Viral co-op horror game Content Warning is the latest Steam hit to suffer from server issues

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In brief: Steam sometimes allows games from tiny developers to attain explosive success, but when such titles involve online multiplayer, a viral hit can lead to overwhelmed servers. The issue even impacted Sony following the launch of Helldivers 2. Content Warning might be the silliest example yet.

A five-person indie studio launched a comedic multiplayer horror game on April Fools Day with a unique promotion. Due to the project’s funny and intriguing gameplay, the gamble paid off, resulting in millions of players on day one.

Content Warning was free to own for the first 24 hours following its April 1 debut on Steam, after which Landfall Publishing set the price at $7.99. Over 6 million players claimed the freebie offer, putting the game among Steam’s top 25 most-played titles, just above Palworld – the “Pokémon with guns” survival game that took the service by storm in February.

Landfall’s 2-4-player co-op horror game involves exploring dark, underground facilities and filming bizarre, physics-based creatures. If players successfully escape, they can upload their videos to a fictional social network and use the revenue from views to purchase better gear. The ultimate goal is to score a certain number of views after three excursions.

Despite the horror theme, Content Warning features a colorful, slapstick visual style. One odd touch is the character customization system, which consists almost entirely of players typing ASCII art to represent their characters’ facial expressions. Another fun detail is the in-game camera with a working video feed, which lets players watch footage together or save recorded videos for real-life usage.

Landfall likely hopes that the millions who downloaded it on launch day can convince more to purchase the game to play with them. The streaming-focused theme has already caught on with real-life streamers, contributing to Content Warning’s viral success.

Although the game isn’t in Early Access, the developers acknowledged some issues, including problems players are experiencing while trying to host or connect to games. It’s unclear if server congestion is the cause, but it wouldn’t be surprising given Content Warning’s rapid growth in players. The studio is also investigating hangups regarding the voice chat and video recording systems. However, they warn that the team’s minimal size limits how quickly it can address bugs.

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