In your opinion, what are the strengths of Berlin as a games location? Why did you base your studio here?
Our first company that laid the foundation for Stratosphere Games, Fun2Play, was based in London. Most of my co-founders came, like me, from the AAA studio Splash Damage and were UK-based, so we thought this would be a good location. But new hires, office and private leases are much more expensive in London. Berlin on the other hand has not just lots of German and international talents but also reasonable salaries and offices. Finally, without a massive initial investment I wanted to use my network that I’ve built up over 22 years in Berlin, this made a lean and efficient start up feasible.
Before you worked for several games companies and founded Stratosphere Games in 2015, you used to be an active eSports player. Does your passion for eSports have an impact on your games at Stratosphere?
All our games have a strong multiplayer component and our next one will even be a full blown MMO based on a successful IP, but being a mobile company directly aiming for real eSports is not easy. Nevertheless, our last game Warzone: Clash of Generals was a full blown PvP experience. Based on the mobile sensation Clash Royale it was competitive, hardcore and for us a big step up in quality. We’ve learned a lot about how to build games as a service, holding tournaments, working with influencers and a dedicated fanbase. Still this is not full-blown eSports, an endeavour that’s still nearly impossible on mobile.
The focus of Stratosphere Games is on mobile games whereas smartphones and their resolution are constantly evolving. How have you experienced the expectations and demands from players over the years? In what way do they change and evolve over time as well?
At the end it comes down to the target audience you want to serve. With billions of mobile gamers worldwide you must decide whom you want to address. This has dramatic influence on the complexity of your game, your user acquisition and on the expectations you are facing. We’ve decided to target more hardcore players than say Candy Crush Saga. These gamers got served tons of high quality, high budget games and it’s not easy to compete here, but we want to make real games and not pure click-fests and Match 3 clones.
In order to guarantee AAA-quality games, you are working together with partners worldwide. What has the cooperation been like so far? Do you find it easier to cooperate with companies worldwide than with partners in Berlin for example?
I’m honest, there is not much in Germany we can work with. Most of the German publishers and developers are pretty small and especially on mobile we are far behind our neighbours. To be precise you can count the successful entities in this sector on one hand. Even in Poland you find bigger and more successful companies. In our niche, the more hardcore mobile games, the situation is even worse. With small budgets, not many funding opportunities and a lack of support, you must look to the US, UK or to Asia to find a right partner. I hope this will change with the German Games Funding.
Your games have quite a military and science fiction influence. What made these topics attractive to you? Will your next project deepen your focus there or evolve into a different direction?
Besides me being a big military and sci-fi nut, we’ve gathered some talented people over the years that are specialized in this field. As an example my lead artist loves spaceships, tanks and sci-fi in general, he basically lives in this field and added a lot to the Stratosphere Games look-and-feel. Making casual games for housewives now, would be not just a very hard, but also very stupid. You must find your USP and this is in our case mid- to hardcore mobile games. So stick to it and become a master, not a jack of all trades.
Thank you, Kristian!