Shovel Knight, the character, made his debut in 2014 in a video game appropriately called Shovel Knight. The game was praised upon release and is remembered as a well-executed platformer inspired by NES classics. Since then, the game has received multiple DLC additions and Shovel Knight has appeared in spin-offs like Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon and most recently, the roguelike platformer, Shovel Knight Dig. More impressive, however, is Shovel Knight's penchant for appearing in games that don't have his name in the title. Shovel Knight has either appeared as himself, or been referenced, in at least 33 non-Shovel Knight games. He even received his own Amiibo and a line of kid's meal toys with Arby's.
Ahead of the release of Shovel Knight Dig, we spoke with Yacht Club's Celia Schilling, who handles licensing and marketing for Shovel Knight, and asked a simple question: Why is Shovel Knight in so many things that aren't Shovel Knight? "Oh, I don't know. There's a lot of them," Schilling says. "We think it's funny. It's just that we've always imagined Shovel Knight as like an all-encompassing universe. To see Shovel Knight in different things, or like Arby's kids meal toys--it just makes sense for our brand. And it's hilarious."
Shovel Knight Dig is much more than a cameo for the knight with a unique weapon. Dig is a roguelike that gives Shovel Knight a host of new abilities and upgrades, but unlike games like Shovel Knight Pocket Dungeon (a puzzle game), Dig feels like it could almost be a sequel. It's not called Shovel Knight 2, though, for a very specific reason. "It can't be a sequel because it's a prequel," Schilling says. "It follows Shovel Knight's point of view in his story, so it's technically a prequel to Shovel of Hope. It takes you back to the good old days of him and Shield Knight just adventuring and beating up baddies and collecting treasure."
Its genre also, arguably, precludes it from being a proper numbered sequel. And though Yacht Club was heavily involved in its development, as it is with all of Shovel Knight's spin-offs, it was primarily developed by Nitrome. "The thought process for [Dig] started when we were finishing up Treasure Trove. We're like, 'Okay, well what's next?' And we were playing around with different ideas." Schilling says. "How about a platforming roguelike where a ton of things happen and the levels are constantly changing? But who's going to do it?"
Yacht Club had been eyeing Nitrome for some time, a developer that has a history with popular browser games as well as the 2018 puzzle-platformer Bomb Chicken. "We have a zillion ideas like… I don't know, Shovel Knight party or pictocross or something. And that was just one of them that we really enjoyed and Nitrome has experience with that type of thing, as well," Schilling says. Yacht Club gave Nitrome the basic pitch and Nitrome came back with tons of concepts, and from there the project came together.
In 2020, Yacht Club began conversations with Apple Arcade about bringing something to the mobile subscription platform. "Apple's great and they don't they don't demand exclusivity or anything like that because Dig is coming out on Switch, PC, and Apple Arcade all at the same time," Schillings says. "Keep in mind, we plan to expand our platform roster in the future, but right now--and it's the same for Nitrome--but at Yacht Club Games, we put our all into everything. So, it's good to focus on a couple of platforms and say, 'Okay, we're releasing here.'"
As for what's next for Yacht Club following Dig's launch, Mina the Hollower is Yacht Club's next game. Unlike its recent batch of Shovel Knight spin-offs and publishing efforts (like the release of Cyber Shadow), Mina the Hollower is a completely new game developed internally that recently raised over $1.2 million on Kickstarter. "To speak in Nintendo terms, Shovel Knight is our Mario and Mina is our Zelda," Schilling says. "And then we have an untitled project that I can't talk about."
You can read GameSpot's Shovel Knight Dig review by following the link.