2022-Handy Games’ Chris Kassulke on staying focused on making games, not selling NFTs


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I loved assembly with acquainted gaming leaders at Gamescom and Devcom in Germany. One among them was Chris Kassulke, who began the cellular sport pubisher HandyGames together 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 Change and free-to-play video games.

A few of these issues labored out nicely, and a few didn’t. However HandyGames discovered a option to final for many years and get downloads within the tons of of hundreds of thousands. So it was fascinating to listen to Kassulke say that he wasn’t all in favour of non-fungible tokens (NFTs) after learning it intently.

Kassulke hasn’t seen an excellent cause for sport builders to undertake NFTs, nor does he see the way it’s good for customers. As a substitute, he’s targeted on making indie video games that ship good gameplay, just like the lately launched Endling: Extinction is eternally, which is a shifting sport concerning the final of the foxes.

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

Right here’s an edited transcript of our interview.

chris kassulke
Chris Kassulke is CEO of Helpful Video games.

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

Chris Kassulke: As I discussed, it’s actually concerning the worth that we don’t see for the patron. I see it when attempting to finance one thing for the following product, stuff like that. However I’m unsure if a personality from Sport A, you possibly can transfer simply to Sport B, as a result of then I can’t inform the precise story. It is likely to be fascinating for weapons or one thing like that in particular video games. Additionally, once you’re shifting it from one platform to the opposite, it’s already very complicated, if it’s within the cellular house, from iOS to Google Play and a Samsung gadget. That’s fairly complicated. In case you do this from PlayStation to Xbox to Change after which to PC–or say you’re attempting to go from an Epic sport to 1 you’ve downloaded on Steam, that’s one other large matter. The issue is actual.

If somebody can present me one good instance the place it brings worth to the patron, and never simply by telling you possibly can 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 possibly can see, Endling tells a protracted story. The place 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 determine who created what and giving them some type of possession stake issues.

Kassulke: However should you can copy it once more and promote it once more? That’s my drawback that I’ve there. Everybody could make no matter good apes or no matter on the market. The place’s the distinctiveness?

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

Endling Screenshot 02
Unhealthy issues are endangering foxes in Endling.

Kassulke: I see a number of issues with the authorities all over the world. Not directly, if I purchase one thing for 5 {dollars} or no matter and promote it for $5,000, that’s revenue. Whichever authorities desires to take a number of that. You don’t have any resolution. Maybe you possibly can have a market or no matter, however good luck with that. You’re a developer. It’s best to maintain that on the finish of the day, and I want you luck. I see no resolution there. There are too many challenges. I like challenges. We do a number of prototyping. We do a number of new expertise. We did the primary cellular video games on the market, the primary free-to-play video games. However they went in a route we don’t wish to go.

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

Kassulke: I don’t like–everyone seems to be searching the metaverse, however I doubt there’s one for the time being. Sure, a number of investments are going to the metaverse. Lots of people are saying, “That is the metaverse.” No. We’ve got video games the place we are saying, “This may develop right into a metaverse if it has sufficient customers behind it.” However is that the place I wish to go, like Second Life? I haven’t seen something like that. After 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? Possibly. However will or not it’s one thing evolving the place one firm holds it? I doubt that. It’s harmful. Particular markets across the globe aren’t permitting Fb or permitting Google. If you wish to have an actual metaverse you might want to be in each nation all over the world. That’s not what I see for the time being. These are the challenges we have to overcome with that. Possibly there is likely to be a metaverse, however I don’t like what I see for the time being.

GamesBeat: Again to plain outdated video games, then.

Kassulke: Single-player video games. I’ve no drawback with that. We’ve got multiplayer video games. That’s not a difficulty. I believe everyone seems to be concentrating on NFTs. I’m fairly comfortable 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 for the time being. Let’s see the place it goes. However presently what we see is that the customers just like the premium mannequin once more, even within the cellular sport house, due to guys like Netflix and another guys who’re doing subscription companies once more. You had issues like Jamster and Jamba right here in Germany again within the day, the place they’d subscription companies occurring. Now everybody goes again to subscription companies, like Amazon Prime. We see Luna developing there. Everyone seems to be speaking about Netflix and their subsequent strikes. Let’s see the place that goes. However for that, free-to-play video games aren’t what they’re on the lookout for. They’re on the lookout for premium video games. They wish to inform tales. That’s the place we come from. We’ve got client items expertise with video games.

Whenever you play Endling–you possibly can take a look at a number of the media that’s on the market. You see gamers crying on the finish of the sport, and in the course of the sport as nicely. They’ve the most important feelings they’ve had in video games for a very long time. That’s not one thing a number of guys can do. It’s one thing we wish to do. Maybe you possibly can name it a creative type of sport. However when you have a narrative behind there, a sport that goes past the everyday capturing–it’s not an enormous sport. You’ll be able to end it in 4 or 5 hours. However it touches you. It’s like with sure films. You consider it. It doesn’t simply exit of your head. That’s what we produce.

We are able to’t do this simply with NFTs. NFTs are about enterprise. After I see what occurred within the Philippines, folks going bankrupt now as a result of they had been informed they might be wealthy if they might put money into video games–they spent actual cash to purchase their method right into a sport, as a result of they hoped it might get larger in a while. I’m unsure if we want that. It should damage the entire sport trade. Additionally, within the dialogue concerning the metaverse–a number of finish customers 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 may be there. We have to come again to belief, to the feelings of video games. That’s what we wish to do. Not many video games are growing single-player video games anymore these days. I’m not likely sad there.

handy 5th grader
Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader?

In the present day we launched, for instance, Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader? It’s not the most important IP ever, however once more, you’re enjoying one thing with your loved ones. You’ll be able to 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 once you’re across the Christmas tree, enjoying a sport collectively. Irrespective of if it’s on the Change or on a PC or on a TV. That’s what we wish to have. It’s an excellent feeling, once you play a sport like that. I’m not enthusiastic about shit I have to 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.

Everybody 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 wish to go for it,” do it. Get wealthy. Burn some enterprise capital. I don’t actually care. It’s a unique factor. However for me, don’t destroy the video games market with one thing like that. That’s not good.

TownsmenAKR DLC Screenshot 04
Townsmen is Helpful Video games’ prime sport.

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

Kassulke: Sure, nevertheless it’s working. They’ll produce their video games, what they suppose makes most sense for his or her studios. I like the liberty we have now there. I’m not afraid that somebody can also be growing an analogous sport. It’s the identical household. In case you undergo the halls, it’s fairly fascinating to see every thing that now belongs to the Embracer Group, however I’m not afraid of, no matter, Espresso Stain. We are able to be taught from one another. They’re doing stuff in another way. I’m not afraid in any respect.

GamesBeat: Are you guys type of making video games and not using 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. However I believe COVID modified lots. We see a number of studios, and never solely inside Helpful Video games, that we work with–they obtained hit closely. Working from dwelling wasn’t serving to. It affected everybody. Everybody thought of how distant work may be built-in in the long term. However we see in the entire video games trade that it’s not likely serving to.

It’s a crew effort to develop such an enormous sport. We’re again from three guys growing a sport. It’s about 20 guys, 50 guys, 100 guys and extra growing a sport. That must be an excellent expertise. That’s an enormous problem now, coming again collectively to supply a sport. That’s the following problem for everybody that’s growing larger video games for the time being. That’s why so many video games across the globe are delayed, I believe. The standard needs to be there, when every thing matches collectively once more.

GamesBeat: I talked to 1 firm that was getting funding from Netease. They mentioned they didn’t ask for milestones. They mentioned, “We belief you.”

Kassulke: I’m sorry. I’ve been within the trade for thus lengthy. There have to be some type of milestones. After all it may be very versatile. Issues 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 would possibly come alongside. A sport ought to be developed for all of the platforms on the market, whether or not it’s PC, PlayStation, Xbox, Change, Stadia, Luna, even cellular. Even when it’s premium. However 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 potential on a cellular gadget now.

If you wish to check out the following issues, that’s the place you wish to have a sport. The IP is getting stronger. With each new platform you attain new customers. Plus, you’re maybe reaching somebody who performed on PS4 prior to now, and now they wish to play on cellular as a result of they’re on the run. They’ve modified their conduct. That’s an enormous matter. You’ll want to launch a sport on each single platform on the market, irrespective of if it’s–take Stadia for instance. I believe that’s the following 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.

handy wreckfest
Wreckfest is Helpful Video games’ cellular racing title.

In case you’d informed 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’ve Wreckfest. We’re speaking a few six gigabyte sport on a cellular gadget, and it performs easily. That’s implausible. It’s simply 20 years. We’re speaking about evolution there. If we take a look at the place the gadgets are going, we are able to play on our TVs with none consoles. I’d by no means have thought of that.

GamesBeat: How many individuals do you’ve now?

Kassulke: We’ve got greater than 100 inside Helpful Video games. We’ve got a studio near Cologne. They developed Fifth Grader. I’m going there tonight for the discharge get together. We additionally work with a number of exterior builders, irrespective of if they arrive from Spain, Denmark, or Sweden. We don’t care. It simply has to suit. Additionally they want to love the premium mannequin. If it’s free-to-play, that’s an excellent factor. Inside the Embracer Group we have now Easybrain or CrazyLabs. We are able to at all times level you in the fitting route should you’re a developer.

In case 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 frequent anymore. Now, thanks to a different Embracer buyout with the fellows from Restricted Run, it’s no drawback. The core avid gamers that also wish to have a field, I believe a number of guys are nonetheless lacking on the market. If somebody desires to purchase it on-line, they will nonetheless do it. Provide your sport to as many individuals as potential. In case you take a look at a sport like Endling, I believe we have now 24 completely different languages supported, one thing like that. You’ll want to supply what you must as many individuals as potential on the market.

GamesBeat: What’s probably the most profitable Helpful Video games launch to this point?

Kassulke: It actually relies upon. Townsmen continues to be certainly one of our greatest 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 Rooster Police. There’s some fairly darkish humor there. Possibly just a little bit too darkish for some People. However that’s precisely what customers need. They need one thing new. They wish to return and be reminded of the outdated days the place you can 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. Possibly it was unhealthy timing, as a result of Stray was launched on the identical day, and Stray sucked up every thing. However that’s fantastic. This sport is a long-term vendor. It’s doing nicely. It’s 96 % on Steam. Identical with Rooster Police at 93 %. 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’ll want to give attention to the long term with each single sport, and likewise 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. Construct up any sport and put NFTs in it. A 12 months or two in the past that was the massive matter. Everybody requested once we had been doing one thing with NFTs and blockchain. Not for the time being. Give us that. Possibly we see one thing that is smart. We see a number of builders and their pitches. No one actually desires to develop that.

handy airhead
Helpful Video games’ Airhead

GamesBeat: Do you suppose that’s dying out for the time being?

Kassulke: Some persons are utilizing their brains now. Let’s put it that method. They’re enthusiastic about what they will develop. The place’s the revenue for the top client? It’s not about coloring my gun. That’s been carried out in Counter-Strike with out NFTs. You should buy no matter and promote it. That’s the following step. Present the patron the worth of NFTs. That’s the extra reasonable method, going step-by-step. Not simply attempting to hunt for giant cash now. If I lose my password every thing is gone. I might need invested some huge cash.

I’ve invested a number of time in video games. What number of hours do I’ve in Counter-Strike? Holy shit. I don’t wish to inform my spouse. However it’s about that. There are many video games on the market the place you make investments a number of time and fervour, irrespective of if it’s Counter-Strike, if it’s Name of Obligation, if it’s PUBG, no matter. Sure, you make investments time. However once you’re investing cash–a number of avid gamers invested some huge cash in World of Warcraft as nicely.

GamesBeat: What number of hours can you set into one thing like Wreckfest?

Kassulke: Limitless. The cellular sport is precisely the identical model which you could play on the PlayStation. You’ll be able to tune in every thing that you’ve got. You have got all of the programs in there. The one factor we didn’t implement was from the Kickstarter backers again within the day, the precise automobiles they promised these folks, as a result of we couldn’t management that. However we’re going the premium method once more. Shoppers should buy the sport, similar to on Change and stuff like that. You have got a premium title obtainable, not a free-to-play sport that’s stuffed with promoting. Even in a racing sport you can usually anticipate that.

I’m interested in how that performs versus all the opposite video games on the market. Shoppers are presently crying lots about premium. They’re a bit fed up with promoting in video games. We’ve seen adjustments within the promoting house from iOS. Shoppers want to grasp that should you don’t like commercials, should you don’t like in-app purchases or microtransactions, then perhaps shopping for a sport for a one-time price is an alternative choice. That’s what we’ve been focusing on for fairly some time. It’s an academic factor. I’m fairly comfortable 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 a number of new fundings. The German trade is getting a number of help now from the German authorities. We didn’t obtain something for fairly a very long time. Now we have now it. And now we have to show from the trade facet that the cash they invested into these firms is being translated into good video games, and good video games are translating into good gross sales. That’s the following step.

Once more, it’s not a dash. If the politicians wish to see releases inside a 12 months, that’s not potential. That’s not how the video games trade works. The politicians have to be taught from the video games trade. That’s why occasions like this are an excellent factor. It takes time. We see that even the folks accountable for the funding are speaking to us as publishers. Improvement is one matter. Discovering the fitting writer that may then take a product they cross-financed and distribute the title, that’s the following step.

It’s straightforward 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 straightforward anymore. Ten years in the past it could be simpler. These days you might want to launch on each platform. You’ll want to launch larger titles as a boxed product, maybe. There’s an enormous collector market on the market that buys each single Change launch. We noticed that immediately. I noticed a publish the place a man mentioned his 1400th launch he collected was Are You Smarter Than a Fifth Grader. Holy shit! The place do you set 1400 of these bins? In the event that 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 large within the PC and console enterprise for a time. The Swedish guys had been the massive guys. There was a scarcity of publishers. These days there’s no lack of publishers anymore. We have to get larger builders inside Germany – 20 guys, 40 guys. These are those growing the following 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. Sure, Espresso Stain did a kind of video games lately, the place they did it with 4 or 5 guys, however that’s actually uncommon.

In case you’re searching, as a writer, for the following indie sport, you wish to see that it’s a secure crew of fellows which might be already working collectively, the place you possibly can make investments cash into them and construct up one thing collectively. You’ll be able to go to the following step and say, “We have to construct up the graphics. We’d like higher UI, higher sound.” That’s the place we can assist as a writer, as a result of we have now every thing in-house. QA is lacking at a number of smaller studios. They’re completely residing for making the title. Advertising isn’t there. You’ll be able to’t do this as a small developer. That’s not what you’re an professional in. They’re restricted of their sources. 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 Screenshot 04
Endling is about extinction of animals.

I wouldn’t discuss an “indie apocalypse,” like a number of guys have talked about in the previous few years. However when you have an incredible sport, when you have excessive rankings, it’s nonetheless not an computerized success. You’ll want to put it in entrance of everybody’s eyes these days. The press has modified lots, too, particularly over COVID right here in Europe. Who’s printing something anymore? Streamers confirmed up, utterly new streamers. After I see what number of streamers and influencers we speak to these days–it’s not a matter of simply hitting one man and it’s a hit. Now you might want to contact almost everybody.

You’ll want to plan your launch. Releasing a sport concurrently on all platforms, that’s what the primary events need. In any other case they are saying, “Properly, I don’t wish to be the final one to get the discharge.” That’s a problem. Financing is an enormous subject there. Whenever you take a look at what a gap day prices, for indie builders, that’s unattainable. You want muscle tissues. In case you don’t have the muscle tissues, you might want to have a number of brains. In any other case, your sport is launched, nevertheless it’s one out of, no matter, 20 a day?

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