Since May 2021, Guillaume Verlinden has been Managing Director of Kolibri Games, the fast-growing mobile games studio from Berlin that joined the Ubisoft family in 2020. With us, he talks about Kolibri’s most successful game Idle Miner Tycoon, Berlin’s professional landscape and the importance of sustainability and diversity.
You have been the new Managing Director of Kolibri for over half a year now. What is your interim conclusion? Have you already been able to reach milestones and where do you see unused potential?
It’s certainly been an exciting first nine months. Both in terms of attaining a more complete understanding of various processes and also building working relationships with the entire team. In the short time I’ve been with the company we’ve already been able to create and begin the implementation of a long-term strategic vision, which had been a key priority. I feel our biggest asset is the people who work here. It’s something that we try to reflect in our new vision statement as well. It’s not a coincidence that the company has been so successful in the past, and I’m confident that with the new additions we’ve made over the last year we’ve set the foundations for long-term success.
Kolibri is aspiring to be the most player-oriented company in the world. What measures does the company take to achieve this goal and what is your role as Managing Director in fulfilling it? What can a game developer learn by talking to the players?
Our long-term vision is to continue creating games that players will enjoy for many years. An important part of this is player feedback and effectively taking into account both direct feedback in the form of reviews, but also monitoring engagement rates, and assessing player response to new features, and in-game events.
We’ve done a lot of work in improving our Liveops offering and continue to focus on providing our players with an exciting live experience. Ultimately, sustaining and growing a game through liveops means that the player experience will be front and center.
Putting the player at the core of our decisions also required fundamental changes to our structure: Customer Teams are now better integrated to the game teams, the Customer Team Manager is also part of the Company Leadership round in order to relay player feedback and bring up matters that are important to the community.
We have also created new functions in the Marketing team to understand better players’ expectations and design better games for them. Being in touch with our players allow game developers to attain a more clear understanding of our community’s needs and feelings as our games continue to evolve. Ultimately, this will increase the chances of success of our next titles.
Idle Miner Tycoon is your most successful game out there, running live for five years with over 160 updates and 100 million downloads. How do you keep the players engaged over such a long period of time? Aren’t you afraid of running out of ideas?
It’s important to always think about what will come next and how we can be the bearers of change for the idle genre. Idle Miner is unique amongst games in its genre due to its longevity, but that isn’t a coincidence. We’ve been able to add new and appealing mechanics to the gameplay, exciting event mines, and also focused on our game characters, notably super managers, where we’ve incorporated a hero collector system into the game which was well-received by our players. We like to push the boundaries of what an idle game can be. As for the last part of the question, with the right people overseeing the game’s growth and development, the ideas will always keep coming.
For the first time in Idle Miner Tycoon’s history, we have decided to strengthen the technical foundations of the game, this will allow a much better player experience while allowing the development of very innovative features for our community.
In a podcast published in 2021, you talked about the importance but also the difficulty of hiring new talents. What is your impression of Berlin’s output of well-educated and specialized professionals? Can Berlin’s education landscape keep up with the rest of the world?
Berlin is a city with some of Germany’s top educational institutions, and that alone makes it a competitive talent market, especially for young professionals looking to begin their careers in tech. Another important factor to consider is that the city, being a hub for investment, and producing so many renowned startups, naturally attracts top talent from both the rest of Germany and Europe as well. This creates a talent pool that is highly skilled and competitive.
It’s important to note that as a company that’s part of the city’s tech ecosystem, we also see it as our job to empower individuals who seek to be part of it. We’ve contributed to initiatives like School4Games that seek to expand access to skills necessary to start a career in gaming and believe it’s also our part to shape the makeup of the local talent landscape by being an active part of its development. For example, we have sponsored several game jams, including our own Kolibri Game Jam which seeks to engage the local community and we will be holding a coding workshop for children looking to develop their coding skills in order to chart a path for a career in tech.
Partnering up with Planetly, Kolibri strives to become carbon-neutral by the end of 2021. How successful have you been in reducing your CO2-footprint? What measures have been taken and what do you plan for the future in regard to sustainability?
This has been one of the most exciting initiatives and also rewarding experiences of the past months. We made a concerted effort to look into our company’s operations and analyze our total carbon footprint, along with our overall output of the past years.
Of course, something like this takes time to fully assess, but we managed to compile all the necessary data and ultimately made climate contributions to projects that equaled our CO2 output for the past two years. These included forest protection projects, along with one which provided sustainable cooking tools to rural communities in the developing world. We didn’t just want to offset though, it was important to take steps to limit our carbon footprint, and in our new office we’ve chosen a green energy provider to power the space, and are continuing to assess further reduction measures for the coming year.
Kolibri signed the “Charta der Vielfalt”, committing itself to diverse hiring practices as well as to a working environment that is based on respect and appreciation. In what ways does a company and its team benefit from diversity?
In my experience, I’ve seen teams comprised of individuals with different backgrounds consistently excel, and create new ideas in ways that wouldn’t be possible if that were not the case. Signing the charter was a way for us to reiterate our commitment to fostering an open and inclusive workplace, but we realize that this is an ongoing endeavor for us. We want to continue to grow more diverse because we see it as a strength and something that will enable us to achieve our goals.