Valve’s beloved sci-fi puzzle comedy Portal 2 has a 98% positive user rating on Steam (opens in a new tab). A handful of indie hits like A Short Hike, The Case of the Golden Idol, TOEM and Frog Detective 3 hit 99% positives. Placid Plastic Duck Simulator is about to join their numbers, with a positive rating of 98% going up to 99% in the last 30 days. (opens in a new tab).
If you haven’t heard of Placid Plastic Duck Simulator, you’re not alone. Despite accumulating over 3,500 glowing articles (opens in a new tab) on Steam, this game about watching ducks float around didn’t really make waves. (I’m sorry.) That said, over 1,000 people follow him on Twitch. (opens in a new tab)and a video from Irish streamer RTGame (opens in a new tab) where he spends 15 minutes watching it saying things like “Fuckin’ riveting gameplay”, has over 764,000 views
It’s really just a game about duck watching. The only controls are the camera controls, and clicking on the toy ducks just causes them to get stuck. Initially, a single yellow duck floats alone in a beautifully rendered pool, but as the “duck meter” fills up, more birds fall from the sky. The ducks come in different colors and patterns, some striped, some checkered, one in full clown makeup. Two of them have propellers, one on his hat, which he uses to fly. Yet all you, the player, can do is watch the sun go down and the ducks float by.
In the months since its release, Placid Plastic Duck Simulator has sold over 70,000 copies, as developers Turbolento Games revealed to GameDiscoverCo. (opens in a new tab) newsletter. Turbolento has also developed a survival game called Starsand, a desert world survival game that Chris road tested last year, as Tunnel Vision Studio. As the designers told GameDiscoverCo, Placid Plastic Duck Simulator was created as part of an internal game jam two and a half years after Starsand was developed. They launched it on Steam with “zero marketing”, and were thrilled to see “at least two major Japanese Twitter pages” posting about it on release day. It first took off in Asia and has now spread west.
Turbolento attributed its success to “players telling their own stories” as the ducks dance, especially while streaming. It’s also a cheap game, which you might pick up on a whim, although there’s more going on than its price suggests. As the developers put it, “People throw $2 at a game that’s supposed to be a joke, only to find there are 47 different hand-painted ducks to collect, several weird interactions, environmental events, a UFO, achievements, secrets, and a soundtrack to vibrate to. They are happy and leave a positive review to share that happiness with more people.
Although on a much smaller scale, it reminds me of how Coffee Stain Studios took a prototype game jam made as a joke after finishing the tower defense shooter Sanctum 2, released it and made a resounding success with Goat Simulator. Turbolento intends to continue supporting Placid Plastic Duck Simulator, with an extension called Quacking the Ice (opens in a new tab) which adds a winter slot and “increased cooling” this month, and plans to add multiplayer support around March of next year.