5 Strategies That Cuphead Used to Sell 6 Million Copies in 3 Years

Did you know that Cuphead sold a Million copies in just 2 weeks of its initial release?
Moldenhauer Brothers

Founded by brothers Chad and Jared Moldenhauer in 2017, the game stands out for its hand-drawn animations, watercolour backgrounds, and original jazz recording.

The brothers credit their fascination with classic cartoons from the 1930s, particularly the works of Fleischer Studios and Walt Disney, for Cuphead’s inspiration.

It was developed by StudioMDHR, which both the brothers founded, as a classic run-and-gun action game heavily inspired by cartoons of the 1930s.

The initial concept revolved around a game with a simple mechanic centred around boss battles.

Jared Moldenhauer in his house that he mortgaged to launch Cup heads

How the Brother Defied the Initial Odds:

  • Resource Constraints: Initially, the team was extremely small, leading to significant resource constraints.
  • Technical Challenges: The decision to hand-draw animations and adhere to the authentic 1930s cartoon style required tremendous effort and technical skill.
  • Financial Risk: The Moldenhauers took personal financial risks, including remortgaging their homes to fund the game’s development.
  • Development Time: The game’s development took significantly longer than many other games, spanning several years.

Did you know that Cuphead actually made its first appearance in Microsoft’s E3 conference of 2014, as a 4-sec clip for Xbox One promotions?

Initial triumph against Odds:

  • From 2014 to 2017, the brothers survived a string of odds and finally, Cupheads made its debut as part of the Xbox One deal on 29th Sept 2017.
  • Upon release in September 2017, Cuphead received widespread acclaim for its art style, gameplay, and music.
  • The game quickly gained a fan base, praised for its difficulty level and retro aesthetic.
  • It won several awards and nominations, including “Best Independent Game” at The Game Awards 2017.​

Financial Highlights:

  • By 2020, the game had sold over 6 million copies worldwide.
  • The success of Cuphead has led to expansions, including DLCs like “The Delicious Last Course,” further boosting its financial success.​

Current Market Dominance:

  • Cuphead has maintained a strong presence in the gaming market, known for its unique art style and challenging gameplay.
  • The game has expanded beyond the gaming sphere, inspiring merchandise, an animated series on Netflix, and collaborations with other media.

Top 5 Insights Every Startup Can Take Away

1. Driven by Passion and Vision:

  • The Moldenhauer brothers’ passion and clear vision for Cuphead were critical to its success.
  • Start-ups should be driven by a clear, passionate vision for their product or service.

2. Innovation is Key:

  • Cuphead’s unique value proposition—its art style and homage to 1930s animation—set it apart in a crowded market.
  • Innovating and offering something unique can significantly impact market presence.

3. Risk-Taking and Standing Against the Island:

  • The financial risks taken by the founders highlight the importance of belief in one’s project.
  • Calculated risks can yield great results in High Risk and High Reward games.

4. Quality and Detail:

  • The attention to detail and refusal to compromise on quality made Cuphead stand out.

5. Adaptability and Expansion:

  • StudioMDHR’s ability to expand the Cuphead brand beyond video games into other media shows the importance of adaptability and looking for new markets.
Cuphead Nintendo merchandise

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