The success of 2022 roguelike shoot-em-up Vampire Survivors took everyone by surprise, but no one so much as its creator, Luca ‘poncle’ Galante.
Galante began development of Vampire Survivors while unemployed in 2020, deriving inspiration from mobile game Magic Survival and Galante’s past experience developing flashy graphics for slot machines. He never intended Vampire Survivors to make it big — he just wanted to make something fun and manage a little community around it.
Vampire Survivors launched in early access in December of 2021. Now, almost exactly a year later, it’s seen a huge Steam concurrent player takeover, a full release, DLC, a mobile release that netted it over one million downloads in a week, critical praise, and a Game Awards nomination for Best Debut Indie Game.
Galante has been interviewed before about Vampire Survivors’ unexpected success at launch, and months later, he tells IGN that its continued acclaim is “just as unexpected throughout all these months as it was initially.” Its sales have allowed him to start a company and hire others to help him work on Vampire Survivors as well as other potential future projects. And together they’ve achieved his personal goals for Vampire Survivors much faster than he had initially expected, including bringing it to more platforms and adding more content. In fact, version 1.0 – launched in October – contains more than twice the content Galante originally planned for.
The award nominations and win are the most recent of Galante’s successes. He’s thrilled, of course, if seemingly a bit non-plussed that his project ended up on the same stage as games like Elden Ring and God of War.
“It was straight up incredible to be nominated for The Game Adverts [sic] alongside all the other proper developers. For the past year every time I thought we’d peaked in absurdity, there came something new to top the previous thing.
“While for me it is very difficult to believe that [Vampire Survivors] is worth all this attention, I’m happy it’s getting it mostly because it shows that literally anyone could make it, and so it will hopefully encourage more indie developers to keep pushing on their projects. I’m not saying this out of ‘my good heart’, I’m saying this out of selfishness: I want to see more and more Celestes, Undertales, Powerwash Simulators, Wandersongs, and Short Hikes taking the spotlight they deserve!”
But in the midst of all that success, Galante is still at a loss to explain exactly why people love Vampire Survivors as much as they do.
“I have no idea, which makes it really scary!” he says. “Since launch I’ve been trying to not look at numbers or at what’s happening online specifically to not get too carried away, kept my head down and kept working on the game and on the company, focusing almost entirely on the feedback from the players in Discord and the Steam forums. The one thing I’m sure made a difference though is our community managers who did and are doing an incredible job at keeping communications open with the players!”
He adds later that he does think the growing audience playing on Steam Deck helped Vampire Survivors’ success – though it’s far from the only factor – because of its “pick up and play” nature…and it doesn’t hurt that it fits the Steam Deck aspect ratio perfectly.
Vampire Survivors just received its first paid DLC, Legacy of the Moonspell, adding thirteen new weapons, eight characters, and a new stage. Galante says that while he initially didn’t have plans for DLC, Vampire Survivors’ early access success made him want to give something back to the players. His idea for the DLC then stemmed from his memories of playing Final Fantasy Tactics and Valkyrie Profile years ago and wanting to pay a small amount of money for more stages or characters, perhaps by getting a demo disc with a magazine subscription.
“So, as a player, I absolutely am into the idea of being able to keep getting content for the games I love, but very often nowadays I feel like DLC is designed around monetization rather than around a good service to the players,” he says. “Having a negative preconception of DLCs, I was very hesitant to try to make one, but I also couldn’t just keep adding stuff to [Vampire Survivors] for fun while there’s a company to think about. And so, here comes the DLC! My greatest hope is that we managed to make it a fair deal for the players and they’ll like it, that is something that I, as a player, would be happy to see in the stores.”
Vampire Survivors Screens
I spoke with Galante just after Vampire Survivors’ release on Xbox and mobile, so naturally I was curious about other platforms, like Switch (which he has previously teased might be in the works) and PlayStation. However, he was coy about whether or not we’ll eventually see either of these releases in the future.
“We’re always thinking about what’s next and we generally go where the flow takes us, the beauty of being independent is we can do pretty much anything so long as everyone in the team is onboard,” he says. “Sadly I’m not allowed to specifically say about other platforms as our marketing team might tell me off… actually, who cares about them, let me tell you that one day I hope to launch on Vita!”
Galante was similarly coy about plans for future games – right now the focus is entirely on Vampire Survivors which, despite the name and the updates and the DLC, still does not yet include a single vampire.
Will it ever?
“Our marketing team said we can’t answer that, but who cares about them…” Galante says, later adding that he loves the game’s marketing team. “The problem is our legal team said the same; also, what’s a vampire?”
Rebekah Valentine is a news reporter for IGN. You can find her on Twitter @duckvalentine.