Skip to main content

Vampire Survivors was an out-of-nowhere success in 2022, as its addictive auto-battling gameplay landed it firmly on many people’s game of the year lists. While it received just one nomination at The Game Awards in January, it has now received plenty more recognition, winning both Best Game and Best Game Design at the BAFTAs in March.

We catch up with George Morgan, senior marketing manager for the team behind Vampire Survivors, at WASD, which is part of the London Game Festival.

vampire survivors (3)

We ask how it feels to beat out games like Elden Ring and God of War Ragnarok for the crown.

“Wild is the term,” he says. “Weird is another term. Entirely unexpected would be another term. One big wave of weird emotions. I’m stoked for the whole team, 15 of us, working on a thing that we love and seeing it against all these huge triple-A games with huge budgets and everything. It’s truly wild.

“It’s nice to see a lot of smaller titles against the behemoths. Once we saw we were up against Elden Ring a number of times it was like, ‘Oh right, we’ll stay in the seats then’, and when they announced Best Game I couldn’t stop laughing. It’s very strange, but it’s great.”

Vampire Survivors took off in part thanks to its simplistic gameplay style – one that mixes bullet-hell with roguelike elements – but is also the first of its kind to make a big splash in the gaming world. Many have tried to pinpoint exactly what it is that makes Vampire Survivors stand out, but the team thinks they have a good idea.

vampire survivors (4)

“I feel it’s easy to play, anyone can pick it up,” Morgan explains “My mum has played it on mobile, and the last game she played was Monkey Island. If you die, you still make progress. If you don’t die, you make a lot of progress. Even the achievement system, for example, will lead you through the game, but you’re always winning something, you’re always getting something, which is cool. I don’t like playing three hours of a game and realizing I’ve got nowhere.

“If you’ve got five minutes or you’ve got four hours – and often five minutes turns into four hours. I’ve been there, before I even worked at Poncle, I was like, ‘I’m gonna check this game out’. I played it for ten minutes and I joke you not, I looked at the clock and it was 2am.

“It’s simple to look at. There is a lot of lore, there’s also not a lot of lore. It depends how deep you want to go – there’s a lot of secrets if you want to go that deep. There’s a lot of levels for everyone, something in there for every kind of player.”

vampire survivors (1)

Whenever something new like Vampire Survivors takes off, it’s not uncommon for bigger studios to look at it and see what elements they can incorporate into their projects. We wonder what lessons the team wants to see the industry at large take from Poncle’s approach to Vampire Survivors.

“The one thing is the way we’ve approached mobile,” Morgan says. “We put it out for free, purely because we want more people to play it. Like, why would we spend all this time making games and then slap a massive price on it? I entirely appreciate it, I’ve worked in other companies where that does have an effect. We’re in an extremely privileged position where we can put the mobile game out just so people can play it.

“We just love people playing our game. In the mobile version, we’ve got one optional advert, you don’t have to watch it, it’s not intrusive. If you die you can revive by watching an ad, and that’s it – you don’t even have to if you don’t want to. You just play the full game on your phone whenever you want, anywhere you want.”

Vampire Survivors

Naturally, this kind of out-of-nowhere success can garner a large community that companies aren’t always ready to handle, but the team at Poncle seems to have a good handle on their suggestions for the game, as Morgan explains.

“Our community is huge. Everything we do, generally, we do a lot for ourselves, we have a lot of ‘this would be fun, we want to do that thing’, but then we also see a lot of comments [recommending changes] and we’re like 'why not?' if it doesn’t work, we revert it.”

Fans have also spent time taking Vampire Survivor’s gameplay and applying it in new ways to new themes. Games like Soulstone Survivors apply it to a more complex magic-based system, while Holocure puts a VTuber coat of paint over everything.

“We do see these things, we don’t always check them out,” Morgan says. “It’s not out of malice, it’s not out of spite, it’s just like, I’m six chapters into [Resident Evil 4] and I really want to finish it, and I’ve only got so much time. So we’ve not played a lot of them, but there’s no spite out of it.”

Time will tell whether Vampire Survivors is a one-off or leads to many more games like it.

“I genuinely don’t know,” Morgan says. “No one saw what Fortnite did as a thing that other people would do. I know it wasn’t the first of its type, but it was the first to hit the level of hype that it did and now we’ve got Warzone and Apex, and all these other games – you never see that coming before it happens. We won’t ever know really, well, we will eventually, but technologically it will take time.”