Hypercharge: Unboxed dev explains how they turned 2017 “flop” into viral success

Nathan Warby
Hypercharge: Unboxed player fighting boss

Hypercharge: Unboxed finally makes its console debut on Xbox on May 31 after becoming a viral hit on PC. However, the journey wasn’t always a smooth one, and we sat down with one of the six-person team who explained how they bounced back after a troubled launch back in 2017.

After catching the eye of many players on social media, Hypercharge: Unboxed arrives on Xbox Series X/S and One on May 31, three years on from its successful relaunch on PC. But fans might not realize that the first version of the game actually hit shelves in 2017 to a much colder reception.

CharlieIntel spoke to Joe Henson, Head of Marketing and PR and a founder of developer Digital Cybercherries, about its rocky start and how they turned their passion project based on a love of action figures around.

When the first iteration of Hypercharge arrived in early access in 2017, most of the devs working on the game were also juggling full-time jobs but were desperate to realize their vision of a shooter inspired by the likes of Toy Soldiers.

However, the initial response to their wave-based FPS was pretty lukewarm, as Henson admitted they may have lost sight of what the project was supposed to be and that it was fairly “barebones” to begin with.

“There was feature creeping, there was an element of not really understanding what we were making,” he explained. “It didn’t work out, the game wasn’t very well-received at all on launch in 2017. Everything nearly collapsed, loads of team members left, and the game was just not in a good state.”

Toy soldiers from Hypercharge: Unboxed
Hypercharge: Unboxed lets you see the world from an action figure’s POV.

Despite being a “flop” all those years ago, the devs were reluctant to abandon Hypercharge altogether and decided to try and salvage it. But the experience also taught them some tough lessons that would stay with them going forward, especially when it comes to ‘feature creeping’ and over-stretching themselves.

“We’d cross the boundary, we’d overstep the initial idea or goal. You’ve got to stick to certain guidelines otherwise time will be wasted and you’ll get overwhelmed,” Joe Henson continued. “Also, this might be subjective, but the name was probably wasn’t the best. It’s very helpful to have a name that connects to the genre, or explains the game itself. Hypercharge is very disconnected from the biggest selling point – action figures and toys.”

The next few years brought major update after major update, adding in new features and fleshing out the PvE and PvP modes before Hypercharge: Unboxed arrived in “early access 2.0” in 2020. Since then, the game has attracted more and more players, with the devs using social media and ‘going viral’ to its advantage.

“Marketing isn’t about chasing numbers or sales, it should make you feel things. And our game makes you feel like a kid again,” said Henson, describing how social media has benefitted them. “The reaction whenever I post a clip, we always get thousands of likes. It’s that sheer nostalgia factor. It evokes so many memories. It really emotionally connects to lots of people, but especially those [who were kids] in the late 80s and 90s.”

Hypercharge: Unboxed has maintained a passionate community in the subsequent years, and even hit a new peak player count in 2022. Now, with it finally making its long-awaited debut on Xbox, the devs hope they can help even more fans relive their childhood fantasies.

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