Why Everyone Is Obsessed With A Cat Cyberpunk Game

A kitten sleeps next to a poster for Stray in Meow Parlor.

Photo: Kotaku

My method of judging a game’s popularity doesn’t rely on analyzing NPD’s sales numbers or SteamDB’s concurrent player lists. No, my opinion is pass-fail: whether or not my mom texted me about it. Over the past week, my mom has asked me more about “the cat game” than any other game I’ve ever covered. Apparently, it’s all over her social media. That’s right, folks: Wander has officially crossed over into the Normie Realm.

Wanderan adventure game released last week on PlayStation and PC, is the first from French developer BlueTwelve Studio, and the latest hit from publisher Annapurna Interactive’s portfolio (known for its role as purveyor of quirky indie megahits like Outer Wildlands). You play as an orange tabby and spend your time exploring or, if you are me, i lose myself—in a cyberpunk city populated by robots. Part of WanderThe skyrocketing buzz of is due to the fact that the game is new, and really very good, and word of mouth is a powerful tool. But it was aided by an ad campaign that doesn’t fit the mold of typical video game marketing.

You’d expect trailers and media pitches at popular industry events, maybe even a promotion with a brand of snack or soda. You are less likely to see a campaign linked with related nonprofits.that the Nebraska Humane Society (NHS). Earlier this month, the NHS organized a charity campaign related to the launch of Wander: Donate $5 and you could win a copy of the game. It also resulted in real benefits, totaling over $7,000. An NHS representative Told Polygon that most donations came from new donors.

Adoption events also exist in IRL. During the weekend, Annapurna organized a pop-up at the meow living room, a cat café in New York’s trendy Lower East Side. It’s a savvy marketing move. Meow Parlor is usually pretty raved about (admission is by reservation only), so Wander had a nice full day of publicity, potentially reaching people who were only there to hang out with kittens. In exchange, Meow Parlor secured a guaranteed flow of potential new parents for the dozen kittens currently up for adoption. (Two were adopted by the time I left.)

Two kittens sleep on a shelf in Meow Parlor for a Stray pop-up event.

Photo: Kotaku

The cats, aged eight weeks to two years, crawled over the participants and chased toy mice. People were sipping cold beer and queuing to play Wander on a PS5 on the back. The cats wanted to come in too:

A black furry cat lies in front of a TV screen showing Stray.

Photo: Kotaku

There was even one Wander-branded backpacks from Travel Cat– itself a logical product link for the game. (The backpack comes with a cat harness resembling the vest worn by Wander‘s protagonist in the game.) I didn’t ask to try it, though, because of this little guy:

A black furry cat sleeps in Travel Cat's Stray brand backpack.

Photo: Kotaku

To some extent, with hindsight, Wanderthe buzz was a slam dunk. It’s a video game about a cat. People love cats. He probably also benefited somewhat from launching as first day one exclusive game on Sony’s revamped PS Plus service, which now offers a library of Netflix-style on-demand games. This is a powerful concoction. But there is a secret sauce to this game that has given it widespread appeal.

You don’t often see posts about video games going semi-viral on non-gaming subreddits, but you don’t need to scroll to the most popular pages. r/cats under to find pictures of cats Obsessed by Wander. At present, as VGC pointed out, Wander– not a hyper-violent first-person shooter, not a hard-to-gnaw action platformer, not a sales giant Ring of Elden— is the highest user-rated game on Steam. Gamers are clearly looking for an understated antithesis to the brutality that so often serves as the backbone of mainstream games, and it shows. Some players learned by chance Wander because the publisher has made extensive use of the one thing the Internet has never been able to turn away from: kittens.

Anyway, Mom, I hope that answers your question.

About Johanna Gooding

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