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Cyberpunk: Edgerunners – Animation Marketing At Its Finest

Even if you’re not a gamer, you might have seen Netflix’s new anime series, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners popping up on your internet feeds. Following in the footsteps of Netflix’s other video game adaptation, Arcane’s LoL, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners has become a quick fan favourite.

While the show’s animation is fantastic, it’s also a stellar example of animation marketing. Based on the popular video game Cyberpunk 2077, the show has single-handedly boosted the game’s playerbase. Currently, Cyberpunk 2077 is averaging 1 million players each day. It’s also the seventh most-played game on Steam right now, with over 86,000 concurrent players.

cyberpunk edgerunner thank you tweet

Throngs of players, old and new, are heading to Night City in droves with the game exceeding the 20 million mark for number of copies sold!

cyberpunk edgerunner copies sold tweet

As you can see, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is absolutely a case study in animation marketing that all animation studios can learn from. Alongside the brilliant hand-drawn animation, its visual effects is also something most VFX studios dream of achieving.

It should also be worth mentioning that Cyberpunk: Edgerunners was actually in the works before the game was even released. Production started way back in June 2020 while Cyberpunk 2077 was only released in December 2020. Although this explains the anime’s seamless connection with the game, it’s not the sole reason for its success. Why did Cyberpunk: Edgerunners captivate gamers and non-gamers alike?

What Makes Cyberpunk: Edgerunners So Good?

Good Storytelling

cyberpunk edgerunner david death

Everyone likes a good story. In just 10 episodes, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners sucked audiences in with a compelling premise, a cast of endearing characters and themes we can all relate to.

While it’s densely packed with details, it somehow manages to strike a perfect balance between packing enough meat for those familiar with Cyberpunk: 2077 and staying palatable for new audiences.

Set in Night City, an urban hellscape ruled by mega corporations, our main characters turn to a life of crime in order to survive. The story opens with David Martinez, a young boy who quite literally loses everything in the span of one day. Forced to start from rock bottom, David joins a crew of edgerunners (mercenaries for hire) and begins a startling climb to the top – at a heavy cost.

While David’s the main protagonist, that doesn’t mean the side characters fade into the background. Each of them shine with distinct personalities, they face their own set of struggles and their arcs are well-developed. Audiences will quickly find themselves emotionally attached to this colourful crew, which makes the show all the more heart-wrenching.

cyberpunk edgerunner city

The show’s strongest themes include class inequality and the dire consequences of corporate greed. Much of the show’s violence and cruelty is fuelled by the massive class divide, which also drives characters to desperation and madness. Plenty of deaths occur throughout the show but everyone’s too occupied with surviving to even process their grief. Meanwhile, the city’s corporate giants, Arasaka and Militech, ruthlessly exploit the impoverished in their quest for profit. It’s capitalism at its worst and it’s chilling because it feels a little too close to home.

Like all good stories, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is a tale of human nature; it spotlights the best and worst aspects of humanity. Anyone can enjoy the show for what it is, which is precisely why the show is so compelling.

Distinct Animation Style

cyberpunk edgerunner netflix

Animated by Studio Trigger and directed by Hiroyuki Imaishi, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is infused with his unique artistic flair. A former key animator for Neon Genesis: Evangelion and director of notable anime Kill La Kill and Promare, Hiroyuki Imaishi has spent a long time honing his craft. Similar to the visual aesthetic of his other works, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is bright and flashy, each frame bursting with life and action.

cyberpunk edgerunner animation comparison

Constantly lit with a neon glow, Night City shines brightly. The show’s fluorescent colour palette gives it an intense vibrance and unique look. Night City is brilliantly animated, but it also pays homage to the game’s roots and enhances its worldbuilding. Throughout the show, the game’s creations are constantly built upon with stylistic flair, giving it a unique identity.

cyberpunk cgi

While Cyberpunk 2077 was animated with CGI, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners stuck to its anime roots with hand drawn 2D animation. Once again, this lends it a visual flair that’s separate from the game so it feels like a fresh, new experience for the game’s existing players.

cyberpunk edgerunner cast

Led with a distinct creative direction, Cyberpunk: Edgerunners brings the Night City to life with a unique visual aesthetic.

Now that we know why the anime was such a compelling watch, why was it also a stroke of marketing genius?

Animation Marketing Strategies:

Inserting References and Easter Eggs

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is filled to the brim with references and easter eggs! Fans of the game can expect to see recurring characters, references to in-game features and easter eggs that are scattered throughout the show.

Common overlaps included locations, like this apartment!

cyberpunk edgerunner david apartment

cyberpunk 2077 david apartment

You can also find overlapping weapons, such as this iconic green and pink shotgun (wielded by the equally iconic character Rebecca).

cyberpunk edgerunner rebecca shotgun

cyberpunk 2077 rebecca shotgun location
There are also recurring characters, like Adam Smasher who is now on the hitlist of every Cyberpunk 2077 player.

cyberpunk edgerunner adam smasher

cyberpunk 2077 adam smasher

You can even find recurring costumes!

cyberpunk edgerunner david jacket

cyberpunk 2077 david jacket

This barely scratches the surface of the number of easter eggs hidden in the anime. However, the obscene amount of overlapping references weren’t for nothing!

With such a direct connection to the game, the constant callbacks motivate those in the know to keep their eyes peeled, effectively retaining their attention. For new audiences, it encourages them to explore the game and experience the anime’s world for themselves.

With the shared worldbuilding, the anime adds onto the overarching narrative, creating an even more immersive experience for audiences when they play the game. The two mediums perfectly complement each other, making it an exceptionally potent marketing tool.

Letting Players Recreate The Anime With Game Features

In another instance of a perfect blend between the game and anime, players can actually recreate the builds of characters from the show. The game lets you put on cosmetic presets like David Martinez’s Jacket and weapons like Rebecca’s Shotgun.

However, the main bulk of the action lies with the modding community, with different mods that let you take on a character’s look or their weapons build.

Riding on this modding storm, the game also came up with a new mod tool! The REDMod addon will make downloading mods much easier and the best part? It won’t clash with what the modding community has done so far!

If your greatest wish was to live out Cyberpunk: Edgerunner in Cyberpunk 2077, your wish is granted!

Good Understanding Of The Audience

cyberpunk edgerunner animation marketing

Cyberpunk: Edgerunners is tragic and as all good marketers do, the anime’s emotional impact on the audience was fully exploited.

Plenty of beloved characters meet a tragic end – some at the hands of Adam Smasher, a minor but fully decked out villain in the show. We meet a motley crew of villains in the show, but none are as reprehensible as Adam Smasher. Here’s the thing: he also happens to be a killable game character…see where I’m going with this?

Does this give you a bigger hint?

cyberpunk edgerunner animation marketing tweet

Knowing that the anime was attracting more attention and driving up hype, the game was also sold at a discounted price to appeal to new players. And from what we’ve mentioned earlier, sales clearly went up!

Want To Create Your Own Animation Marketing Strategy?

It won’t be easy, but perhaps an experienced animation and motion graphics studio can help you out. To find out more, contact us!

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