Recently, Five Nights at Freddy’s creator Scott Cawthorn announced that another game in the infamous series was going to be released. The third game will take place thirty years later with an even older and more terrifying incarnation of the animatronics in the first two titles.
Understandably many people are looking forward to the upcoming release, the games are always reasonably frightening, cleverly mixing timed jump scares with very limited controls. The game also manages to mix in an interesting back story that is well hidden within the environment, creating a desire from the player for more games so that they can further explore this depraved world of murderous animal robots.
The real success of the game doesn’t lie with the normal people who play it on their own, instead it owes its fame and fortune to the vast ‘Let’s play’ community on YouTube. FNAF is one of the most searched for titles on YouTube, with the top let’s play episode having over 23 million views, and at first it’s quite hard to see why. Whilst it is a fun game, it only has a very simply point and click mechanic, and played for a long enough time that becomes rather repetitive.
What really sells the game, is seeing someone on YouTube jump out of their chair in fright, and while I would normally look down derisively upon this kind of video, it must be admitted that it makes for addictive and quite gripping entertainment.
It is in many senses like Minecraft, the game itself is rather uninspiring. But seeing a YouTube personality that you like have fun whilst playing it, makes the viewer really want to play as well so that they too can be part of this fun. Or maybe they could then record themselves playing it, and become the next Markiplier or PewDiePie.
Knowing this, it is easy to understand why there will be a third game released less than a year after the first one, it is simply too popular to not make another. Whilst I’m sure that Cawthorn was proud of the first game, as he should be, I don’t imagine that he envisaged creating two sequels so quickly, or even at all.
Whether the game is actually a brilliant masterpiece of horror doesn’t matter, it provides enough entertainment seeing a favourite YouTube personality become terrified. In the world of indie horror games, Five Nights at Freddy’s has been a meteoric success. It sailed through the Greenlight system and entered into the market with glowing reviews.
More importantly YouTube is a new medium for selling games, and one that isn’t very well understood. Many publishers have tried to sell their product through it by giving deals to channels and hoping that the public will like it. What really makes a successful YouTube game is hard to say, there seems to be no set rule for popularity. Call of Duty and Minecraft were the big players in the early days of YouTube, but they were never predestined for success and really all a developer can hope for is that they get lucky and people make videos about their game.
There are plenty of good but unheard of titles out there, especially horror games, and whilst FNAF is fun and engaging, it is no more deserving than any other. However, regardless of how the game became popular, the fact remains that it is. Ultimately, I will still end up watching some idiot on YouTube play the next one when it comes out.