Cold Symmetry’s tight and focused Soulslike Mortal Shell came out roughly three years ago, and according to the publisher, Playstack, it has sold a whopping one million copies worldwide. While it’d be easy to attribute this success to pure randomness or, perhaps, the game simply being at the right place at the right time, the publisher just revealed it had set up a fairly comprehensive marketing campaign that’s bound to have helped Mortal Shell be as successful as it’s been.
In a recent interview with gamesindustry.biz, Playstack’s Vice President of Publishing Rob Crossley went into considerable depth on what his team’s done to ensure Mortal Shell‘s success. In fact, it wouldn’t be surprising if some of the learned lessons may end up being applied to the upcoming roguelite AK-xolotl that’s being published under Playstack’s umbrella, too. “There’s no more reliable indicator for a successful game launch than an impassioned community,” said Crossley, explaining how community engagement was the key feature that helped make Mortal Shell as big of a success as it was.
Discussing Mortal Shell’s successes and blunders
Crossley revealed that, even though Mortal Shell remains a bit of a niche release, even today, it managed to move 1,000,000 copies across PC, PS4, Xbox One, PS5, Xbox Series, and Nintendo Switch platforms. Such an impressive number, according to Crossley, doesn’t even include those players who might’ve given Mortal Shell a shake via subscription services. In hindsight, Crossley claims that the first pre-release sign that Mortal Shell may end up being a big deal came from the community itself: “We were starting to see superfans share tattoos of Mortal Shell characters, and we saw countless people theorise the game’s whole storyline on our Discord, which itself had grown to 70,000 people within a few days. Our newsletter open-rate was illegally high too, around 60%.”
Even though Steam Wishlist numbers are important for smaller-scale publishers, like Playstack, Crossley believes that organic experiences, like the ones he outlined above, are what matters the most. “Like with most AAA and premium indie games, the Mortal Shell audience is exceptionally marketing-literate,” he said. “I remember, back in 2020, someone in the chat on Asmongold’s Twitch stream asked him to watch the Mortal Shell reveal trailer, which he did live to tens of thousands of viewers. It’s hard to put a cost on the value of that kind of organic marketing, it’s just so fantastic.”
Mortal Shell did have a few promotional blunders along the way, of course, but they led to a worthy marketing lesson for Crossley: “You’re only as impressive as your least impressive marketing beat,” he concluded.