Mad Mushroom, the creator-owned publishing arm of the OTK Network, announced its first game, Atomic Picnic, during the OTK VGAs. The title plans to launch its early access in Spring 2024, but players can apply to join its open playtest which runs from December 11-18.
Developed by Brazilian studio BitCake, Atomic Picnic blends a variety of genres in its fast-paced gameplay. In this co-op third-person shooter roguelike, up to four players can team up on scavenger hunts called Picnics. Using overpowered builds and flashy movement, players take down hordes of monsters and upgrade their gear through Atomic Picnic’s collect-a-thon progression system. No two Picnics are alike. Each run offers different upgrade paths and special events to challenge both solo players and groups of friends.
“We were immediately drawn to the vibrant and striking art style of Atomic Picnic. With its blend of co-op, roguelike and bullet heaven elements, this is a perfect first title for Mad Mushroom to publish,” said Mike “Sibs” Silbowitz, CEO of Mad Mushroom. “And BitCake Studio’s commitment to open, community-first development makes them a wonderful first development partner for us as well.”
Finding the Atomic diamond in the rough
Mad Mushroom was unveiled this summer at the network’s OTK Games Expo. Unlike other publishers, Mad Mushroom has the advantage of its creator network and their massive audiences. As a result, the publisher does not specialize in any particular genre, rather it looks for games its creators love.
“Our job at Mad Mushroom is to find crazy good indie games that people will love and get eyes on them. With an audience of more than 150 million people on our streams, we have those eyes,” said Chance “Sodapoppin” Morris, chief games officer at Mad Mushroom.
The publishing label also began its relationship with BitCake at the OTK Games Expo, which featured Atomic Picnic. OTK’s creators fell in love with title’s gameplay loop and its content potential there. Out of the hundreds of submissions to Mad Mushroom, Atomic Picnic had the most universal buy-in from OTK’s creators.
“Mad Mushroom’s green light process is different to other publishers. We want to have content creator buy-in on the games we publish. We never want to give these content creators the games we pick and saying all right go stream. That’s just not authentic,” said Silbowitz in an interview with GamesBeat. “We need to know that any games that we’re publishing are truly authentic to the audiences. As part of our process our creators play test all games submitted to find those diamonds in the rough that we can elevate through discoverability and awareness.”
To find these potential hits, Mad Mushroom limits their search to late-stage developed games. As a result, their candidates are almost fully funding through some combination of bootstrap efforts, VC and angel investors. Mad Mushroom does provide some funding support — which is the case for Atomic Picnic — to get games over the finish line.
Creator and community-driven
In addition to Mad Mushroom’s creator advantage, the publisher valued BitCake’s existing grassroots community for Atomic Picnic. The publisher and studio’s shared community focus helped the two teams align.
While developers retain creative control, Mad Mushroom gives its partners feedback from its creators once a title is greenlit. In addition to play testing with general audiences, Mad Mushroom gives developers a direct relationship to top content creators. Ideally, this unique perspective helps developers fine-tune their games to make great content.
“We are very community-driven as is BitCake, even before we formed our partnership for Atomic Picnic. They have been engaging with their community in a very strong fashion and leveraging that feedback to make the best possible gameplay experience,” said Silbowitz. “We wholeheartedly believe that the community provides the insights that will make as games fun to play and fun to watch as possible.”
Ultimately, this creator and community-led approach is shaping Mad Mushroom’s longterm publishing strategy too. The publisher plans to launch three games in 2024, including Atomic Picnic.
“For the next few years, our plan is to release a game per quarter because of the amount of streams that could be required to promote our games. Again, we want to prioritize authenticity with our communities,” said Silbowitz. “We want to make sure we’re giving the proper time and support to our partners.”
Mad Mushroom’s vertical integrations
Alongside the built-in perspective and promotion from content creators, OTK will leverage its ecosystem of subsidiaries to uplift Mad Mushroom games.
Mythic Talent, OTK’s full-service talent management company, gives Mad Mushroom access to nearly 200 creators. This broad and high profile talent pool allows the publisher to effectively target and reach their desired audience.
Of course, OTK’s high-production events in partnership with WePlay Studios were foundational to forming BitCake and Mad Mushroom’s partnership. The team fell in love with Atomic Picnic during June’s OTK Games Expo. Six months later, OTK used its own Video Game Awards to officially launch the partnership.
Mad Mushroom is also working closely with Starforge — OTK’s pre-built PC business. The OTK Video Game Awards will showcase a custom built Starforge PC inspired by Atomic Picnic’s colorful action. Fans can enter a giveaway to get the one-of-a-kind gaming PC during the OTK VGAs.
Outside of this PC, there are other opportunities to leverage Starforge in particular. Silbowitz confirmed that Mad Mushroom has considered shipping Starforge PC’s with promotional material for its games or pre-loading them onto its systems.
In the future, Mad Mushroom and OTK will continue to look for both internal and external partnerships to promote upcoming games. These partnerships will be dictated on by what makes sense on a game-by-game basis.
The effectiveness of OTK’s vertical integrations and creator-led thesis will be put to the test with Atomic Picnic. After all, Mad Mushroom wants to disrupt the traditional games publishing model and set the standard for the future.
“With the changes that we’ve all seen in the effectiveness of user acquisition and performance-based marketing, OTK and Mad Mushroom have a unique leg up as a content creator-driven publishing group. We can leverage the 150 million audience of OTK and Mythic Talent in a targeted fashion to reach the right audiences. That’s revolutionary,” said Silbowitz. “We’ll consider this a success when we help BitCake make so much money because they have a massive community of players for Atomic Picnic. It’ll set the stage appropriately for who Mad Mushroom wants to be as we mature.”
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