Let me get straight to the point, and level with you. By now, if you are a PC gamer with your finger on the pulse of hot indie games, you already know about Friday Night Funkin’. You’ve either played the game and its various fan-created mods to death, or you have heard of FNF and are simply wondering what all the fuss is about. Why else would you be interested in this article?
A while back, I wrote another article on how Friday Night Funkin is the next iteration of DDR; a fresh new take on the PC rhythm game genre that was beginning to stagnate. With the retro nostalgia of Newgrounds holding up the backbone of its artistic direction, the game was destined for success. It was only a matter of time for 4-button rhythm games to reach this new level. Let’s take a moment of silence to thank the Funkin’ Crew that created this magnificent game.
But here’s where the story takes a glorious turn. Friday Night Funkin’ was not a “flash in the pan” indie game with a dwindling niche fanbase. Instead, the game prospers and flourishes into the present day. The game’s latest update for “week 7” took down Newgrounds due to the sheer traffic. There are dozens and dozens of fan-made mods for the game, featuring their OCs and some fantastic new musical genres. There are countless animations based on the game, further characterizing the main characters simply known as “boyfriend” and “girlfriend” (and yes, sometimes Pico). Let’s Plays by some of the biggest YouTubers and Twitch streamers out there!
And now we reached the peak. There’s a Kickstarter for a “full-ass” Friday Night Funkin’ game release. And with only a few days left to go, it reached nearly $2 million dollars in pledges.
How did this happen? By all means, a fantastic outcome for the game born from a “Ludum Dare” game jam (see: the awesomeness of game jams). Passion projects rarely receive the kind of love and attention they deserve. How did Friday Night Funkin’ persist and “break out” into a beloved hit game?
The reasons why Friday Night Funkin’ is so successful and obliterated their paltry goal of 30 times over may come as a surprise — but they closely follow the core tenets of successful indie games.
Open Source and Ready to Mingle
As we are all aware, the modding, animation, and video game music community descended on this game like no other. The number of high-quality mods to Friday Night Funkin’ is a testament to how powerful your fandom can actually become. But we should not discredit the foresight of Ninjamuffin99, PhantomArcade, KawaiSprite, and EvilSk8r (henceforth known as the Funkin’ Crew). They could have easily made the game’s code private and released versions to the masses without any promises of open-source. But the intelligent call to embrace the modding and open-source nature is what made the game so accessible.
Oh, and of course making the game 100% free and playable in browser. It’s almost like the Funkin’ Crew came from the Flash era of web gaming a la Newgrounds. No, yes, that is sarcasm. Newgrounds makes web gaming accessible to the masses for free and with no money-grubbing tactics. This focus on getting the game to players without barriers helped the game get adopted like crazy.
All About Heart
Making a highly accessible and easy to mod game is one thing. But to make a game with the heart of a generation is a whole other thing entirely. The art is beautifully crafted flash animation, reminiscent of Gaia Online chibis, Tengen Toppa Gurren Lagann, and Paparapa the Rappa. The music lives up to its name — FUNKY. Trap, drum & bass, groove, electronic, hip-hop eclecticism wrapped up with some really catchy melodies. Love it or hate it, the game has heart.
And of course, Friday Night Funkin’ is the freshest new take on DDR, Stepmania, Flash Flash Revolution, et al. Taking the “dance” concept of the game and changing it to an open-mic freestyling competition is pure genius — the new motif just introduces new fun ways to explore the genre.
The Funkin’ Creators of Friday Night Funkin’ love their game and love their fans. The love is easy to feel, even in the Kickstarter campaign. Their approach is incredibly simple — they want to provide a full release of their game because they want the fans to have more content and experience their “dream game” where modding is as easy as importing art and music into the game and sharing with friends in an open marketplace. They decided to not take any shortcuts, foregoing a release of the existing game and avoiding “cashing in” on the hype. In short, they are stand-up folks. I have no doubt that every cent pledged to Friday Night Funkin’ will help produce a game that will be memorable for years to come.
Friday Night Funkin’s success is an indie game developer’s dream. It just goes to show that not everything is about money or a complex marketing strategy. A successful game is all about heart and willingness to cater to your players.
Interested in more indie game news, game design and mechanics ruminations, and more? If you want to make your dream game and find your audience, check out some of my other articles that can help you out!