The widely beloved Jackbox Party Pack series has become an icon in the gaming space, carving out a niche for itself unlike any other. It’s a video game with the energy of a tabletop gathering, and it transcended physical boundaries, especially after the pandemic.
During PAX West this year, I caught up with Jackbox Games CEO Mike Bilder, Creative Director Brooke Breit, and CTO Evan Jacover to talk about nearly 10 years of Jackbox Party Packs, especially as we’re at the dawn of its 10th installment.
To see the full interview, check out the above video.
“It's been a really fun journey. in some ways, it feels like we just started doing this and in some ways it feels like we've been doing it for a long time,” said Bilder. “Coming to shows like this at PAX and seeing audiences come and play our games is really fulfilling.
“That's a bit of a testament to how long we've been doing it because we've seen that audience grow and grow over the years. But we’re very excited about this year's Party Pack. We've got some really good games in there and hopefully the fans will love them.”
Ever since the first Jackbox Party Pack, these minigames have been server-based, meaning they’re technically playable in person as well as remotely. Of course, there’s a certain magic in the room when everyone’s gathered around the TV, hunched over their phones, laboring on their next Drawful monstrosity.
But for obvious reasons, around 2020, in-person Jackbox gatherings became difficult. More players shifted to playing these games online, using screensharing streams to stay connected and entertained.
“We put a lot of thought into how our games can be played in the room together as well as virtually because that's just the world we're in right now,” Breit said. “We're working that way. We're playing our games online together, we're also gathering. And so a lot of our thought is, ‘How can this exist in a way that really brings people together, no matter how they're playing?’”
For the most part though, Bilder said that the core philosophy behind the studio’s games is still about building a fun social party game that everyone can enjoy. They’re paying more attention to remote players, and audience and accessibility modes have helped, too.
“It’s a unique and different and challenging time. Everybody was stuck at home and we played a ton of video games, the world opened up again and everybody's playing less video games,” Builder said. “So kind of where we're at in that curve, it seems like everything's kind of flattening out a bit right now.
“But then there's other pressures in the world too that make discretionary income a little tricky. The nice thing we hope is, our games aren't AAA titles, they don’t sell for $60.”
Veteran Jackbox players might not be surprised to learn that Quiplash is a clear fan-favorite pick. Bilder mentioned that Party Pack 3, which contains Quiplash 2, is the studio’s most popular collection, as it’s become the de facto standard recommendation for first-time party packers.
“If you notice, we usually put one sequel in each Party Pack, and we try to revisit something that has demand that maybe hasn't been revisited before but people still love to play it,” Bilder said. “This year we're doing Tee K.O. 2. So pretty exciting about that one. And we just did a panel yesterday. It seemed to go over really well.”
While at PAX West, I played a round of Tee K.O. 2. If you enjoyed the first, this one comes with more ideas to spice things up, like a round where you modify other players’ drawings.
I also played one of the new titles, Dodo Re Mi, which has immediately become one of my favorites. In it, each player picks an instrument, turns up the sound on their phone, and taps along to some notes that travel down a chart. You get a live, instant playback of a song—and your mistakes.
Dodo Re Mi has the trademark goofiness that Jackbox Party Packs offer, all neatly wrapped up in a rhythm-game package. In the song we played, one person played the lead melody, but their instrument was someone screaming. It was as hilarious as it sounds.
Jackbox Party Pack 10 is slated for release in October this year, just in time for the holidays. As you might expect, the holidays are some of the most popular times for Jackbox games, according to Bilder.