NEW YORK (Associated Press) — Not only does the virtual cat hero from the new video game “Stray” wind along rusty pipes, jump over unknown sludge and decipher clues in a seemingly deserted city. The bold orange tab helps cats in the real world, too.
Thanks to online fundraising platforms, players play Stray while broadcasting live to the audience to raise money for animal shelters and other cat-related charities. Annapurna Interactive, the game’s publisher, also promoted “Stray” by offering two cat rescue and adoption agencies versions of the game to pull and rent a cat cafe in New York.
The charity’s livestreaming game is nothing new, but the quickly found reverberation of cat lovers is unusual. The streaming platform said it was the fourth most watched and streamed game on the day it was launched on Twitch.
Viewers watch as players navigate adventurous cats through an old industrial landscape doing ordinary cat things – balancing on railings, walking on keyboards, knocking things off shelves – to solve puzzles and avoid enemies.
One creator said that about 80% of the game’s development team are “cat owners and cat lovers,” and a real-life orange stray as well as their cats helped inspire the game.
“I certainly hope that maybe some people will be inspired to help actual fugitives in real life – knowing that having an animal and a companion is a responsibility,” said producer Swann Martin-Raget, of BlueTwelve game studio in Montpellier, southern France. .
When Annapurna Interactive reached out to the Nebraska Humane Society for a partnership ahead of the game’s launch on July 19, marketing expert Brendan Gibson said, they seized the opportunity.
“The whole game and the culture of the game is all about cat love,” Gibson said. “He got along well with the shelter and our mission.”
The shelter received four copies of the game to donate and requested $5 donations to enter a sweepstakes to win one. Within a week they raised $7,000, Gibson said, and the vast majority of the 550 donors were new to them, including donors from Germany and Malta. The company also donated $1,035 to the shelter.
“It was really mutually beneficial,” Gibson said. “They got some really good PR from him and we got a whole new donor base from him.”
Annapurna also bought Meow Parlor, a New York cat cafe and adoption agency, for the weekend, in addition to donating $1,000. Visitors who have made a reservation can purchase “Stray”-themed merchandise and play the game for 20 minutes surrounded by cats. (The game also captivates cats, Videos on social media.)
Jeff Legaspi, Annapurna Interactive’s director of marketing, said it makes sense for the game’s launch to happen something that “has a positive impact and hopefully will bring more awareness to adopting a new pet rather than shopping.”
Annapurna declined to reveal sales or download numbers for the game, which is available on PlayStation and Steam. However, according to Steam observer, SteamDB, Stray was the first game purchased During the past two weeks.
The North Shore Animal America Association, which rescues tens of thousands of animals each year, said it had not seen any increase in traffic from the game but had received more than $800 thanks to a player..
In a happy coincidence, the shelter had just created a profile on the Tiltify platform, which allows nonprofits to receive donations from streaming video, the week the game launched. The player directed donations to the shelter, smashing her initial goal of $200.
“We see Tiltify and live streaming as a whole new way for us to engage a completely different audience,” said Carol Marchesano, Senior Director of Digital Marketing for Rescue Team. Usually, though, organizations need to connect with online personalities to coordinate live broadcasts, which can take a lot of work, she said.
About nine campaigns on Tiltify mention Stray, said Michael Wasserman, the company’s CEO. JustGiving, which also facilitates live streaming for charities, said it has identified two campaigns with the game.
For his part, Gibson of Nebraska reached out to an Omaha resident by the name of TreyDay1014 online to run a charity live broadcast. Trey, who asked not to use his last name, has two cats, one of whom he adopted from the shelter.
Last week, he told viewers watching live broadcasts on the Twitch platform His cat figure also beat the tail of another cat and danced along the railing.
“If I found out my cat was doing this outside, I’d be upset,” Trey said, as his figure leapt across a perilous distance. Moments later, a rusty pipe broke, sinking the spinster into darkness.
“That’s a poor kid,” Trey said sadly, “but we’re fine.”
A donation of $25 followed, pushing the amount Trey had collected for a Nebraska shelter over $100 in about 30 minutes. By the end of the four and a half hours of playing, the donations totaled $1,500. His goal was to raise $200.
“This opened my eyes to being able to use this platform for so much better than just playing video games,” Trey said.
Associated Press business writer Matt O’Brien contributed to this report.
The Associated Press’s coverage of charitable and nonprofit organizations is supported by the Associated Press’s collaboration with The Conversation US, funded by Lilly Endowment Inc.. AP is solely responsible for this content. For all of AP’s coverage of philanthropy, visit https://apnews.com/hub/philanthropy.
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