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SHIFT UP’s Stellar Blade Dazzles with Tight Combat and Stunning Visuals

Stellar Blade breaks the stereotype of fan service games being mere shallow cash-ins, instead delivering critically praised gameplay and visuals. Although players were hyped for Stellar Blade’s release, doubt clouded the game’s launch as pundits questioned South Korean developer SHIFT UP’s ability to transition from mobile to console gaming (their previous success being the mobile title Goddess of Victory: Nikke).

SHIFT UP exceeded players’ expectations by building off of Nikke’s aesthetics and adding in fully fleshed-out combat. Being in part owned by media conglomerate Tencent, SHIFT UP had the extra resources needed to polish this PlayStation 5 exclusive, aiming beyond a quality one-off title by attempting to construct a world with franchise potential. 

It’s worth looking at whether the live streaming arena engaged with Stellar Blade, giving the game the viewership it deserves.

Stellar Blade Debut Capitalized on Action-Adventure Game Popularity

Investors had faith that Stellar Blade would be an immediate success, with SHIFT UP’s profits jumping by 500% leading up to the game’s release. Sure enough, Stellar Blade dazzled on streaming platforms with 6.3M hours watched in its first week. With over 160K hours aired, it’s clear that content creators took a liking to the game.

Part of this success may be attributed to Stellar Blade’s genre. Action-adventure games are performing well on streaming platforms lately as the 3rd most popular genre of the past 12 months (behind first-person shooters and all non-gaming content). The game excels in its genre thanks to tight combat, praised for its satisfying parry system which is similar to Sekiro: Shadows Die Twice, and the flashy free flow of combos similar to God of War Ragnarök.

A Wide Variety of Streamers Pick up Stellar Blade

Despite Stellar Blade being a single-player experience in a fairly hardcore genre, a wide variety of streamers still took to the game. The most watched streamer, Elajjaz, brought in 288K hours watched from his playthrough of the game. Although Elajjaz isn’t one of the biggest streamers, his dedication to the action-adventure genre with playthroughs of Elden Ring and Another Crab’s Treasure made this series a must-watch for fans. He even beat out mega-popular streamers like zackrawrr, who pulled in 161K hours watched for Stellar Blade.

Even though concerns surrounded the protagonist for Stellar Blade, female gamers weren’t put off. MissMikkaa, a streamer known for her hardcore single-player gameplay, took up Stellar Blade with self-imposed rules like the “No Shield Challenge”. Her streams alone brought in 177K hours watched.

Female-led Action-Adventure Games Finding Acceptance in Live Streaming

Female-led games are gaining traction on streaming thanks to the diverse array of publishers going against the grain, shirking the stereotype of the muscled male action hero. Unsurprisingly, The Last of Us: Part 2 was the most popular of these female-led action-adventure titles in its first week with 25M hours watched. However, Stellar Blade has impressively taken third place for first week performance with 6.3M hours watched.

The number of female leads is gradually increasing. From 2015 to 2020, Statista reported that the number of games with sole female protagonists grew from 9% to 18%. A large number of these games are survival horror titles such as Resident Evil, Soma, or Alien: Isolation. No doubt this genre preference owes itself to the horror trappings of film, in which the “Scream Queen” or “Final Girl” is a common trope. Audiences have been conditioned to accept female leads in these types of stories, suggesting that exposure to female leads in other genres may, over time, increase audience acceptance (as we’ve seen with action-adventure titles).

In this new wave of female-led games, Stellar Blade occupies a complicated position: The game puts a female center-stage, yet hangs on to many of the tropes of sexualization that plague female representation in gaming. Fan service games like Genshin Impact or the more egregious Dead or Alive Xtreme Beach Volleyball are also culprits of this pseudo-representation. Stellar Blade at least backs up this fan service with quality gameplay, perhaps creating a bridge into female-led gaming for previously reluctant players.

SHIFT UP navigated the space well and reaped the praise of viewers and players alike as a result. Currently, no DLC is planned for the title, but a Boss Challenge mode is being introduced to capitalize on the game’s excellent combat. Stream Hatchet will monitor to see if Stellar Blade can develop into a franchise moving forward.

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