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Monday, September 25, 2023

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While 2023 has produced a bumper crop of excellent games so far, one particular title rocketed to success seemingly out of nowhere: Dave the Diver, the charming fishing/life sim-RPG hybrid from Mintrocket. The game launched on Steam from early access on June 28 and became one of the top-selling titles within a week. Within a month, it’d sold over one million units. Most recently, Nintendo revealed during its September Direct that it’s launching on the Switch in October.

GamesBeat spoke with Dave the Diver’s director, Jaeho Hwang, about the game’s development and how its creators have responded to its meteoric rise in popularity. According to Hwang, the team responded to their viral success by making sure the game was as good as possible: “We began the early access in October last year, and during that time, we made numerous improvements thanks to open communication with the community. After launch, seeing an astonishing number of users like our game made us realize how important and meaningful these improvements were.”

Given that the Steam page currently has a rating of “Overwhelmingly Positive” with over 50,000 reviews (at the time of writing), it’s safe to say that players appreciated Mintrocket’s efforts. Hwang says, “We avoided many potential problems and had the chance to prepare a lot of good content. Now we are working on new content that we hope everyone who has given us so much support can enjoy.”

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Heart and charm: Dave the Diver’s success

Hwang told GamesBeat he wasn’t initially sure that the game would be as appealing as it was, given its unique approach to gameplay: “Personally, I had some concerns that the slower and more deliberate pace of Dave the Diver might not appeal to some streamers, but during the demo and early access period, I was pleasantly surprised to see so many streamers playing the game voluntarily.”

Those streamers, says Hwang, became part of the post-release viral success: “We maintained good relationships with many streamers, and we ended up even making some of them into NPCs in the game. Thanks to streamers who live-streamed our game even before the full launch and those who live-streamed after, this enthusiastic support has made our game go viral.”

Dave the Diver’s core gameplay is a mishmash of oceanic exploration RPG and restaurant management sim. Balancing the two aspects was a process that involved feedback from early access users, while also finding space to tell the game’s story. Hwang notes that users particularly like hero Dave, who experiences his own growth over the course of the game.

Hwang says he’s always loved retro-pixel games, and that he wanted to make a game with such an art style set in the ocean. “The ocean we envisioned was a mysterious dungeon filled with unique creatures. When I watch deep-sea documentaries, there are moments when the knowledge of the sheer existence of these real creatures in the deep sea gives me goosebumps more than any made-up fantasy creature ever could. The vision of a game that could capture these creatures, but in an arcade gameplay style, is how Dave the Diver began.”

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At the moment, Mintrocket is currently rolling out fixes and quality of life updates for Dave the Diver. Hwang recently told Dualshockers that the team plans to roll out more content to beef up the second half of the game, to bolster an otherwise story-focused section. “There are more stories from our unique characters to tell.”

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…. to be continued
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September 2023
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