Happy 1 Month RiME! A Look at the Strategy & Passion Behind the Game’s Launch
One month ago, Grey Box and Six Foot released RiME on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, and PC. Currently holding strong with an average metascore of 80, RiME holds the auspicious honor of being the first Grey Box game to have a physical release on consoles. RiME is already making a splash in the gaming industry, with EDGE Magazine writing, “The resulting adventure will give you chills, and should stay with you for a very long time indeed.”
I’ve personally worked on a number of titles, but I can tell you that RiME is definitely special, not just because of the game itself, but also because of its unique history. RiME was originally announced as a PlayStation 4-exclusive title, published by Sony, at Gamescom in 2013. This announcement took place shortly after development had started, years away from RiME’s intended release date. This used to be a common practice in games back when long-lead outlets like magazines were the main source of gaming news. However, in recent years the marketing cycle for a game has become significantly shorter. There are more games available with even more ways to learn about them, making it easier for consumers to get overwhelmed.
Fast-forward a few years to when Tequila Works, the developers of RiME, decided that they wanted to release the game on multiple consoles. Tequila Works was able to reacquire the IP rights to RiME and decided to partner with Grey Box to publish the game. We decided to hold off on the announcement and subsequent re-reveal until later. After all, we wanted to stick to the tried and true old lesson of “show, don’t tell.”
Our pre-reveal announcement was at Gamescom 2016, and we kept it simple: Grey Box and Six Foot were working to bring the game to market. We mainly did this to control the narrative ahead of any leaks that could happen in the process. In addition, Tequila Works was announcing another title, Cavalier Games’ The Sexy Brutale. It’s a good rule of thumb to avoid announcing something new while an old title is in an uncertain place. We wanted to provide that certainty to players for RiME.
We decided to have the official re-reveal on January 4, 2017, with an IGN First exclusive for the month of January. Soon after, we had our first public showing at PAX South in San Antonio, and it was a smash hit! The line to play the RiME demo capped off within minutes of the show opening each day. In fact, the demo was second only to the then-unlaunched Nintendo Switch in terms of popularity. We received incredible feedback from people that our intimate, personal play areas helped give them the best experience possible, which is exactly what we were going for. Top that off with some cosplay and giveaways, and you had yourself an amazing experience.
In February, we held a press tour at Tequila Works' Madrid office. We organized a number of press to play through the game and had more interview time in those three days than had been done in the past two years of the game's life. Prior to this, people knew the game was real, but weren’t quite sure what it was. Historically, other titles have had issues living up to expectations, mostly because vagueness led to these expectations being perpetuated and expanded further. So, our goal was simple: explain what the game is, and what it is not, proudly. And it worked. The journalists came to understand and appreciate the intentions of RiME.
As the campaign moved forward, we continued to discuss the game and interact with community members in meaningful ways. In March, we put out the first of our Developer Diaries, which provided insight into the inspirations behind RiME. Shortly after that, we had a small presence at PAX East with a single, but incredibly busy, station at the Sony booth. In addition to simply making the game available, we interacted with fans personally, and even gave away coloring pages. It was a wonderful experience.
In March, we were mostly quiet on the public front, but internally we were busy working on getting the game ready to go to market. Package design, printing, and other manufacturing items were all in progress to get the game on store shelves around the world. At the end of the month, we had a very auspicious moment – a cover on EDGE magazine, the biggest gaming publication in Europe. It was the second cover RiME was given since the announcement, alongside a fantastic, in-depth article about the game. To put this into perspective: EDGE has had 307 issues since 1993, and only two games have ever been given two covers - Dark Souls 3 and RiME. Not bad company to be in.
April was a community-driven month, starting with a sneak preview of David Garcia’s much-celebrated soundtrack. Shortly following that, our Community team launched a creative contest that received over 100 entries. They showcased amazing talent in almost any medium you could think of: digital, paint, wood, cloth, audio, and more. We followed this contest with our second Developer Diary, as well as the announcement that people could pre-order the game digitally on PS4, Xbox One, and Steam. On the PS4 side, this included a dynamic theme that we created with Truant Pixel. While this theme is a requirement for digital pre-orders in some territories, we wanted to make sure it was the highest quality it could possibly be.
Moving into May, we began our pre-launch advertising, and released our third Developer Diary. We then had our producer on the game travel 8,500 miles to Australia in order to participate in a press tour. It’s not often that people travel Down Under for these types of things, so it was very much appreciated and we got great coverage out of it that extended to all hemispheres! It just goes to show: don’t ignore a territory just because they’re not yours. They are just as excited as everyone else.
As May continued, we ramped up our advertising even further, focusing on creative inspiration. We finished up the creative contest, which had some amazing winners. On DeviantArt, the world’s largest artist community, we held the "7 Days of RiME" promotion in which several different artists contributed amazing pieces and included things like tutorials, speed drawings, and a livestream. We held a Reddit AMA, in which a bunch of folks from both Tequila Works and Six Foot participated, answering questions for three hours. And finally, in one of the coolest projects I’ve personally worked on, we released a music video featuring Lindsey Stirling. This video was the culmination of 14 months of work, but was totally worth it, both from our side and Lindsey’s. Music is an essential part of the RiME experience, and her music is a natural fit, in line with the core DNA of the game. It just feels like it’s part of the same universe. This, coupled with the fact that Lindsey herself is a gamer and has always been interested in composing a piece for a game, allowed for an amazing opportunity. She composed the piece, and the music video allowed us to reach out to her audience. Really, it was a win-win for everyone, and as of writing this, the video is close to two million views.
And then…. we came to launch, when people were at last able to get their hands on the final product. The messages we’ve received in the past month have been humbling, to say the least. People have reached out to us saying how beautiful the game is, how much they’ve enjoyed it, and how they’ve recommended it to others. Even better, there are those who have been emotionally affected by the game. I can’t spoil anything, but once you complete the game, everything within is recontextualized and that new context has reached people on a personal and intimate level. More than anything else, the public’s reaction to RiME has reminded us why we want to make games. It’s more than just making something to be temporary fun for a few hours. We wanted to create something that would stay with people for a long time, even after they finish playing. And it seems that with RiME, we’ve succeeded.
We’re still not done, of course. We have the Nintendo Switch version coming out later this year, and we cannot wait to spread the joy of RiME to that audience. If you’re looking forward to the Switch version, we appreciate your patience, and know that it will be rewarded rightly. If you’re interested in any of the other versions, you’re good to get them now! And after you finish, we’d love to hear your thoughts on the game on Twitter and Facebook @rimegame and on the forums here: https://greybox.com/rime/en/forum
Thanks very much for reading, and I’ll leave you with the tagline for RiME, a purposefully ambiguous line whose meaning encompasses everything the game represents and translates to real life: Discover yourself.