Two years ago PayDay: The Heist surprised gamers as a fun, aggressively-priced shooter. It was a digital game published by Sony Online and available through Steam and PlayStation Network. PayDay scored well with critics and did well enough with fans to warrant a sequel, which its developer Overkill Software announced even as they were still releasing content for the first game.
PayDay made an impression on more than just gamers. Shortly after its release, Sweden-based Overkill was the target of a takeover by compatriot game maker Starbreeze, best known for its own shooters Syndicate and The Darkness. Starbreeze made it clear they were interested in PayDay. Just before the acquisition, Starbreeze CEO Mikael Nermark said that his company’s intention was to let Overkill continue building the IP. He also stressed that the acquisition was intended to bolster Starbreeze’s own portfolio, where now PayDay: The Heist and the upcoming sequel, PayDay 2, both sit prominently on the company’s web site.
For PayDay 2, Starbreeze and Overkill enlisted 505 Games as publisher. The most telling change with 505 replacing Sony Online is that the game is headed to Xbox. 505 is also treating the launch of the sequel more like a traditional console game. The game will have boxed versions for PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360, selling for $10 more than the Steam version but still priced aggressively at $39.99, and including a $60 collector’s edition. Much like the way a publisher would position a console game IP, 505 billed the sequel as a story-driven experience, and used the game story as fodder for its marketing campaign.
That paved the way for a novel effort, where the publisher worked with Overkill to enlist Hollywood helmer Damien Lichtenstein to create a live action web series expanding on the game story. Lichtenstein, best known for directing the 2001 comedy 3000 Miles to Graceland, is also developing a feature film based on the IP.
“We felt that the storyline and characters were so strong, there was an ability to take it beyond the life of the video game,” 505 Games president Ian Howe told us in an interview. “[The story] also carries something of a topical message as well. The whole back story is about guys who come back from serving for their country and have had their homes repossessed, and have had their livelihoods taken away from them. And they’re kind of striking back at corporate America, which is something that’s quite topical. I think it will provoke a conversation.”
In our exclusive interview, Howe shares insight on the web series, and also how 505 relied on the first PayDay title’s fan community and social media outreach to build buzz for the sequel.