Today on Industry Interviews, The Switch Effect is joined by Philipp Döschl, co-founder of FDG Entertainment. With Oceanhorn: Monster of Uncharted Seas already released and your announcements of the upcoming Monster Boy and the Cursed Kingdom and Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King, we thought it would be a great opportunity for our readers to learn more about these games as well as your company.
Can you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got into gaming?
I’m Philipp, almost 36 years old, co-founded FDG Entertainment at the age of 19 and started playing video games a bit more than 30 years ago. It must have been some Atari I don’t really remember anymore. Gaming got serious for me when I got my first NES in ’86. Since then I’ve been continuously gaming on all platforms and knew I want to create games one day.
For those who may not be aware, can you share some background on FDG Entertainment and the vision you have for the company?
We started back in 2001 with black and white J2ME games for mobile phones. Since we were exclusively self-funded, it took a while until we grew to a point to be able to afford a studio and employees. We almost had to close around 2007 when the whole J2ME market went down the road; we had to lay off one third of our staff back then. Luckily iOS and the App Store came up by the end of 2007. We went all in and made Bobby Carrot for iPhone (our most popular game at that time) and it paid off. From then on we focused on smartphones and grew more than ever. In the end of 2016, we accomplished our childhood dream by releasing our first console title with Oceanhorn. And then there’s Monster Boy, which is just like the biggest dream ever coming true. This is a VERY short summary of our company history.
You’ve released a wide range of genres on mobile and console platforms. Are there specific criteria you look for when deciding which developers to work with or games to bring to market?
The most important criteria is games we like to play, we fall in love with. We’re no fans of this hardcore F2P, neither one tap games. Unlike other publishers, we focus on a handful of games. We’re just a small team and it’s very important for us to dedicate our whole attention to the games we create with very talented and skilled developers. This strategy has paid off ever since we started the company.
Can you share some background as to the process that goes into that initial thought of which game/developer to go for all the way to that release date when customers are making those purchases on your site?
People fill books with this topic. There’s no defined process on our side as to find ideas. It happens either when talking about games in general, playing other games, browsing the internet, etc. Inspiration can be found everywhere and anywhere. Or the most classic way: somebody has an idea when taking a shower. Also, a lot of studios and devs approach us as they want their game to be published by us, which is definitely an option as well.
Let’s say we start with one of our ideas, we first look for the right team to develop that game. The next step is to build a prototype to know if the idea is really as much fun as we think. Early prototyping and an honest judgement on the prototype is one of the most important things in game development, as it allows you to see if the game you have in mind is actually fun. Building a prototype is way cheaper than building a full game. So it allows to save you money and time. We sometimes also build prototypes internally.
Once the prototype is approved, the game moves into development stage. This is probably the most time consuming part. It takes countless hours of brainstorming, writing, talking, discussing and thinking to put together a game. After the actual development, it’s time to QA the game and get rid of the bugs. Also PR & marketing activities are very important. Ideally they should start a long time before the release of the game.
People want to be part of something bigger and have the feeling they can add something. This is one of the reason we started the dev blog for Monster Boy. We wanted to share the progress with the world out there and also know what people are thinking. There’s some valuable feedback there, we listen to and talk with them. This is probably one of the best things nowadays in game development. There’s a certain sense of proximity between devs and players which wasn’t there until a decade ago or so.
Of all the releases you’ve put out, which do you consider was your biggest personal win?
Phew, now that’s a difficult question. To be honest, almost every game we released was a big win at its time. Our very first iOS game, Bobby Carrot, was very important; same as our second one, Parachute Panic. Subsequent releases such as Cover Orange, Across Age, Banana Kong, Red Ball 4 and Oceanhorn were all important for us, as each game allowed us to grow and we learned a lot with every single release.
Now we’re nominated as best Publisher at the German Developer Awards for the second year in a row. It’s the biggest German prize. So besides all the kind words and great feedback we get from people out there playing our games, this is another kind of “personal win” as it shows as that we’re doing a good job.
We at The Switch Effect are obviously huge fans of Nintendo’s newest system. Can you share some insight into Blossom Tales: The Sleeping King and why you decided to make this title a Nintendo Switch console exclusive?
Console releases are totally different compared to mobile and development is way more extensive. Just one example is the many test cases your game has to pass in order to reach the technical quality level expected by the platform holders; which is a good thing. The “downside” is that you have to take many things into account and plan accordingly. Right now, with Monster Boy approaching the really hot phase, we decided to bring it only to Switch. As uncool as it sounds, in the end many decisions in running a gaming company, even for the smallest ones, are a cost-benefit calculation. And also, Nintendo’s new console is probably the best fit for Blossom Tales.
As we move into 2018, can you share some secrets as to what games we may see next year on the Switch?
It wouldn’t be a secret anymore if I’d tell you now, would it? Seriously, we’re working on a few ideas and prototypes right now. It’s still too early to make any announcements, but be assured we’ll release a couple of cool games for Switch, consoles and mobile. And then there’s Monster Boy of course, which will definitely release in 2018. It will be an exciting year for us!
Thank you again so much for taking the time to answer our questions and allow our readers and followers to learn more about FDG Entertainment. We look forward to your future releases!
Thanks a lot for the interview and to everybody playing our games and supporting us. We look forward to 2018!