Dumb Ways to Die Game: $0 UA Spend, 100% Viral

The Dumb Ways to Die game has recently regained its former glory and climbed the top of the charts - with zero UA investments. How?

10-year-old game.

0$ spent on user acquisition.

Reaching #1 in the iOS App Store in 30+ countries.

We’re talking about the Dumb Ways to Die game that regained its former glory and marked the beginning of 2023.

What happened?

Here’s everything you need to know about this game and its meteoric rise.

Dumb Ways to Die — Origin

In 2012, people all over the world started humming a catchy song called Dumb Ways to Die. A week after its release, the song hit the iTunes billboard charts, surpassing well-known hits like Diamonds and Titanium.

But, this song didn’t come from a superstar like Rihanna.

Dumb Ways to Die is a theme song from a rail safety campaign for Metro Trains Melbourne.

The video and song portray different cartoon characters (Beans) dying in ridiculous ways, using dark humor to capture young people’s attention.

Dumb Ways to Die — Origin - Youtube video

For example, dying by using private parts as piranha bait.

Or by poking a grizzly bear.

The point of this campaign was to raise awareness about train safety and display train hazards as a “dumb” way to die.

In just a week’s time, its YouTube video received 20 million downloads, went viral on Tumblr and Reddit, and received widespread media coverage.

The Dumb Ways to Die Game

Following the campaign’s wild success, Metro Trains Melbourne released Dumb Ways to Die as a mobile game in 2013.

With this move, they wanted to expand their reach among younger generations.

The game can essentially be described as a playable version of the video. The message is the same — it’s important to stay safe and prevent easily avoidable accidents.

The Dumb Ways to Die Game

In it, players need to take different actions to prevent characters from “dumb” deaths.

Silly, but incredibly addictive.

In 2021, the Dumb Ways to Die game and the entire franchise were acquired by a game development studio, PlaySide. Thanks to their fresh marketing approach, this ten-year-old game became popular once again.

Not-so-Dumb Ways to Go Viral

Ten years ago, Dumb Ways to Die (DWTD) went viral thanks to social media channels popular at the time.

In 2023, this happened thanks to TikTok.

organic TikTok strategy

Instead of pouring huge amounts of money into UA, Playside decided to put time and effort into building an effective organic TikTok strategy.

They have been active on TikTok for a long time, trying out different strategies to engage users. Things were going well, as the brand’s follower count increased to 1,5 million at the end of 2022.

Currently, this number has nearly doubled to 2.9 million.

Here’s how.

Why TikTok

There are multiple reasons Playside has chosen TikTok’s short-form videos as its main advertising strategy:

  • Targeting a young audience
  • Viral meme potential
  • Encouraging user-generated content
  • Drawing in a new generation of fans
  • Evoking nostalgia among Gen Z/Millennials

User-Generated Content

User-Generated Content dumb ways to die game

The Playside social media team has managed to attract a lot of TikTok followers.

However, none of their posts went viral.

The real-tipping point was a video from a user.

In it, the user uploaded a simple template from CapCut (video editing tool). This format allows other users to copy the format and music easily. With this template, the video pauses just before the failure and starts playing “Dumb Ways to Die”, making it super amusing.

In other words, it makes perfect meme material.

Soon after, thousands of creators started sharing their “fail” moments in the form of this template.

For example, clumsy falls to the ground, boyfriends pranking their girlfriends, sports mishaps, etc.

dwtd tiktok strategy

The Playside team immediately jumped on the trend. They started regularly resharing user videos, animating them with scorecard ratings, creating remixes, etc.

Thanks to all of this, DWTD went viral, again.

The Power of Nostalgia

It’s common knowledge that TikTok is a virality machine

But, Playside’s motivation to focus on TikTok goes beyond that. One of the reasons their organic strategy works so well lies in — the nostalgia effect.

Ten years is a long time.

tiktok comments

When they first heard the song and played the game, many TikTok users were children, while some were in their teens. Now that they are 10 years older, it feels good to remember something from that period.

Gen Z Traits

Here’s another, less obvious reason why Dumb Ways to Die went viral among Gen Z.

Their sense of humor.

If you follow Gen Z memes on social media, you may notice that a lot of it comes down to — making fun of themselves. For example, about their clumsiness, lack of money, being introverts, etc.

In DWTD videos, the main motive is clumsiness, so it’s not so surprising it strikes a chord with this target audience.

Dumb Ways to Die: Results

We have already shared some impressive numbers surrounding Dumb Ways to Die.

But, there’s more to share — from social media stats to downloads increase data.


#DWTD hashtag trend
#DWTD hashtag trend. Source: TikTok

As you can see from the chart above, the hashtag #dwtd has been incredibly popular in January/February. Here are TikTok’s insights for this hashtag from the last 120 days (last check February 23rd, 2023):

  • The hashtag appeared in 2,000 posts
  • Videos with this hashtag gained 193 million views
Age distribution for videos with the #DWTD hashtag. Source: Tiktok
  • Posts with this hashtag were most popular among people aged 18–24 (79%), 25–34 (16%), and 35+ (5%)
  • Posts with this hashtag were most popular in Baltic countries (Lithuania, Estonia, and Latvia)

Mobile Game Downloads

  • In February, the Dumb Ways to Die game reached a milestone of 100 million downloads (Mobilegamer.biz)
  • Prior to the viral videos, the game averaged at 600 thousand downloads a month and 20 thousand per day (AppMagic)
  • When the trend emerged, the game received 3,5 million downloads within 30 days, with a daily record of 300,000 downloads (AppMagic)

Social Media Overall

tiktok top gaming accouunts
Source: Playside
  • DWTD became 6th gaming brand by TikTok followers
  • The CapCut template has been used in more than 40 thousand user videos (PlaySide)
  • The original YouTube video currently has 257 million views
  • Its YouTube channel has 1.13M subscribers
  • Its TikTok channel has 27.6 million likes

No Paid Advertising

Instead of a classic advertising model, the team behind DWTD invested in a content model.

Not just now, but also when they created the song/video 11 years ago.

As we mentioned before, at the moment, all Dumb Ways to Die game downloads are coming from organic sources.

If the studio were to reach this kind of scale through classic UA channels, this would probably cost them tens of millions of dollars. According to Matej Lancaric, getting this much traffic would cost from $60k to $400k per day, at a $4 CPI.

Would this result in the same cultural impact?

Maybe, maybe not.

In either case, Playside hit the bullseye with this strategy. But, once the dust from the trend settles, it is possible they will try to acquire more players through paid advertising.

Dumb Ways To Die Game Overview

Even the most brilliant advertising strategy wouldn’t work on a bad game.

The Dumb Ways to Die game is certainly not one, so let’s go over how it works.


This game consists of 82 different mini-games where players need to save characters from silly accidents and reach high scores.

In all of them, players need to think fast.

But, each one requires a different skill.

Dumb Ways To Die Game mini-games

For example, in one game, they need to tap rapidly to run as fast as possible. In another one, they need to tilt their phone to keep the character in balance. In a different game, they need to remember and apply the right potion ingredients.

If they score high, they earn points and unlock new features. For instance, cosmetics like hairstyles and clothes for the characters.

Ultimately, players can unlock a full set of characters and the famous music video — in their local version.


The Dumb Ways to Die game is casual, and like a lot of such games, it monetizes with a blend of ads and in-app purchases.

When players first start playing the game, ads (interstitials) appear between levels only. Later on, their frequency increases so they start appearing between mini-games too.

The game also features rewarded video ads that can help players earn extra points or coins, as well as extra lives.

dwrtd in app purchases

In the game’s store, players can buy different packs of coins. They can also purchase a “no ads” offer for $1.99. According to Sensor Tower, this is the game’s bestseller.

Final Thoughts on the Dumb Ways to Die Game

It’s safe to say that the success story of this game comes down to the power of:

  • Engaging content
  • TikTok
  • Humor
  • Nostalgia

While you may not have a game with a story and history like the Dumb Ways to Die game, your titles also have tremendous social media potential — you just have to keep trying to find it.

Want to grow your game? Reach out to us, we can help you grow your user base and maximize your ad revenues.

Recommended for you

Never Miss a Beat in Mobile Marketing


Join thousands like you from around the world and get the MAF newsletter.

You have Successfully Subscribed!