Fall Guys has had hundreds of plaudits and been tipped by some as a game of the year contender. Does it really deserve it though?
Let me preface this piece by saying that I’ve picked up 10 crowns in Fall Guys and currently sit at level 33. I’ve played my fair share of the game since launch, but the more I play it, the more I realize that it’s not a great game. Does it have its moments? Absolutely! Is it a fantastic game? Absolutely not.
Fall Guys has done gangbusters over the last month. It quickly became the most downloaded free game in PlayStation Plus history and smashed over 7 million sales on Steam within this period. That doesn’t make it a good game though; it just makes it one that’s been marketed incredibly well at the opportune time.
If you were to ask anybody on Twitter what Fall Guys game modes they enjoyed, and what ones they disliked, you would almost certainly find that a portion of them were perceived negatively. A few of us here at DualShockers have echoed similar sentiments to what I’ve felt on the game over the past few weeks. Cameron Hawkins put it perfectly when he said the team games are just not fun. Otto Kratky also noted that Fall Guys also has a toxic side. While it is–in reality–a competitive game, allowing players to grab and essentially eliminate other players doesn’t fit the light-hearted aesthetic Fall Guys aims for.
These broader issues I have with the game also come alongside some more specific ones. Perfect Match as a game is bad and just feels totally out of place; anything with a tail is not enjoyable, and the rest of the games range from great fun (the races, Hex-a-Gone) to “Oh, this one again, okay.” If any other game were to launch and at least a quarter of it was considered bad, it would be panned, however; Fall Guys seems to get a free pass.
Locking cosmetic items behind crowns is also a contentious issue for me. On one hand, it’s fine; reward the “best” players with the best choice of cosmetics, it makes sense. On the other hand, a huge contingent of players are locked out forever or at least until they earn enough wins. For some players, this may never be feasible. Take the recent Bulletkin or P-body skins for example. Each outfit comes from an incredibly popular game and both were no doubt in high demand; however, to unlock either you need a total of 10 crowns.
Don’t get me wrong; if you play enough, you’ll earn a few crowns by levelling up. Unfortunately however, you’d still need a healthy amount of wins to unlock just one of the cosmetics, let alone both, and that’s the issue. Games like Fortnite offer just as many skins as Fall Guys, but they at least let you pay for them. Yes, microtransactions aren’t great either, but at least if you want something badly enough you have the option to pay for it. There should be no reason why every cosmetic can’t be purchased with either crowns or kudos, allowing those less skilled players to at least have the chance of unlocking their favourite skin.
For me, Fall Guys’ popularity is less about how good of a game it is and more of an indication of how to sell your product. Right from the beta, Fall Guys was made to feel special. YouTubers, streamers, websites and more were all given an abundance of codes to dish out to anybody who was interested. This created a rush to see what the game was all about.
This strategy got people talking about the game, tweeting about it and streaming it, and generated palpable levels of hype. If you didn’t get a beta code, you felt like you were missing out. I certainly did that in the first weekend of the beta. Twitter was awash with conversations about Fall Guys and there were constant giveaways. Twitch was also on fire and the game consistently had tens of thousands of viewers, becoming the most-watched game over the beta weekends. The Fall Guys beta was made to feel like an exclusive club; it was made to feel like the hottest ticket in town and if you didn’t have a code, you weren’t coming in. Mediatonic’s trick however, was that although it was made to feel this way, anybody was welcome.
There were so many codes available that although there was a rush for them and they were made to feel exclusive, they were anything but. The rush just meant that more people got access to the game, which in turn generated even more conversations, and it snowballed from there. By the end of the beta, thousands of people had played the game and therefore, Fall Guys had thousands of new prospective buyers.
The Fall Guys Twitter account has also undoubtedly played a huge part in the success of the game. When the beta was happening, the account was sat around 40,000-60,000 followers; since launch, it’s skyrocketed to almost 1.5 million. The account is known for posting “spicy tweets” and for its engagement with the audience, often responding to their memes and retweeting their fan-created outfits.
@timthetatman hi Tim, sorry to bother you again – I was just looking for an L, but couldn’t find one. Someone said you’d taken them all?
— Fall Guys | BeanBot Activated 🤖 (@FallGuysGame) August 15, 2020
Like the beta, this created a snowball effect, one which again, everybody wanted in on. Everybody was creating skins. Artists, fans and even companies like KFC got involved. Heck, even we made one. For the first couple of weeks, if you weren’t playing the games, you were creating mock-up skins for it, or at least appreciating other people’s work on Twitter. That’s how you keep the conversation going, and that’s how you get your audience to market your game for you.
More recently, Fall Guys hosted a massive charity bidding war for SpecialEffect. The highest bidder got, you guessed it, their own skin in the game. This once again created what Fall Guys is great at: hype. Bids started flooding in: $10k, $15k, $50k, $100k, $500k, and before the final bid, a whopping $1 million came in. Everybody wanted a piece of the action: bidet companies, esports brands, streamers, content creators. Anybody who could afford it was interested.
This was another stroke of genius from the team over at Mediatonic which left everybody–except those who couldn’t afford a cool $1 million–a winner. Fall Guys got fantastic press, and rightly so, SpecialEffect got a life-changing $1 million donation and the winners, a conglomeration of Ninja, MrBeast, G2esports and Aim Lab, each get their own cosmetic in the game.
Everything the Fall Guys Twitter team touches turns to gold, and more power to them.
Fall Guys’ success can ultimately be put down to some really solid decision making alongside its fantastic marketing. Launching the game on PS Plus was a masterstroke, one which no doubt attracted millions of players who may not have picked up the game in the first place. These extra players won’t be spending any money upfront, sure, but they may potentially in the future, and if not will certainly be part of the conversation.
The launch also happened in somewhat fortunate circumstances. In a year when the world has gone to trash, Fall Guys is the type of game people needed; light-hearted, silly nonsense. It also came hot on the heels of two heavy Sony blockbusters, The Last of Us Part II and Ghost of Tsushima, and is a perfect palate cleanser for those two games.
While currently I’m of the mind that Fall Guys isn’t a great game, that doesn’t mean I don’t think it ever will be. No game like this launches as the most complete, perfectly polished package. I could list loads of live service games that launched to a sub-par reception. If you look at what Mediatonic has done so far, however–corrected some of the issues, added a new level and given us an enticing look at Season 2–you can see that Fall Guys has a bright future. Right now though, it’s not a great game and it’s certainly not the “Game of the Year” competitor it’s being lauded as.