Interview

PGC Hong Kong: Boomzap creative director Chris Natsuume on hyper-casual concerns and player burnout

PGC Hong Kong: Boomzap creative director Chris Natsuume on hyper-casual concerns and player burnout

Pocket Gamer Connects Hong Kong 2019 will take place on July 17th to 18th. To give you a taste of what to expect, we'll regularly be publishing interviews with the speakers at the show.

For more details on PGC Hong Kong and to book a ticket, head to the website here.

Today we're speaking to Boomzap creative director Chris Natsuume.

Natsuume has been making games since 1994, including titles on PC, console, and mobile. He is currently the creative director and co-founder of Boomzap Entertainment, one of the top independent casual games development studios in the world.

He holds a BA from the University of Texas at Austin and an MBA at the University of Washington, Seattle.

PocketGamer.biz: Could you tell us a bit about the company?

Chris Natsuume: Boomzap Entertainment is a casual games developer registered in Singapore with a virtual office environment. It was formed in 2005 and currently has around 30 employees all over the world.

Boomzap has released over 50 games to date that are ported on various platforms. Boomzap has developed for Microsoft Windows, Mac OS X, Nintendo DS, Wii, iOS, and Android.

To be very honest, it has been a somewhat sad journey for me to watch how computer games have progressed.
Chris Natsuume

Its games are available on games portals such as Big Fish Games, Yahoo!, WildTangent, GameHouse, Google Play, Amazon, iTunes, Steam and others.

What does your role entail?

I am the co-founder and creative director. We are a small company so I am involved in various aspects including business development, creative direction, and leading/training the designers, QA, and marketing teams.

Why did you want to work in the games industry?

I got into the games industry immediately after college. I’m a huge Dungeons and Dragons player. I just love the idea of people gathering together to make new worlds and letting the creativity and imagination run wild.

Back in the early days of computer games, there were a lot more of imagination as well as willingness for players to spend time exploring and not necessarily knowing everything from the very beginning.

To be very honest, it has been a somewhat sad journey for me to watch how computer games have progressed. Computer games used to be a way for us to really explore our imaginations but now it seems like it’s just a way to try to steal time from people in exchange for a couple of pennies worth of ad revenue.

Actually, I spent a lot of time recently thinking about this question because I really wonder if the real reason that I got into games still exists in this industry.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into it?

Learn how to program. Programmers serve as a place where the rubber meets the road in games development. If you want to be directly responsible for realising your dreams, then you have to know how to code so that you can be in some sort of equal level with programmers about how to achieve what you want.

The biggest issue with games development is not usually coming up with unique ideas for your game, but the technical challenges involved in making it happen. The better you understand the technology and how everything works, the closer you can get to your dreams.

What are your thoughts on the industry in the last 12 months?

I'm a little bit concerned about the rise of hyper-casual games. But I think a lot of what's happening right now in the industry is very short-sighted. I think we're willing to burn out users and try to keep them for money for what are, in many cases, really poor gameplay experiences.

People focus a lot on things like retention and monetisation, but you don't hear people talk about fun very much anymore.
Chris Natsuume

People focus a lot on things like retention and monetisation, but you don't hear people talk about fun very much anymore. At some point, this is no longer a tenable period where, if we fail to provide quality content, sooner or later our audience will move on to some other form of entertainment.

We're currently in a golden age of movies, television and music. All these forms of entertainment are producing some of the highest quality content in history, particularly television. I'm not sure we can say the same about games.

What major trends do you predict in the next 12 months?

I think we're going to see a continued rise in premium and PC games. People are looking for more meaningful experiences and I don't believe mobile is offering that right now.

Also, the rise of real competitors to Steam is creating an environment where I hope they will start acting as real publishers again and be able to support developers better. In that environment, we may see PC games have a real revival.

How has the games industry changed since you first started?

I made my first game in 1992. Back then, everybody in the games industry was in the games industry because they love games. Everyone that came from a gaming background learned how to do business, how to do marketing and they did because it was necessary.

Now, it’s the opposite. You meet so many people who come from a business or marketing background and they think that there’s a tonne of money to be made being in games.

Sure, they know the business, they know the market, but they don’t know anything about games. This has radically changed the kinds of games being made now because they are no longer being made because of some great, fun idea. They are being made because someone wants to make money out of them. Obviously, I don’t consider this a particularly positive development. 

Which part of the Connects event are you most looking forward to and why?

Hong Kong. Right now, it is by far the most exciting place in the world for games development. Hong Kong has always been a city where East meets West.

It's a wonderful location and a wonderful time for people to be talking about running between the East and West of games development.

Pocket Gamer Connects Hong Kong takes place on July 17th and 18th. Head to the website for further details.


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