HomeTechnologyWhy everyone is obsessed with a toy game

Why everyone is obsessed with a toy game

GIF: Digital Cybercherries / Kotaku

Over the past week, the gaming world has been obsessed with an indie shooter coming to Xbox, treating it with the fervor (and wildfire social media metrics) of an upcoming AAA masthead. But here’s the weird part: this game is already out. It has been playable on multiple platforms for years.

You may have heard of Hypercharge: without boxa wave-based shooter that places you as an action figure pitted against a ton of other action figures—big toy story atmosphere here. Developed and self-published by Digital Cybercherries, Hypercharge does a lot with a little, marrying both first- and third-person shooters with basic building elements in childhood-inspired environments. It’s also multiplayer, sporting both online and, in an unfortunately rare but much-appreciated boon, local co-op.

By most accounts, Hypercharge is pretty darn good, sporting a “very positive” (91%) rating on Steam. Here is a brief summary via Kotakuit’s Zack Zwiezen, who wrote positively about the game two years ago:

The basic gameplay loop takes you out of your toy’s packaging, then you search a map for tokens, which you use to buy defenses and upgrades to protect your energy stations. After a few minutes, a wave of enemies attacks. You fight them, then you have a few more minutes to search for more loot and build more defenses. It’s not a terribly new or fresh take on this type of gameplay, but what’s here is solid. Guns feel great, enemies react when you fire them, and movement feels fast and fast.

An action figure shoots a toy dinosaur in Hypercharge, a multiplayer game coming to Xbox.

Screenshot: Digital Cybercherries

Although it was first released in early access five years ago, Hypercharge saw a full release for Switch and PC in 2020. But you wouldn’t immediately glean it from the game’s official streams, which could easily be read by a casual observer to indicate that the game isn’t out yet. On Twitter specifically, Hypercharge has captured the kind of buzz usually reserved for big budget games, thanks to what appears to be a cleverly crafted digital marketing strategy.

At present, HyperchargeTwitter’s page focuses on Xbox excluding other platforms it is playable on. The current banner photo specifically calls out “Xbox gamers,” urging potential gamers to vaguely “sign up” for… something. (Click on it and you will learn it’s a newsletter.) The pinned tweet—a post that stays at the top of a Twitter account’s feed, regardless of the chronological order of the posts—refers only to the “Xbox Series S”. The bio is a call to action for “Xbox gamers” with no mention of other platforms, as is the case with almost every other game with a social media presence; if you want links to Hyperchargeit is Steam Where Nintendo Online Store showcase pages, you will first need to click on a Linktree.

Video clips on HyperchargeThe gameplay of has gone mega-viral a few times over the past few months as a result of a marketing pushapparently launched in the spring, to create buzz for a possible Xbox release. Just this weekend such a clip has garnered over 13 million views, thanks in part to popular game personalities’ cross-shares with large followings, like esports commentator Jake Lucky. (Lucky’s accompanying text could also be read as if Hypercharge is an unreleased game: “These 5 guys are trying to make an indie game where you play as an action figure in a toy store…and it’s crazy.”)

This strategy—essentially, the treatment Hypercharge as if it were a completely new game – it makes sense, given that the game hasn’t really taken off on existing platforms. According to the Steam Charts Steam Tracking Database, Hyperchargemaximum competitors of all time is less than a thousand players. And while official metrics aren’t publicly available for Nintendo’s storefronts, come on.

It’s unclear how much the studio anticipated the recent buzz. Representatives for Digital Cybercherries did not respond to a request for comment in time for publication.

An action figure shoots toy soldiers in Hypercharge, a multiplayer game coming to Xbox.

Screenshot: Digital Cybercherries

But intentionally or not, the dividends are apparent. Digital Cybercherries says more than 20,000 people have signed up for last week’s newsletter. This is in addition to the videos garnering millions of views and the relatively high level of engagement on his social media posts, which regularly garner thousands of likes. Of course, this level of attention unfortunately has its downsides. Last week, the studio issued a statement calling out the toxicity he received regarding the lack of a specific release date.

Personally, and maybe I’m just a sucker, but the last few weeks of buzz are…totally working on me? Hypercharge isn’t the kind of game I would play on Switch (not enough tech power) or PC (no gaming rig for me). But I would totally play it on Xbox – where I usually play local co-op games, which are, and I’m just repeating how disappointingly, rare these days.

A week ago I thought Hypercharge was just another shooter. Now it’s loaded at the top of my “give me, give me, give me” list. Hypercharge is widely slated for an Xbox release early next year, according The edgefrom Tom Warren, with the window open for a launch on Xbox Game Pass, Microsoft’s hugely popular game-on-demand service. Let’s see if the buzz can hold up until then.

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