New 'Dumb Ways to Die' Tablet Game Is a Hit in 81 Countries

How Metro Trains Keeps a Good Thing Going

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The sequel to the 'Dumb Ways to Die' smartphone and tablet game has been a hit internationally.
The sequel to the 'Dumb Ways to Die' smartphone and tablet game has been a hit internationally.

"Dumb Ways to Die" is still very much alive. Re-imagined as a new mobile game, the Australian train safety campaign's iPhone app hit No. 1 in 53 markets and became the top iPad app in 81 countries, according to data from App Annie.

It's the second app from Metro Trains Melbourne to feature the blob people from one of the most-awarded campaigns of 2013, whose morbidly adorable animations, catchy tune and wacky lyrics were a hit with kids who might ordinarily be turned off by public service announcements about train safety. The new game from McCann Melbourne is a reminder of how campaigns can keep their momentum going in different mediums, with tweaks and twists.

In this version, "Dumb Ways to Die 2: The Games," the characters risk their lives at sporting events like landmine curling, running with scissors and killer whale dentistry. (Among the more bizarre challenges are licking a freezing pole and yeti grooming.) Those games don't have much to do with trains, but reminders about railway safety pop up throughout. Players try to stop characters from jumping onto the tracks to grab dropped phones, and there's a button to push to pledge to be safe around trains.

The app is free, but players can make in-app purchases, for example to make the game ad-free or buy tokens. Metro Trains doesn't have data yet on earnings, but it plans to invest them back into safety messaging.

"This has really become a self-funding, ongoing campaign," said Leah Waymark, general manager for corporate relations and business development of Metro Trains Melbourne. Metro Trains is also planning an online store to sell merchandise like plush toys.

There was even a Halloween version this year, in which two of the cute animated characters meet their grisly end while out trick or treating.

The original viral "Dumb Ways to Die" music video from McCann Melbourne has racked up more than 93 million views on YouTube. The campaign's first app game had 85 million downloads, and this new edition hit almost 10 million in two weeks, Ms. Waymark said. An Android version is coming up too.

So why an app?

"Kids don't look at print ads, they probably ignore most posters, and every parent knows how hard it is to get kids' heads out of fun, engaging computer games," said Pat Baron, executive creative director at McCann Melbourne. "We live our lives now in the digital world, and if we're going to engage with children, if we want them to listen to the message, we've got to do it in a way that's engaging, the comes at the right place and the right time, in a way it will be accepted."

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