Wondering how a company navigates the ever-changing gaming industry? Then welcome to the latest Industry Interviews where we had the pleasure to speak with Christopher Kassulke, CEO from HandyGames, a German publisher/developer game studio that was founded in 2000. HandyGames entered the industry with mobile gaming on Siemens Mobile phones and over the nearly two decades since, have embraced all the advances that gaming has to offer. With their first Nintendo Switch eShop release now available, Aces of the Luftwaffe, we thought this would be the perfect opportunity for gamers to learn more about this innovative company!
Read our review of Aces of the Luftwaffe here.
Christopher, thank you for giving us this interview. Before we get into it, could you tell us a little bit about yourself and how you got involved with the gaming industry?
After several years as freelancer for the international Games-Industry doing Add-ons, Cheat-software, Game- and Level-design, Editorial stuff my brother and I wanted to start our own Game Developer Studio. We funded HandyGames in the middle of the dot com crash and I can tell you it worked out quite well. We are living our dream and we developed so many games on so many platforms in our long history in the game industry.
What was your first console/game you owned?
A Commodore C16 and after that close to everything from old Ataris, to PCs, GB, SNES, Megadrive, etc. I think it would be easier to say which I didn’t own. Guess I was and am a freak!
Growing up, what inspired you to pursue a career in the gaming industry?
I knew I want to go into the gaming industry since I was a small kid and worked on that since I was seven. I enjoyed all kind of games during my “awesome” school career – guess my parents went mad with me daily. As my priority was not school – I was damn good in games. I did a lot of modding (level design), wrote articles or walkthroughs, tips, etc. Those days were totally crazy and different not like today when everyone can produce games and upload them to Steam, iOS, Android, or be a “influencer” or editor etc. I grew up without internet and print and was the only way to check out new games. You also went to your local game store to buy a box with a real book in it and some disks. Crazy how fast things have changed.
Personally, what new games (besides yours of course, haha) are you most looking forward to playing?
I love all kind of games. On the Switch I like co-op games that I can play together with my four kids. Shame is they are getting better and better and my reflexes are no longer as good I was at their age, but experience still wins.
Since 2000, HandyGames has really welcomed every form of gaming advanced. From mobile phone, to the N-Gage, to Sony Xperia Play, and now to the Switch, your games are everywhere! Can you share some insight into how the studio was formed?
The Company is still privately held by the founders. My brother and I came up with the idea of developing own games, but the PC market crashed around that time period. Console was not that easy to develop for as a new studio so we decided to go to a market no one ever developed for. So we established the first game studio for mobile phones and everyone else thought we were crazy. Honestly, since then nothing has changed; we try out new platforms regular. Everyone from the industry told us we are stupid to even develop for the Switch and we are happy to develop games for it. Aces of the Luftwaffe Squadron was the first Switch release and the game shows that it’s not a simple port. It is a milestone for HandyGames as it is the first “Console First” game. Normally we released our games on “Mobile First”, but this title just fit best on the Switch as you can see! I can tell you this is a big step for us.
Was the company’s focus always to be adaptable and ready for the next new thing?
Those who do not go with the time have it pass them by. On average, every 180 days something is changing in the game industry. New platforms show up, new genres are coming or even business models are changing. If you are that old you know that you need to adapt all the time; of course, yes, it’s in our Company DNA to be one of the first on new cool platforms. It’s not always easy, but it is also very interesting and challenging! One important point is we do not leave the “old” markets. We still deliver games to the markets we believe in. So we do not abandon mobile games for sure!
A little unknown fact that our readers might not be aware of is that your studio was one of the first to bring VR games to the Oculus Rift, HTC Vive, and Samsung Gear VR. This really speaks to the foundation of what makes HandyGames an innovator. What challenges, concerns, and opportunities come with developing games for different consoles/formats?
Every platform is different and you need to develop especially for this hardware new product. VR is very interesting, but you also need to give every platform enough time to establish. The Switch grew extremely well and very fast, but VR grows slower. It is still very promising and when you see how Townsmen VR looks you see that games on it are very unique and cool. We will soon release Townsmen VR in Early Access! Check out an early pre-alpha here:
Is that cool or what?!?
Let’s “switch” gears a bit. We at The Switch Effect are obviously huge fans of Nintendo’s newest console, the Nintendo Switch. What are your thoughts on the system?
The Switch is awesome! When Nintendo showed us the device we were really keen on the system and we checked out which titles would fit on it best! First, we saw also the potential of co-op Multiplayer games and that’s why we support it with our upcoming title. Aces of the Luftwaffe Squadron was such a perfect fit that we even said we will go Nintendo Switch first! That’s a big commitment already as it is a new platform and Microsoft and Sony are not really happy about such moves I can tell you. The game was just a perfect fit for us and I hope every Shoot’em Up fan see it the same way.
I see the Switch as a perfect hybrid of home console and mobile device and it fit for us and our titles. So be sure that we will be bringing over a lot of cool games for different genres and players. We will not forget the female players as well!
Aces of the Luftwaffe first debuted in the Summer of 2008 for feature phones to much success! Over the years, the title received the award for the best game in the “Innovation” category at the 2014 German Games Developer Awards and has been ported to Steam, PS4, and now the Switch. For those who have yet to try Aces of the Luftwaffe, can you briefly describe the game and why this needs to be in everyone’s game library?
Check out the video here:
We relaunched it as it was such a huge success also on Smartphones on iOS and Android later on in 2013. The name and the genre stayed the same, but when you compare now the title we released in 2008 to Aces of the Luftwaffe today, they are totally different games. The game in the past was only a MB file size!
So nearly 10 years later we release the Switch title. Still the genre, topic and the name is similar, but everything else is different. Aces of the Luftwaffe Squadron is not a port from mobile; its exclusively developed for the Switch! Multiplayer co-op is a dream on mobile, but on the Switch it’s a must in my opinion.
Are you able to tease the next release(s) Switch owners can look forward to by HandyGames?
We recently did a press release where we announced that we plan to deliver up to 11 games for the Switch. The next title will be Townsmen which we already showed to our fans in a short preview video here:
Townsmen is a very old brand from us and 15yrs after the release of the first version on feature phones for 64kb game files. It’s crazy how time flies by and how this game evolved over time. What Settlers or Anno is for the PC, the Townsmen brand is for the mobile generation. When I see how the game is played on the Switch it feels like it finally arrived on the best platform possible. I don’t see many building up strategy games for the Switch so I guess we will make a lot of players really happy. We also announced Clouds&Sheep 2 for the Switch and some other awesome game like our Hex Strategy games like 1943 Deadly Desert. Stay tuned and check out our social media or YouTube portal for more information!
Finally, is there anything else you’d like to share?
Support game developers like us so that they will bring more cool games to the new Switch platform. Aces of the Luftwaffe Squadron is really a good start to help us! Innovative titles are coming from the small and mid-size developers so give them a chance! We hear a lot of strange comments in social media because we developed mobile games we cannot develop for the Switch. I can guarantee you our games are about creating fun! If not, contact me directly!
Thank you so much for taking the time to speak with The Switch Effect and our readers. Aces of the Luftwaffe is now available on the Nintendo eShop for purchase.