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Handy Games’ Chris Kassulke on staying targeted on making video games, not promoting NFTs

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I loved assembly with acquainted gaming leaders at Gamescom and Devcom in Germany. One of them was Chris Kassulke, who began the cellular sport pubisher HandyGames along with his brother Markus and Udo Bausewein in 2000.

Kassulke has at all times been a fan of attempting out new issues, from the earliest smartphones within the days earlier than the iPhone to digital actuality. He was an early believer within the Nintendo Switch and free-to-play video games.

Some of these issues labored out properly, and a few didn’t. But HandyGames discovered a approach to final for many years and get downloads within the a whole lot of hundreds of thousands. So it was attention-grabbing to listen to Kassulke say that he wasn’t keen on non-fungible tokens (NFTs) after finding out it carefully.

Kassulke hasn’t seen a very good purpose for sport builders to undertake NFTs, nor does he see the way it’s good for shoppers. Instead, he’s targeted on making indie video games that ship good gameplay, just like the not too long ago launched Endling: Extinction is without end, which is a shifting sport in regards to the final of the foxes.

Handy Games has greater than 100 folks and it’s hiring. It’s now a part of Embracer Group, as THQ Nordic acquired Handy Games on 2018.

Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

Chris Kassulke is CEO of Handy Games.

GamesBeat: Did you determine fairly early on that you just’re not an NFT man?

Chris Kassulke: As I discussed, it’s actually in regards to the worth that we don’t see for the buyer. I see it when attempting to finance one thing for the subsequent product, stuff like that. But I’m undecided if a personality from Game A, you’ll be able to transfer simply to Game B, as a result of then I can’t inform the precise story. It may be attention-grabbing for weapons or one thing like that in particular video games. Also, whenever you’re shifting it from one platform to the opposite, it’s already very advanced, if it’s within the cellular space, from iOS to Google Play and a Samsung gadget. That’s fairly advanced. If you do this from PlayStation to Xbox to Switch after which to PC–or say you’re attempting to go from an Epic sport to at least one you’ve downloaded on Steam, that’s one other massive subject. The downside is actual.

If somebody can present me one good instance the place it brings worth to the buyer, and never simply by telling you’ll be able to you promote it for more cash sooner or later–that’s only a Ponzi scheme. That’s not what we wish to do. We wish to develop nice video games. We wish to inform tales with our video games. As you’ll be able to see, Endling tells a protracted story. Where can I promote an NFT in that? It doesn’t really feel good. That’s what I believe.

GamesBeat: I talked to different folks like Will Wright. He didn’t have a vociferous protection of NFTs, however he did suppose that as a result of they’re very targeted on user-generated content material, that’s an space the place having the ability to correctly establish who created what and giving them some form of possession stake issues.

Kassulke: But when you can copy it once more and promote it once more? That’s my downside that I’ve there. Everyone could make no matter good apes or no matter on the market. Where’s the distinctiveness?

GamesBeat: They watched how folks ripped one another off with The Sims. The Sims content material was created again and again, after which it was additionally stolen again and again. They had no answer for that.

Bad issues are endangering foxes in Endling.

Kassulke: I see lots of issues with the authorities world wide. Indirectly, if I purchase one thing for 5 {dollars} or no matter and promote it for $5,000, that’s revenue. Whichever authorities needs to take lots of that. You haven’t any answer. Perhaps you’ll be able to have a market or no matter, however good luck with that. You’re a developer. You ought to handle that on the finish of the day, and I want you luck. I see no answer there. There are too many challenges. I like challenges. We do lots of prototyping. We do lots of new expertise. We did the primary cellular video games on the market, the primary free-to-play video games. But they went in a path we don’t wish to go.

GamesBeat: Has that affected your view of the metaverse as properly? Do you’re feeling the identical approach about that?

Kassulke: I don’t like–everyone seems to be searching the metaverse, however I doubt there’s one in the mean time. Yes, lots of investments are going to the metaverse. Lots of people are saying, “This is the metaverse.” No. We have video games the place we are saying, “This can grow into a metaverse if it has enough users behind it.” But is that the place I wish to go, like Second Life? I haven’t seen something like that. When I noticed the posts from Mark Zuckerberg, he’s promoting the metaverse now like that? You’re destroying stuff there.

Is there a Minecraft or Roblox or no matter that may evolve into that? Maybe. But will or not it’s one thing evolving the place one firm holds it? I doubt that. It’s harmful. Specific markets across the globe aren’t permitting Facebook or permitting Google. If you wish to have an actual metaverse it is advisable to be in each nation world wide. That’s not what I see in the mean time. Those are the challenges we have to overcome with that. Maybe there may be a metaverse, however I don’t like what I see in the mean time.

GamesBeat: Back to plain outdated video games, then.

Kassulke: Single-player video games. I’ve no downside with that. We have multiplayer video games. That’s not a problem. I believe everyone seems to be concentrating on NFTs. I’m fairly glad I didn’t put money into NFTs, as a result of I might have much less cash than if I put it within the inventory market, which can also be a bit loopy in the mean time. Let’s see the place it goes. But at present what we see is that the customers just like the premium mannequin once more, even within the cellular sport space, because of guys like Netflix and another guys who’re doing subscription providers once more. You had issues like Jamster and Jamba right here in Germany again within the day, the place that they had subscription providers occurring. Now everybody goes again to subscription providers, like Amazon Prime. We see Luna arising there. Everyone is speaking about Netflix and their subsequent strikes. Let’s see the place that goes. But for that, free-to-play video games aren’t what they’re in search of. They’re in search of premium video games. They wish to inform tales. That’s the place we come from. We have client items expertise with video games.

When you play Endling–you’ll be able to try lots of the media that’s on the market. You see gamers crying on the finish of the sport, and through the sport as properly. They have the largest feelings they’ve had in video games for a very long time. That’s not one thing lots of guys can do. It’s one thing we wish to do. Perhaps you’ll be able to name it a creative form of sport. But when you have a narrative behind there, a sport that goes past the standard taking pictures–it’s not an enormous sport. You can end it in 4 or 5 hours. But it touches you. It’s like with sure films. You give it some thought. It doesn’t simply exit of your head. That’s what we produce.

We can’t do this simply with NFTs. NFTs are about enterprise. When I see what occurred within the Philippines, folks going bankrupt now as a result of they had been instructed they might be wealthy if they might put money into video games–they spent actual cash to purchase their approach right into a sport, as a result of they hoped it might get greater in a while. I’m undecided if we want that. It will harm the entire sport trade. Also, within the dialogue in regards to the metaverse–lots of finish shoppers are speaking about NFTs and blockchain and metaverse all in the identical breath, as a result of it’s one thing they don’t perceive, actually. We’re speaking extra about video games and what the experiences will be there. We want to return again to belief, to the feelings of video games. That’s what we wish to do. Not many video games are creating single-player video games anymore these days. I’m probably not sad there.

Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

Today we launched, for instance, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? It’s not the largest IP ever, however once more, you’re enjoying one thing with your loved ones. You can play as much as eight gamers on one gadget, as a result of it brings the household collectively. When do you play a quiz sport? It’s not normally on-line, as a result of it isn’t that a lot enjoyable. You play it whenever you’re across the Christmas tree, enjoying a sport collectively. No matter if it’s on the Switch or on a PC or on a TV. That’s what we wish to have. It’s a very good feeling, whenever you play a sport like that. I’m not enthusiastic about shit I must pay for time and again. I don’t want to purchase three extra creatures to mix and get wealthy. That’s not what I would like. It’s not why I wish to make video games.

Everyone that joins the video games trade, they love video games. It’s a ardour. I don’t see the fervour round NFTs for myself. That’s why we are saying no. If there’s somebody on the market who says, “Yeah, I want to go for it,” do it. Get wealthy. Burn some enterprise capital. I don’t actually care. It’s a special factor. But for me, don’t destroy the video games market with one thing like that. That’s not good.

Townsmen is Handy Games’ prime sport.

GamesBeat: How is the Embracer life going? They have so many studios alongside one another.

Kassulke: Yes, but it surely’s working. They can produce their video games, what they suppose makes most sense for his or her studios. I like the liberty we’ve there. I’m not afraid that somebody can also be creating the same sport. It’s the identical household. If you undergo the halls, it’s fairly attention-grabbing to see every little thing that now belongs to the Embracer Group, however I’m not afraid of, no matter, Coffee Stain. We can study from one another. They’re doing stuff otherwise. I’m not afraid in any respect.

GamesBeat: Are you guys form of making video games with out a want for milestones to show to the writer that you just’re making progress?

Kassulke: We’re the writer and developer. We’re working with our builders on milestones after all, as a result of that’s a part of that. But I believe COVID modified so much. We see lots of studios, and never solely inside Handy Games, that we work with–they acquired hit closely. Working from house wasn’t serving to. It affected everybody. Everyone thought of how distant work will be built-in in the long term. But we see in the entire video games trade that it’s probably not serving to.

It’s a workforce effort to develop such an enormous sport. We’re again from three guys creating a sport. It’s about 20 guys, 50 guys, 100 guys and extra creating a sport. That must be a very good expertise. That’s an enormous problem now, coming again collectively to provide a sport. That’s the subsequent problem for everybody that’s creating greater video games in the mean time. That’s why so many video games across the globe are delayed, I believe. The high quality must be there, when every little thing matches collectively once more.

GamesBeat: I talked to at least one firm that was getting funding from Netease. They stated they didn’t ask for milestones. They stated, “We trust you.”

Kassulke: I’m sorry. I’ve been within the trade for thus lengthy. There must be some form of milestones. Of course it may be very versatile. Things come up on a regular basis, whether or not it’s a brand new Unity model, a brand new Unreal model, no matter. New platforms may come alongside. A sport ought to be developed for all of the platforms on the market, whether or not it’s PC, PlayStation, Xbox, Switch, Stadia, Luna, even cellular. Even if it’s premium. But that’s what we wish to push additional, step-by-step. We showcased Wreckfest now on cellular. We’re showcasing that right here on the sales space. That’s doable on a cellular gadget now.

If you wish to check out the subsequent issues, that’s the place you wish to have a sport. The IP is getting stronger. With each new platform you attain new shoppers. Plus, you’re maybe reaching somebody who performed on PS4 previously, and now they wish to play on cellular as a result of they’re on the run. They’ve modified their habits. That’s an enormous subject. You must launch a sport on each single platform on the market, regardless of if it’s–take Stadia for instance. I believe that’s the subsequent step. Why not? I prefer it. I just like the pushes we see, whether or not it’s from Amazon or different colleagues, and even from Samsung, the place they’re incorporating with another companions. Let’s see it.

Wreckfest is Handy Games’ cellular racing title.

If you’d instructed me 20 years in the past, when black and white telephones had been nonetheless round–we’d simply launched our first racing sport on black and white gadgets, with ringtones and stuff like that. It was 64K. Now you will have Wreckfest. We’re speaking a few six gigabyte sport on a cellular gadget, and it performs easily. That’s incredible. It’s simply 20 years. We’re speaking about evolution there. If we take a look at the place the gadgets are going, we will play on our TVs with none consoles. I’d by no means have thought of that.

GamesBeat: How many individuals do you will have now?

Kassulke: We have greater than 100 inside Handy Games. We have a studio near Cologne. They developed Fifth Grader. I’m going there tonight for the discharge celebration. We additionally work with lots of exterior builders, regardless of if they arrive from Spain, Denmark, or Sweden. We don’t care. It simply has to suit. They additionally want to love the premium mannequin. If it’s free-to-play, that’s a very good factor. Within the Embracer Group we’ve Easybrain or CrazyLabs. We can at all times level you in the precise path when you’re a developer.

If you’re an indie sport and also you wish to launch it in a field, come to us. That’s a pleasant story for builders, as a result of releasing one thing at retail isn’t so widespread anymore. Now, thanks to a different Embracer buyout with the blokes from Limited Run, it’s no downside. The core avid gamers that also wish to have a field, I believe lots of guys are nonetheless lacking on the market. If somebody needs to purchase it on-line, they’ll nonetheless do it. Offer your sport to as many individuals as doable. If you take a look at a sport like Endling, I believe we’ve 24 completely different languages supported, one thing like that. You want to supply what you must as many individuals as doable on the market.

GamesBeat: What’s essentially the most profitable Handy Games launch so far?

Kassulke: It actually relies upon. Townsmen remains to be considered one of our largest IPs. I believe it’s greater than 20 years outdated now. It’s nonetheless a constructing technique sport like Settlers coming from PC, coming from cellular. Then our newest successes are, for instance, issues like Endling, like Chicken Police. There’s some fairly darkish humor there. Maybe a bit of bit too darkish for some Americans. But that’s precisely what shoppers need. They need one thing new. They wish to return and be reminded of the outdated days the place you could possibly nonetheless make some jokes.

With Endling, it’s a sport–we by no means noticed so many YouTubers and influencers actually crying in a sport. You get these feelings again. Maybe it was dangerous timing, as a result of Stray was launched on the identical day, and Stray sucked up every little thing. But that’s fantastic. This sport is a long-term vendor. It’s doing properly. It’s 96 p.c on Steam. Same with Chicken Police at 93 p.c. I can’t complain. As I discussed, an indie sport is completely different from a double-A or a triple-A sport. It’s at all times about the long term. I inform our builders that it’s not a dash. It’s at all times a marathon. You must deal with the long term with each single sport, and in addition launch on each single platform on the market. That’s the important thing.

I see no points with that. If I wish to make quick cash I can rip off somebody for NFT cash someplace. Build up any sport and put NFTs in it. A yr or two in the past that was the massive subject. Everyone requested once we had been doing one thing with NFTs and blockchain. Not in the mean time. Give us that. Maybe we see one thing that is smart. We see lots of builders and their pitches. Nobody actually needs to develop that.

Handy Games’ Airhead

GamesBeat: Do you suppose that’s dying out in the mean time?

Kassulke: Some persons are utilizing their brains now. Let’s put it that approach. They’re enthusiastic about what they’ll develop. Where’s the revenue for the tip client? It’s not about coloring my gun. That’s been accomplished in Counter-Strike with out NFTs. You can purchase no matter and promote it. That’s the subsequent step. Show the buyer the worth of NFTs. That’s the extra lifelike approach, going step-by-step. Not simply attempting to hunt for giant cash now. If I lose my password every little thing is gone. I might need invested some huge cash.

I’ve invested lots of time in video games. How many hours do I’ve in Counter-Strike? Holy shit. I don’t wish to inform my spouse. But it’s about that. There are a lot of video games on the market the place you make investments lots of time and fervour, regardless of if it’s Counter-Strike, if it’s Call of Duty, if it’s PUBG, no matter. Yes, you make investments time. But whenever you’re investing cash–lots of avid gamers invested some huge cash in World of Warcraft as properly.

GamesBeat: How many hours can you place into one thing like Wreckfest?

Kassulke: Unlimited. The cellular sport is precisely the identical model you could play on the PlayStation. You can tune in every little thing that you’ve got. You have all of the programs in there. The solely factor we didn’t implement was from the Kickstarter backers again within the day, the particular vehicles they promised these folks, as a result of we couldn’t management that. But we’re going the premium approach once more. Consumers can purchase the sport, similar to on Switch and stuff like that. You have a premium title accessible, not a free-to-play sport that’s stuffed with promoting. Even in a racing sport you could possibly usually count on that.

I’m inquisitive about how that performs versus all the opposite video games on the market. Consumers are at present crying so much about premium. They’re a bit fed up with promoting in video games. We’ve seen modifications within the promoting space from iOS. Consumers want to grasp that when you don’t like ads, when you don’t like in-app purchases or microtransactions, then possibly shopping for a sport for a one-time payment is another choice. That’s what we’ve been focusing on for fairly some time. It’s an academic factor. I’m fairly glad that THQ Nordic allow us to do it, as a result of that’s our mission. It’s about coming again to premium video games on cellular. It’s fairly distinctive.

GamesBeat: What’s the German trade like proper now?

Kassulke: We see lots of new fundings. The German trade is getting lots of help now from the German authorities. We didn’t obtain something for fairly a very long time. Now we’ve it. And now we have to show from the trade facet that the cash they invested into these corporations is being translated into good video games, and good video games are translating into good gross sales. That’s the subsequent step.

Again, it’s not a dash. If the politicians wish to see releases inside a yr, that’s not doable. That’s not how the video games trade works. The politicians must study from the video games trade. That’s why occasions like this are a very good factor. It takes time. We see that even the folks in command of the funding are speaking to us as publishers. Development is one subject. Finding the precise writer that may then take a product they cross-financed and distribute the title, that’s the subsequent step.

It’s simple to launch a sport on Steam, on iOS or Android. Making it a hit, and even simply getting any revenue out of it, it’s not that simple anymore. Ten years in the past it could be simpler. Nowadays it is advisable to launch on each platform. You must launch greater titles as a boxed product, maybe. There’s an enormous collector market on the market that buys each single Switch launch. We noticed that at the moment. I noticed a put up the place a man stated his 1400th launch he collected was Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader. Holy shit! Where do you place 1400 of these bins? If they’re crying for video games, crying out that they wish to purchase one thing, why not give it to them?

The German market was not that massive within the PC and console enterprise for a time. The Swedish guys had been the massive guys. There was an absence of publishers. Nowadays there’s no lack of publishers anymore. We must get greater builders inside Germany – 20 guys, 40 guys. Those are those creating the subsequent double-A video games, the triple-I video games as we name them, the highest indie video games. You don’t do this with two or 4 guys anymore. Yes, Coffee Stain did a type of video games not too long ago, the place they did it with 4 or 5 guys, however that’s actually uncommon.

If you’re searching, as a writer, for the subsequent indie sport, you wish to see that it’s a steady workforce of fellows which can be already working collectively, the place you’ll be able to make investments cash into them and construct up one thing collectively. You can go to the subsequent step and say, “We need to build up the graphics. We need better UI, better sound.” That’s the place we may help as a writer, as a result of we’ve every little thing in-house. QA is lacking at lots of smaller studios. They’re completely dwelling for making the title. Marketing isn’t there. You can’t do this as a small developer. That’s not what you’re an skilled in. They’re restricted of their assets. That’s why the writer is there. That’s what they perceive. That’s additionally why the government-funded establishments are educating the builders.

Endling is about extinction of animals.

I wouldn’t discuss an “indie apocalypse,” like lots of guys have talked about in the previous couple of years. But when you have a fantastic sport, when you have excessive scores, it’s nonetheless not an automated success. You must put it in entrance of everybody’s eyes these days. The press has modified so much, too, particularly over COVID right here in Europe. Who’s printing something anymore? Streamers confirmed up, fully new streamers. When I see what number of streamers and influencers we discuss to these days–it’s not a matter of simply hitting one man and it’s a hit. Now it is advisable to contact practically everybody.

You must plan your launch. Releasing a sport concurrently on all platforms, that’s what the primary events need. Otherwise they are saying, “Well, I don’t want to be the last one to get the release.” That’s a problem. Financing is an enormous situation there. When you try what a gap day prices, for indie builders, that’s unattainable. You want muscle tissues. If you don’t have the muscle tissues, it is advisable to have lots of brains. Otherwise, your sport is launched, but it surely’s one out of, no matter, 20 a day?

GamesBeat’s creed when protecting the sport trade is “where passion meets business.” What does this imply? We wish to inform you how the information issues to you — not simply as a decision-maker at a sport studio, but in addition as a fan of video games. Whether you learn our articles, hearken to our podcasts, or watch our movies, GamesBeat will make it easier to study in regards to the trade and revel in participating with it. Discover our Briefings.

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