Coffee Talk Has Become a Quiet Success in a Turbulent Year

Andrew Jeremy “AJ” Sitompul, Coffee Talk’s producer and music composer, says that the score is best described as “chill hip hop.” He composed the soundtrack using the Ableton Live Digital Audio Workstation, which allowed him to tailor everything to the lo-fi jazzy tunes found in most coffee shops.

The game’s lead artist, Dio Mahesa, had a similar approach and wanted to maintain the relaxed coffee shop vibe by using warm reds and browns in the bricks and dim lamps of the café.

“The other big challenge is the anime and manga Japanese-style,” Mahesa says. “Our art direction is PC-98 kind of games, which is a retro Japanese visual novel. We wanted to create nostalgia to the style.”

Mahesa looked to ’90s anime hits like Cowboy Bebop, Perfect Blue, Neon Genesis Evangelion, and Ghost in the Shell for inspiration when animating the individual characters.

Available on PlayStation 4, Xbox One, Nintendo Switch, PC, and Mac, Coffee Talk had the potential to become widespread, but the international reach of the game still took Toge by surprise. According to the breakdown of Coffee Talk unit sales on Steam provided by Toge Productions, the majority of purchases went to users in the US (29 percent), the Republic of Korea (15 percent), and Japan (8 percent). The game was also popular in China, the UK, Russia, Germany, and Canada.

The game made lots of “best of” lists last year, both indie and mainstream, but it also permeated a certain kind of global commercial media, with Red Bull naming it one of the “2020 Indie Games you have to play” and Nintendo UK sharing it on Twitter. The thousands of reviews on Steam are overall “Very Positive,” and the current PC Metacritic rating is 75.

“It’s been amazing,” Hadiputra says. “We didn’t expect it to be like this, that we’d get this much attention.”

But perhaps most importantly, Coffee Talk achieved the kind of fandom developers can only hope for. Players have been writing fan fiction about the original characters, and a wealth of fan art has cropped up across the internet. The team attributes part of the game’s success to the fact that many people were unable to spend time in real coffee shops due to global pandemic restrictions.

“Some of the events of the game actually became like a real event in 2020. We never predicted that. It just happened coincidentally, so a lot of people felt like the game was released at the right time with the right topics and subjects,” Hadiputra says. “A lot of people actually told us they feel like the game helped them in a way during lockdown and the pandemic. When they were feeling lonely and missing their friends, and they didn’t get that much interaction, the game kind of helped them overcome that.”

Toge has continued to foster the sense of community created around Coffee Talk in the year since the game’s release on January 29. The official soundtrack is now available as a limited-edition vinyl record, and the company has begun debuting character plushies. In addition to updates, the developers also plan to release modding support on the game’s first anniversary so that fans can create their own character voice-overs and upload them to Steam for others to use.

With the end of the pandemic nowhere in sight, reviews from new Coffee Talk players have continued to pour in online. Like the reviews from the first few months following the game’s release, users often refer to the cathartic experience of returning to coffee shops, at least virtually.

Mainly, according to the game’s artist, Mahesa, the team is just “really relieved that Coffee Talk can be such a healing game for everyone who’s stuck at their home because of the pandemic.”

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