Athletics and Recreation

How Untitled Goose Game Was Made and Became an Internet Sensation

How Untitled Goose Game Was Made and Became an Internet Sensation


Today we’re talking about a goose. A very specific goose among all the geese
and one that might be the most famous goose on the internet. I’m referring to the goose that was made
by House House, an independent game development studio based in Australia. Their newest release Untitled Goose Game starring
the world famous goose, has become not only a highly successful video game, but also a
new internet sensation. But how did a game about a simple goose became
such a hit you might ask. Let’s have a look. After House House had finished work on their
latest game Push Me Pull You back in 2016, the 4 developers were chatting away about
what to do next. A very important and serious discussion for
a small independent studio. Their livelihood depends on it after all. Designer Stuart Gillespie-Cook thought the
same and ignited the conversation with a stock photo of a goose. Many things were said about geese, some complimentary
things and some that weren’t, but they all agreed that geese were an interesting and
funny species. At first, they wrote the idea off as a joke. Making a game about a goose seemed too silly. So they turned their attention to other more
serious ideas and for several months, they were making prototypes to see which ideas
had potential. They knew they wanted to make a singleplayer
3D game, but the progress was too slow to their liking. It probably didn’t help that they couldn’t
shake the goose game idea and kept making jokes about it. Jokes that became funnier and funnier. So, they decided to take it seriously and
just go for it. What’s the worst that could happen? Putting your livelihood on the line for a
game about a goose might have seemed crazy to many, but maybe it was crazy enough to
work. Since the entire idea was sparked by a simple
stock photo of a goose, they didn’t have much of a plan at the start. You need gameplay, art assets, music, perhaps
a compelling story and so much more to build a game. All they had was a goose. The jokes they made did lay the foundation
of the game and they knew the premise had to be about a naughty goose, one that people
would be afraid of and would create conflict. During the course of the prototyping phase,
the developers experimented with funny things that a goose could do and focused on the relationship
between the NPC characters and their goose. They quickly realized that the low-level relationship
between a goose and a person was really interesting and really rich, and had all this opportunity
for depth, nuance and humor. A very early prototype was a rough version
of the garden with a few props in it. The man overseeing the garden cared about
the props and the goose could pick them up. The team realized they had something special
on their hands when they noticed how funny it was when the goose and the man would keep
eye-contact in total silence. “And just having those two characters look
at each other — the world was totally bare, it was pretty rough and early — but having
two characters look at each other in silence had all this stuff in it. Just that eye contact creates this relationship
that you can put so much meaning into.” House House took inspiration from both Super
Mario 64 and Hitman. The inspiration for Mario was rooted in his
fun expressive moveset told developer Nico Disseldorp to Gamasutra. Furthermore, he said that Mario’s controls
can do a lot of interesting things and that it’s fun to press different buttons and
make Mario’s body move in different ways. So they tried to replicate this concept for
their main character the goose. Another developer, Jacob Strasser, mentioned
that the idea of having a to do list was loosely based on the list of power stars from Super
Mario 64. The inspiration from Hitman came from wanting
to create small moments of mischief. Because of this they naturally started to
gravitate towards stealth games where the player might know things that other characters
on the screen don’t know. “We realised it was very rich for the kinds
of comedic moments that we were trying to add to our game. It has a set-up and a punchline. By removing the violence from it, we just
let the situations exist as a joke.” During an interview with Nintendolife the
team said that the eye-catching art style was influenced by children’s TV programs
from the UK, such as Postman Pat, Fireman Sam and Brum. The townsfolk were even modelled after the
faceless miniature people from shows like Thomas the Tank Engine. The inspiration for the setting unsurprisingly
came from the UK as well. “There’s something about the kind of properness
of an English village that seems to be the antithesis of what the goose was all about. If the goose was going to be chaotic and making
a mess, then the natural foil seemed to be these people who wanted to preserve order.” The idea that began as a joke, actually started
to become a funny game in and of itself and the team grew fonder and fonder of their silly
goose game. Still, when it came down to showing their
game to the public, they didn’t feel all that confident. To them it may have been a funny idea, but
would gamers actually be excited about playing a game as a goose? When they were about to reveal the game for
the first time at the annual independent games festival Fantastic Arcade in Austin, Texas,
they realized the festival didn’t have a website, meaning people on the internet wouldn’t
be able to discover their game. They quickly needed to put something online
before the start of the festival. Although this time, a stock photo probably
wouldn’t cut it. They pieced together a trailer and everything
was set to post it on their YouTube channel. But wait. They didn’t have a title yet and they didn’t
want to just slap “Goose Game” on their video game. To avoid confusion they posted the video with
the title “Untitled Goose Game” and decided to come up with something else later down
the line. By putting “Untitled” in the title they
were sure people would realise this wasn’t going to be the actual title of the game. That’s what untitled means of course. Brilliant, they thought. Except, the internet didn’t quite agree
and accepted the placeholder title with open arms. Even more so, the internet deemed the trailer
worthy of meme status. It wasn’t generally looked at as a traditional
video game trailer and instead was being shared around as a meme video. Within a matter of hours the trailer had been
watched half a million times and people were retweeting it with great vigor. Later that day it even reached the number
one spot on reddit. House House took notice and after some time
they felt comfortable with the placeholder title. After all, the internet was showing love because
the game was so unique and memorable in every aspect, including the title. Changing it now might have even hurt the game
in the process. Later the team confessed they never really
came up with anything else, except for one title “Some Like It Honk”, but they said
it was never a viable option. Like I said before, it wasn’t really a traditional
video game trailer. Most trailers have cool cg footage, riveting
gameplay moments, interesting story beats that leave you wanting more and so on. Again, their trailer had none of that. Just a goose running around annoying perfectly
normal people that were trying to get on with their perfectly normal lives. To the everyday person on the internet, it
looked like a funny video they could easily share with their friends and family. And so people did. A lot of people. Right up until the release on september 20th. That’s when it really started to take off. To gamers, Untitled Goose Game looked like
something different, something they hadn’t really seen before. On the surface it may have looked like another
simulator game, but once you dig a little deeper, people noticed there was an actual
game there. A game with objectives, gameplay mechanics
and even a fun little storyline. Combined with the striking art style and catchy
music, it helped sell the concept to those familiar playing games. And to those unfamiliar, it peaked their interest
once they saw some funny gameplay being shared on their social media platform of choice. So gamers and non gamers alike started to
take notice in a big way. An ideal situation for any indie developer. Critics were loving the game as well, complimenting
several aspects of the game and many reviews concluded that Untitled Goose Game wasn’t
just a meme, it was actually a very good game to boot. The Washington Post even declared it a “safe,
socially acceptable way to relieve stress. It’s the new punching a wall. It’s the new crying at your desk.” House House had created the perfect recipe
for success. Not only had they made a game that was very
shareable and likeable on the internet, they had also put in the time and effort to actually
make it enjoyable to play. After the reviews, word of mouth started to
spread quickly and not only that, more and more memes started making the rounds on the
internet. Besides all the memes, some people went a
step further and made some amazing fan art that caught many people’s attention. Dedicated social media accounts were being
created, like this one that mashes up Untitled Goose Game with popular movies. It’s still active to this day. One Twitch streamer even went as far as dressing
up as a goose and played the game with a custom controller he had built himself. It involved a lot of sensors and looked a
bit like this: “Oh my God. Are you serious? It works! It works!” The game was building quite a passionate fan
base for itself. At this point House House was probably thinking,
this is it, this is the height of popularity, what else could possibly drive even more word
of mouth? Well, the game had caught so much attention
already that even celebrities started to discover it. Low and behold, some of them even started
to endorse it, without being paid for it. Mark Hoppus, the frontman for Blink-182 gave
the game a shoutout during one of his concerts. “I love that game! Who playes Goose Game?” Chrissy Teigen started tweeting about it, giving it her shining approval. This was the kind of marketing force that
most developers can’t even afford. It was clear that none could escape the goose. But wait a second, September 20th, that’s
the same release date as the remake of The Legend of Zelda: Link’s Awakening, one of
Nintendo’s flagship titles that year. Surely, Untitled Goose Game would get lost
in the shuffle on the Switch online store because of this. Well, it turns out that all the memes, fan
art and celebrity endorsement was enough to beat Link and his awakening on it’s own
platform. It took the number 1 spot on the Nintendo
store sales chart and this, of course, drove people to start making memes about that, which
in turn drove even more sales. The goose was unstoppable and was showing
up everywhere and by now everyone and their grandma had heard about it. The end of 2019 was in sight and the goose
game was snatching up award nominations left and right, but what was arguably better than
those nominations, was the attention it got at The Game Awards. A whole segment was dedicated to the goose,
mashing it with the humor of the muppets. That year The Game Awards was also especially
popular, racking up more than 45 million global livestreams. That’s a lot of people and most of them
agreed the goose segment was the best part of the whole show. A couple of days after the award show, on
the 17th of december to be exact, the game was released for both PS4 and Xbox. Every platform was now catered to. Except for a huge chunk of PC players who
will get the steam version later in 2020, but despite that, the game managed to hit
a huge milestone before the end of 2019. In just three months time, the indie developed
goose game passed a million sales. While the game was already a hit on the internet,
this milestone proved that it was more than just another internet sensation and that House
House had crafted something that people genuinely wanted to play and experience. The developers at House House were taken by
surprise that their game had took off the way it did and told GameIndustry they didn’t
expect all the praise from gamers and critics, let alone the high sales numbers. “We thought the goose was our joke. It felt like an in-joke, then we very quickly
realized how many people, particularly in the northern hemisphere, have strong feelings
about geese. I want to say it’s because it’s a largely
unnoticed part of people’s lives, so drawing attention to it is very satisfying in the
way a joke can be.” They also shared their own idea of why they
thought the game was getting so much attention and why it struck a chord with so many players. “It’s very easy to look at a screenshot
of this game and immediately gauge what this conflict is. I think the goose character allows people
to be this source of mischief that lots of people desire being in video games. In this game, you’re told to go in there and
make as big a mess as possible.” Thanks to the huge number of sales Nico Disseldorp,
one of the developers, commented that it was now possible for the studio to keep on making
games for as long as they like. Whether that means we’ll see a sequel or
perhaps DLC remains to be seen, but we can all take comfort in the fact that this quirkie
game studio is going to keep doing what it does best and deliver charmingly funny game
experiences.


Reader Comments

  1. Well, I hate to break it to you, but I emailed the devs' press email about a sequel and they said there were no plans for any sequels, DLC or even a game set in its universe. This video is amazingly well made for such a small channel though, keep it up, one day you'll be huge!

  2. Great video. I watched and enjoyed all 13 minutes. Please keep putting effort into this type of content, especially if you enjoy making it. One question, at 11:15 did you mean 45 million people streaming it or 45 million people watching people stream it?

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