A new video game featuring an adventurous cat has resonated with cat lovers, with some using the game to raise money for real cats.
Through online fundraising platforms, gamers play Stray during live streams to viewers to raise money for animal shelters and other cat-related charities.
The game’s publisher, Annapurna Interactive, also promoted Stray by offering giveaway copies of the game to two cat rescue and adoption agencies and renting out a cat cafe in New York City.
Livestreaming the game for charity isn’t new, but the resonance Tramp quickly found with cat lovers is unusual.
I certainly hope that perhaps some people will be inspired to help homeless animals in real life, knowing that having an animal and a companion is a responsibility.Swann Martin-Raget, BlueTwelve game studio
According to the streaming platform, it was the fourth most watched and streamed game on the day it launched on Twitch.
Onlookers watch as players guide the adventurous cat through an aging industrial landscape, doing the usual feline activities – balancing on railings, moving across keyboards, and knocking things off shelves – to solve puzzles and dodge enemies.
About 80% of the game’s development team are “cat owners and lovers”, and according to one of the creators, the game was inspired by real stray orange cats as well as their own cats.
“I certainly hope that maybe some people will be inspired to help real stray animals in real life, knowing that having an animal and a companion is a responsibility,” said producer Swann Martin-Rage from the BlueTwelve gaming studio in Montpellier, South France. .
According to marketing specialist Brendan Gepson, when Annapurna Interactive approached the Humane Society of Nebraska for a partnership ahead of the game’s July 19 launch, they jumped at the chance.
“The whole game and the whole culture associated with the game is based on the love of cats,” Mr. Gepson said.
“It went very well with the shelter and our mission.”
The orphanage received four copies of the game to give away and raised a $5 (£4) donation to win one.
They raised $7,000 (£5,750) in a week, Mr Gepson said, with the vast majority of the 550 donors new to them, including people donating from Germany and Malta.
The company also donated $1,035 (£850) to the shelter.
“It was really mutually beneficial,” Mr. Gepson said. “They got really good publicity and we got a whole new donor base.”
Annapurna also bought out Meow Parlour, a New York-based cat cafe and adoption agency, for the weekend and donated $1,000 (£820).
Visitors who pre-ordered could buy Stray-themed merchandise and play the game for 20 minutes surrounded by cats. The game also captivates cats, show videos on social networks.
Jeff Legaspi, director of marketing for Annapurna Interactive, said the game’s launch makes sense to do something “positively impactful and hopefully bring more attention to adoption rather than buying a new pet”.
Annapurna declined to disclose sales or download data for the game, which is available on PlayStation and the Steam platform.
However, according to SteamDB monitoring, Stray has become the best-selling game in the past two weeks.
We see Tiltify and live streaming as a completely new way to reach a completely different audience.Carol Marchesano, American North Coast Animal League
North Shore Animal League America, which saves tens of thousands of animals every year, said it hasn’t noticed an increase in traffic from the game but has received more than $800 (£655) thanks to the player.
Luckily, the shelter just created a profile on the Tiltify platform that allows nonprofits to receive donations from video streams during the game’s launch week.
The player has sent donations to the shelter, surpassing her original goal of $200 (£164).
“We see Tiltify and live streaming as a whole new way to reach a completely different audience,” said Carol Marchesano, Senior Director of Digital Marketing for Rescue Group.
However, organizations typically need to use online personas to coordinate live broadcasts, which can be a lot of work, she said.
About nine campaigns on Tiltify mention Stray, CEO Michael Wasserman said.
JustGiving, which also hosts charity livestreams, said it had identified two campaigns for the game.
For his part, Mr. Gepson of Nebraska reached out to an Omaha resident known as TreyDay1014 online to host a charity livestream.
It opened my eyes to the fact that I can use this platform for so much more than just playing video games.TreyDay1014
Trey, who asked not to be named, has two cats, one of which he adopted from a shelter.
Last week, he told viewers who were watching live on the Twitch platform how his cat character hit another cat with his tail and danced along the railing.
“If I knew my cat was doing this outside, I would be upset,” Trey said as his character jumped the dangerous distance.
A few moments later, the rusty pipe burst, and the tabby cat plunged headlong into darkness.
“He’s a bad kid,” Trey said grimly, “but we’re fine.”
The fall was followed by a $25 (£20) donation, taking Trey’s fundraiser for a Nebraska orphanage to over $100 (£82) in about 30 minutes.
By the end of four and a half hours of play, donations totaled $1,500 (£1,230).
His goal was to raise $200.
“It opened my eyes to the fact that I can use this platform for so much more than just playing video games,” said Trey.