NEW YORK (AP) – The virtual cat hero of the sensational new video game “Stray” doesn’t just meander along rusted pipes, jump over unidentified mud and decode clues in a seemingly abandoned city. The bold orange tabby is also helping real-world cats.
Thanks to online fundraising platforms, players play “Stray” during live streaming to allow the public to raise money for animal shelters and other cat-related charities. Annapurna Interactive, the publisher of the game, also promoted “Stray” by offering two cat rescue and adoption agencies copies of the game to give away and renting a cat cafe in New York.
The live streaming game for charity isn’t new, but the “Stray” resonance found quickly by cat lovers is unusual. It was the fourth most watched and aired game on launch day on Twitch, the streaming platform said.
Spectators watch as players navigate the feline adventure through an aged industrial landscape doing normal cat things – balancing on railings, walking on keyboards and dropping items off shelves – to solve puzzles and evade enemies.
About 80% of the game’s development team are “cat owners and cat lovers,” and a real-life orange stray as well as their own cats helped inspire the game, one creator said.
“I certainly hope that perhaps some people will be inspired to help real strays in real life, knowing that having a pet and a companion is a responsibility,” said producer Swann Martin-Raget, of the BlueTwelve gaming studio in Montpellier, south. of France .
When Annapurna Interactive reached out to the Nebraska Humane Society to collaborate ahead of the game’s July 19 launch, it jumped at the chance, marketing specialist Brendan Gepson said.
“The whole game and the whole culture around the game, it’s all about the love of cats,” Gepson said. “It combined very well with the refuge and our mission.”
The shelter received four copies of the game to give away and solicited donations of $ 5 to enter into a lottery to win one. In one week, they raised $ 7,000, Gepson said, with the vast majority of the 550 new donors, including people donating from Germany and Malta. The company also donated $ 1,035 to the shelter.
“It was really mutually beneficial,” Gepson said. “They’ve gotten some great PR and we’ve built a whole new donor base out of it.”
Annapurna also took over Meow Parlor, the cat cafe and adoption agency in New York City, for a weekend, as well as donating $ 1,000. Pre-ordered visitors can purchase “Stray” themed merchandise and play for 20 minutes surrounded by cats. (The game also fascinates cats, video on social media.)
Jeff Legaspi, marketing director at Annapurna Interactive, said it made sense that the game’s launch did something “positively impact and hopefully bring more awareness about adopting and not buying a new pet.”
Annapurna has declined to disclose sales or download data for the game, which is available on PlayStation and the Steam platform. However, according to Steam Monitor SteamDB, “Stray” was the # 1 purchased game. 1 in the past two weeks.
North Shore Animal League America, which saves tens of thousands of animals every year, said it hasn’t seen any increase in traffic from the game, but has received more than $ 800 thanks to a player.
By a happy coincidence, the shelter had just created a profile on the Tiltify platform, which allows nonprofits to receive donations from video streams, the week the game was launched. The player funneled the donations to the shelter, breaking his initial $ 200 goal.
“We see Tiltify and live streaming as this completely new way to engage a completely different audience,” said Carol Marchesano, senior digital marketing director of the rescue. Usually, however, organizations have to contact online personalities to coordinate live streams, which can be a lot of work, she said.
About nine campaigns on Tiltify mention the game “Stray,” said company CEO Michael Wasserman. JustGiving, which also facilitates charity live streams, said it has identified two campaigns with the game.
For his part, Nebraska’s Gepson reached out to an Omaha resident named TreyDay1014 online to run a charity live stream. Trey, who asked not to use his surname, has two cats, one of which he adopted from the kennel.
Last week, he told viewers that they were watching live on the Twitch platform while his cat character tapped another cat’s tail and danced along the railings.
“If I found out my cat was out doing it, I’d be shocked,” said Trey, as his character leapt over a dangerous distance. Moments later, a rusty pipe burst, plunging the tabby into darkness.
“That’s a poor baby,” Trey said grimly, “but we’re fine.”
A $ 25 donation followed the fall, pushing the amount raised by Trey for the Nebraska shelter to over $ 100 in about 30 minutes. At the end of four and a half hours of play, the donations totaled $ 1,500. His goal was to raise $ 200.
“This opened my eyes to the possibility of using this platform for much more than just playing video games,” said Trey.
AP business writer Matt O’Brien contributed to this report.
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