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  • Postmortem: Bonkies

    - Alexander Jonassen and Tamara Gugelsberger
  • Written by Alexander Jonassen
    Graphs and editing by Tamara Gugelsberger

    One year ago we launched Bonkies, and it has not sold well. One year after the launch, me and my team would like to share our thoughts on what went wrong in the time leading up to and during the release of our game. My name is Alexander Jonassen, and I work as a game designer and developer for the Norwegian game company Studio Gauntlet.

    I guess you are picturing us as six broken developers, mourning by the grave of yet another failed indie title. Well... Almost, but not quite. This article is actually our first step in our last effort to give our game a fighting chance. Instead of the graveyard, imagine us instead dancing around with burning sticks, poking our game and hoping it will burst into flames like a phoenix!

    So keep on reading, and we will share with you what we think went wrong with Bonkies and our future plans for the game. But first: What even is a Bonkie?

    A Bonkie is a bionically enhanced astronaut monkey, equipped with a jetpack and a robot arm that can grab anyone and anything. Bonkies is a 2.5D local couch co-op game for up to 4 players where each player takes control of a Bonkie. The goal is to stack bricks of different shapes and sizes into displayed outlines before a timer runs out. The game has about 80 levels spread across 8 planets, and each planet introduces new types of bricks and gameplay mechanics. 

    Bonkies is quite challenging, and it has the ability to induce a really intense - at times almost painful - sensation for both the people playing the game, as well as anyone watching. This tension is unlike anything we've ever experienced in other co-op games. I'm not gonna claim I'm 100 % sure how we created this experience, or that it was our intention to achieve it from the start, but it's there, and we suspect it is due to the combination of 100 % physics based controls and gameplay, the game's deceptively optimistic visuals, no checkpoints, and entropy constantly looming over you, threatening to topple your wiggly towers should you or anyone on your team slip up. 

    The game was released on Steam, GOG, Nintendo Switch, PlayStation 4 and Xbox One. It does not support online play (except using Steam remote play).

    Since Bonkies' release in 2021, the game has sold about 4000 copies in total. While we thought these low numbers were embarrassing at first, we have accepted the facts, learned to own it, and can only try our best to learn from it. Hopefully our openness about our experiences can be of help to you.

    I will not go into detail on how the game was developed. I will rather explain the things we have learned looking back at the decisions we made during development, now having been through an entire development cycle, publishing, marketing and existential crisis included. But no more walking around the porridge: What the heck went wrong?


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