Studio MDHR Discusses Cuphead’s Success – And How Carefully It Was Built

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One of this year’s biggest success stories is the arrival of Cuphead on Xbox One and Steam. Since its release, the game has cleared a million copies easy, and is still earning accolades from fans and critics alike.

But that success didn’t come easy. The team behind the game, Studio MDHR, recently spoke at a keynote session at MIGS 2017, and, according to GamesIndustry International, it’s enjoying what has come from the game’s sales.

“The commercial success really just means we get to keep making games for hopefully as long as we live, and that is the best part of it,” said Chad Moldenhauer, sitting with his family, Jared and Maja, who are also part of Studio MDHR.

The game may have gotten strong word-of-mouth, but didn’t do that hot when it came to marketing, since the team didn’t have a plan in place. "I can't even sugarcoat it, really, aside from some social posts and trying to [leverage] some major beats during the years at conferences,” said Maja. "But this is where Microsoft was instrumental for us."

Maja described the team as “just a couple of dorks in our basement trying to make a game,” and that it took its time. “I think it’s really important not to romance things. We didn’t go from zero to hero. We did things in chunks.”

The team also explained how the game was expanded beyond boss fights, which was initially the plan. It also could’ve been much, much tougher. "This game would have been proper cruel if you had three men and three continues," Jared said. "But we wanted to bring that feeling back. I wasn't certain we were going to make games in the future, so if I'm only going to make one, I wanted it to be in the way of the games that I love and I was raised on."

The team was also awestruck over the fandom of Cuphead. "I think we've seen eight tattoos, but the most wild one was after E3 2014, somebody asked if we could send a picture of something in the game," Chad said, adding, "Two weeks later, he sent us a picture of his tattoo. Before anyone had even played the game or knew that it was a game. But we just thought if someone's crazy enough to get a tattoo at this stage, we'll just let them do it."

And, finally, it addressed Disney being aware of the 1930’s art style of the game, since the studio did that sort of thing long ago with Steamboat Willie. "Disney called early on, but it wasn't for any crazy reasons, reaching out, touching base," Chad said. "Maybe in the future there's some project we might be able to work on."

Cuphead is available now for Xbox One, Windows 10 and PC.