Home » Buckshot Roulette passes 1 million sales after Steam launch

Buckshot Roulette passes 1 million sales after Steam launch

Buckshot Roulette is an ugly, mean little game that pits players in a no-win scenario against a sinister, shotgun wielding dealer. The game is a solo effort from developer Mike Klubnika, and it blew up after its launch on itch.io, in part because it found popularity on short-form video platforms. The game has since launched on Steam and has now sold over a million copies. In a world where big-budget, wonderfully crafted games can – and often do – fall off the radar without making a splash, it’s interesting to interrogate the unexpected success of a small game, especially one that’s designed to be so viscerally unpleasant.

Buckshot Roulette was never meant to be a commercially viable product, or anything that extended beyond my usual audience. Even though the initial release did have a price tag, there was no actual calculations or accounting going on,” said Klubnika in an email interview with Polygon. “Apart from the very basics, I knew nothing about game marketing, community building and such, so I just put it out there, hoping that other people will have fun with my idea.”

Klubnika has released other, similarly experimental games in the past. The Other Side is a bite-sized game about breaking out of an underground shelter that’s been sealed off from the outside world. The player has to set up a clunky, shuddering drill and try to ensure it works long enough to create their escape. “Personally I think horror games have a lot of room for experimentation compared to other genres,” said Klubnika. “When the main goal is to scare the player, the rest of the game can basically be anything, so you can pretty much do whatever you want.”

Image: Mike Klubnika / Critical Reflex

Buckshot Roulette was partially inspired by Inscryption, a similarly sinister card game, as well as other horror titles. Klubnika wanted to focus on an industrial horror aesthetic — rust, pounding music, dirty bathrooms, gritty sound effects. The central game of Russian roulette is already terrifying; amping it up with the surrounding context and the addition of shotguns helps push the envelope even further. “The eerie atmosphere of industrial horror always resonated with me on a deeper level compared to supernatural themes often explored in various projects,” Klubnika said.

Klubnika’s next intended step for Buckshot Roulette is to expand it into a multiplayer game, where two players face off against each other. “One of the key factors for expanding to Steam was being able to work on the feature using existing tools to support the online component,” says Klubnika. “I have lots of fun ideas on making this mode feel unique and challenging but also fair. There’s definitely a lot to explore when it comes to multiplayer-only items and match rules.” From there, Klubnika plans to launch the game on consoles and mobile stores.

The success of Buckshot Roulette is enough for Klubnika to be able to work full-time on game development, whereas he previously worked on projects parallel to work or university. “This is not something I ever anticipated being part of a rather underground indie development scene, so it is very important to me, and I could not be more grateful,” said Klubnika. He also cited his partnership with publisher Critical Reflex as being incredibly helpful in launching the game to a wider audience.

The horror scene is going through a modern golden period, and while there are plenty of brilliant big-budget games in the genre, indie games are the ones that have been going to weirder, more experimental, and hideous new frontiers. Buckshot Roulette, similar to smaller games like Iron Lung, shows how these games can unexpectedly pop off and reach big audiences.