Dumb Ways to Die: How PlaySide took a decade-old safety message to #1 mobile game in 34 countries
Updated: Mar 3
Some ten years after the brand was initially launched, PlaySide Studios’ Dumb Ways to Die mobile game has raced to the top of the iOS charts globally, sparked by a viral trend on TikTok and fueled by a nimble approach to user engagement. In this opening edition of Press Play, we provide some context around the genesis of the brand and PlaySide’s involvement in helping Dumb Ways to become a global success.
AT A GLANCE
#1 game on the iOS App Store in 34 countries
#1 trending TikTok hashtag globally
#6 most followed Tiktok gaming brand
IN THE LAST 30 DAYS
1.2 billion+ total views of the trend
115m views for PlaySide-owned Dumb Ways to Die channel content
65,000 unique renditions of Dumb Ways to Die CapCut template
1.2 million+ new followers
Global media coverage reaching over 219 million people worldwide
Did you know? The Dumb Ways to Die campaign is the most awarded advertising campaign in history and was awarded 28 Cannes Lion awards, the undisputed global benchmark for creative excellence since 1954.
In 2012 Metro Trains launched a YouTube campaign to promote rail safety. The centrepiece was Dumb Ways to Die; an online music video with animated characters, offbeat humour and an undeniably catchy tune. Within 24 hours of its launch, the DWTD song reached Top 10 on the iTunes chart. The launch was shortly followed by the release of a portfolio of related mobile games and educational apps, with PlaySide being engaged to develop several free-to-play game titles to capitalise on the popularity of the brand.
PlaySide acquires the DWTD franchise
In October 2021 PlaySide acquired the DWTD franchise for A$2.25m. By that time, the DWTD YouTube channel had over 420m views, and the portfolio of freemium games and educational apps had been downloaded nearly 400m times with over seven billion game sessions played.
PlaySide took the view that the DWTD could be nurtured further to not only reignite nostalgia from a fanbase that had aged to be almost a decade older than when the original campaign was released, but also explore popular entertainment mediums that were not around at the time in the hope of attracting a new generation of fans for the brand.
“This song is my childhood!” - pushing hard on socials
One of the first initiatives that PlaySide put effort into was reengaging with users on the social media platform TikTok. TikTok’s mobile-centric, short-form video format was identified as a critical platform for user engagement and key to its strategy of growing the franchise among a mobile gaming audience. The first video that PlaySide launched generated millions of views within days, and had dozens of user posts commenting favourably on the nostalgia-inducing effects of the DWTD song.
The extent of the initial response supported a content strategy directing users to the catalogue of existing mobile games, as well as ultimately providing an idea that would push Dumb Ways into the emerging world of the metaverse and Web 3.0 initiatives.
Full of BEANS
PlaySide identified that the audience behind the popularity of Web 3.0 were tech-forward, young adults, and that the strength of the brand and character depth within DWTD could make it suitable for a Web 3.0 offering. Within the first few months of ownership of the DWTD assets and following a hard marketing push across all social media platforms, PlaySide’s Web 3.0 division launched BEANS, a project based on the DWTD brand.
Utilising the base DWTD character assets, PlaySide designed additional artistic layers and leveraged code that would permit the generation of over 10,000 unique 2D art assets. The establishment of a member community on instant messaging social platform Discord then became a critical tool to validate sufficient interest to justify the launch of BEANS. The Web 3.0 team maintained a passionate and engaged community by releasing key creative assets, teasers and insights ahead of the launch in February 2022.
The launch was highly successful and spawned multiple new and exciting projects such as BEANS Pets and a 3D Wallet Viewer, and now the team are hard at work on the upcoming 3D Multiplayer battler "Beanland".
You can’t buy this sort of exposure - Dumb Ways goes viral in 2023
The Dumb Ways theme song has proven to be a popular backing track to user-generated content on TikTok, where creators film their own mishaps, misadventures and misunderstandings, pausing their clips just before disaster strikes – to hilarious effect. However, in January this year TikTok user blakefloyd04 uploaded a video with this theme using a template from CapCut, a video editing software tool that is popular for its ability to generate professional-looking TikTok content. The clip proved hugely popular with other users and ultimately sparked a viral trend that continues to persist.
Over 65,000 user-generated renditions have been created using the CapCut template on TikTok, amassing over 1.2 billion views worldwide in the past three weeks alone. The trend has gone truly global, with celebrities (JoJo Siwa, Nicole Scherzinger, and The Wolf of Wall Street AKA Jordan Belfort), star athletes (Coco Gauff, AJ Dillon, Kyle Busch and Olivia Dunne), and some of TikTok’s biggest brands (Barstool Sports, Duolingo, Juventus, Tottenham Hotspur) all jumping at the opportunity to share some of their amusing fails.
To achieve this kind of scale across traditional user acquisition or brand marketing channels, an investment of tens of millions of dollars would have likely been required, and could never have guaranteed the viral and cultural impact that the trend has achieved.
Jumping on the trend
With the original Dumb Ways to Die mobile rapidly climbing the App Store charts, PlaySide quickly agreed on a coordinated strategy across the entire business – with mobile, marketing, and creative services teams working together to respond to the viral success of the brand.
The strategy involved actively embracing the virality of the trend, looking to highlight engaging user-generated content through its own brand channels, and ramping up the frequency of bespoke content using the iconic ‘Beans’ (both the real life and animated versions) to engage directly with popular and interesting content on the platform.
Since the trend exploded on TikTok three weeks ago, the @dumbwaystodie account has nearly doubled to 2.8m followers, making it the 6th most followed gaming brand on TikTok, surpassing the likes of PlayStation and FIFA.
The number one mobile game globally
Since early February, Dumb Ways to Die has reached #1 for Games on the iOS App Store in 34 countries and the top Action Game in 57 countries, including the US.
The virality of the trend has also directly influenced the downloads of other Dumb Ways to Die titles (which include Dumb Ways to Die 2 & 3 and Dumb Ways to Draw 1 & 2), driving over 400,000 new users to download the mobile games each day.
What comes next?
PlaySide looks forward to releasing the fourth instalment of Dumb Ways to Die on mobile during 2023 as well as Beanland, a gaming title that will bring the BEANS Web 3.0 assets to life.
Finally, PlaySide is excited to be joining forces with Netflix to deliver Dumb Ways to Survive, a survival-based interactive entertainment product to the Netflix Games platform.