tinyBuild, the indie game publisher behind titles like Hello Neighbor and Clustertruck, took a page out of Devolver Digital’s book. Rather than putting on a traditional show, tinyBuild released a nine-minute pre-recorded skit. As an appetizer to Microsoft’s conference, it filled the niche it needed to. You could tell the studio was having a blast poking fun at industry trends.
The Good Stuff
The skit opens with what is presumably tinyBuild’s head honcho receiving a call from a villainous caricature. The ominous figure warns Alex Nichiporchik that he has twenty-four hours to craft an E3 press conference. “Is the new game finished?”, he asks Alex, referencing the conference’s only tangible announcement: Secret Neighbor. Teased earlier this month, Secret Neighbor closed off the studio’s conference with a small chunk of gameplay. Featuring a group of children entering a seemingly abandoned house, Secret Neighbor is all about that co-op.
As a singular announcement, it’s fine, but the musicals are what really cemented tinyBuild’s place as a publisher to watch out for. The first musical number, “The Greatest Game in the World”, light-heartedly condemns the current Battle Royale fad. With such eloquent lyrics as:
- “You’ll start off nude, go and snag that loot! Those items basic as can be!”
- “Step One to make a game. We have a unique idea. How about Battle Royale? That’s great! It’s never been done before.”
- “With those default skins, you will never win. Better buy your way to victory!”
tinyBuild knows exactly what they’re doing. With such on the nose lyrics, it’s an unabashed condemnation of publishers chasing greed and abusing uninformed consumers.
Even Better Stuff
The second musical number, “We’re Gonna Fix It”, equally pokes at developers rushing out unfinished games. tinyBuild’s CEO plays with a fidget spinner as an assistant lists bullet point after bullet point of game breaking bugs after their recent beta test. Alex nonchalantly utters “We’ll fix it”. The final bullet point reads “The PC version is running smoothly, but the console ports are running at ten frames per second”. Alex casually says “we’ll fix it” one last time just before the musical number bursts onto the scene.
At the song’s end, Alex is given the choice between saying “yes” or “no” to releasing the unfinished game. The camera cuts to his assistant’s shocked disapproval, shaking her head at the prospect that such a decision would even require any deliberation. What does Alex do? He checks “yes” like a boss.
In an ironic twist of events, tinyBuild even shoots themselves in the foot with this second song. With lyrics pointing to early access consumers as the replacement for the studio paying actual beta testers, it rings a little too true in Hello Neighbor‘s case, one of tinyBuild’s own published games. With a 38 Metascore and 4.6 user average on PC, Hello Neighbor‘s complaints revolve around it feeling unfinished. According to the user, BlueRazor274, “Alpha 1 was the best and most stable version of the game, every update since felt like a downgrade and just added more problems to the game. Even after the game is apparently fully developed, I still feel like I’m playing the beta version just slightly more extended“.
I applaud tinyBuild’s conference for its self-aware nature. Confining itself to an under nine minute recorded middle finger to the industry is brilliant. Cutting the fluff is exactly what these conferences need. Unfortunately, it also needs to realize its own games aren’t the most revered, unique, or complete experiences. In its attempt to throw shots at the industry, I hope it learns with Secret Neighbor. Revealing that game would be all for naught if it just ends up being another “we’re gonna fix it!” game. You’ve just barely won me over, tinyBuild. Don’t push your luck.