game that makes the verse, and that retrieves rules and dictates in such a simple way as to be even more competitive and cruel than its inspirers. This was the essence of Fall Guys whose release was scheduled for the following year, or 2020, initially on PS4 and PC.
The game then issued the first cry on the market August 4, 2020, managing to contain the delays despite the last stages of development having been tailored to the technical times dictated by the rampant pandemic that has made the life of development studies much more complicated than expected. However, the arrival on the market was an incredible success for the Mediatonic game. The super saturated colors, the competitive nature and the splash of cooperation infused into the game well interpreted the desire for entertainment of a united videogame people, but closed within the walls of their home.
There recipe for success of Fall Guys is based on simple mechanics: jump, pull, dive, run and obstacles, many obstacles. The frenzy of each level is interrupted only by the expectation of the next, in a seamless play that has received so much and continues to be successful from the public, especially the younger one.
From the stars to moments of difficulty
The rich and constantly updated offer of Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout, due to the partialization of the year into seasons with new levels, updates and alternative modes, did not stop the questions about what would be the expiration date of the classic marketing in favor of the free-to-play one. The historical affection between Battle Royale and this business model hinted that sooner or later the transition would be necessary. However, the suspicions were removed from the success that the title had in the first months of its launch, reaching 11 million players on PC as of December 1 of the same year, and another 8 and more on PS4 in the same period. Numbers from best seller partially eclipsed only by the overflowing diffusion of Among Us which was becoming the no-ifs and buts the phenomenon of the moment.
In this context, two further problems afflicted the possibility of spreading the game and which had already been widely made present at the launch phase: the absence of cross-play and the publication only on PC and PS4. The team was looking for a solution for both instances, but for neither of them there was an exact closing date. To these headaches were added the times of assimilation of the game structure, dynamic and frenetic, but at the same time very repetitive, with few mechanics and a limited depth of play, which could run out quickly and which would have risked boring the player. The Fall Guys review already gave this aspect as the first negative point.
These were probably the reasons why as early as autumn 2020, the number of Fall Guys players was reduced by 80%, and despite the initial stellar sales, the risk of witnessing the extinguishing of a meteor in the Battle Royale landscape was more than ever next.
The new path of Fall Guys together with Epic Games
Seasons alternated and new content became part of the game’s offer. Fall Guys was on the doorstep of a first radical change. On March 2, 2021, Mediatonic was bought by Epic Games.
The giant behind Fortnite had decided to get his hands on the intellectual property in the hands of Devolver Digital; the scenario of a radical evolution in function of a return to Olympus of the most played was no longer so unlikely. Fall Guys, in those months, was in fact passing its darkest moment, with the lowest number of active players since launch, but the spark of hope for a change of course would have reversed the downward trend in a short time. Behind the scenes, the guys from the development team were at work to implement the proposals for the expansion of the platform basin and the application of the cross-playas well as the usual continuous seasonal updates.
First, the development of the Nintendo Switch and Xbox version was shaped with the aim of completion by the end of the year and then the practices for the arrival of cross-play in the game were concluded. The latter would have appeared with the update codenamed “Dave” in the following month, without further expectations, but the release on Switch and Xbox would have been lost sight of, even if Mediatonic confirmed in several moments that it was at work.
Epic Games meanwhile wasted no time in giving life to thematic collaborations with which to bring back its title, but these operations, however interesting and of immediate impact, were not enough to bring the game back to the glories of the very first months after launch.
During 2021 the idea began to spread that it would be the path of free-to-play to restore prestige to Fall Guys; but Epic Games about it, despite the projects on the game, did not know anything until spring 2022. At that point it went unbalanced with a tweet that heralded big surprises coming in a few weeks.
Fall Guys’ long hot summer
We therefore move from expectations to the level of reality. The announcement could only be impressive: on May 16, 2022, in the hottest period for the world of video games, Mediatonic communicated that from there to the summer solstice, players could return to tread the soft and diabolical levels of Fall Guys without having to pay a penny (apart from microtransactions), regardless of which platform they wanted to play on. Fall Guys Free for All became available on June 21 for all consoles at no entry fee, offering an additional pass to those who had trusted the game by purchasing it prior to this change. Fall Guys: Ultimate Knockout for PC, up to that moment also available on Steam, passed to the exclusive download through the Epic Game Store, while maintaining active support on the previous platform.
Since June 21, the overall downloads on all platforms have registered staggering numbers. There is the peak ever recorded of active users for the Epic Game Store, 20 million downloads in 48 hours and 50 in two weeks. A success that has made the eccentric game Fall Guys return to the crest of the wave and that leads us to ask ourselves today if it will be only the flashback of a meteor destined to run out again or if there will finally be a way for the game to carve out a space destined to remain.
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