Well known for its PC-centric releases such as the Dead Island and Sacred series, Koch Media made a surprising move into mobile game in late 2013.
That opportunity was provided by the acquisition of Hamburg developer Fishlabs.
As well as getting access to the Galaxy on Fire franchise, the deal provided Koch with a studio well-versed in high quality mobile game development.
It's something Koch been making full use of; notably in the release of an iOS version of its classic point-and-click adventure Secret Files Tunguska - a game that's already been released on PC, DS and Wii.
So we caught up with Koch Media's CEO Dr. Klemens Kundratitz to get his view on the mobile industry, the Fishlabs' deal eight months on, and his thinking behind releasing a $5 PC game on iOS which has a 2 GB file size.
Pocket Gamer: You've been working with Fishlabs and mobile games since December 2013, so what have been your initial impressions of the market?
Klemens Kundratitz: Actually, our efforts and endeavors on the mobile sector started way earlier than December 2013.
Before we acquired Fishlabs, we had already kept a watchful eye on the market for years and observed all of the latest developments with great care. Consequently, we knew about the enormous potential of smartphones and tablets as a gaming platform, but we also knew that it would not be wise to rush into that market headfirst.
Instead, we planned our entry into mobile gaming carefully and meticulously. And when the right opportunity opened up in front of us, we finally made the next step by adding a dedicated mobile studio [Fishlabs] to the Deep Silver roster.
And now, more than half a year later, I believe that we are very well suited to leave a strong and lasting footprint on mobile. We’ve got a talented team, strong IPs, excellent connections and, last but not least, the dedication to bring high-quality gaming experiences to smartphones and tablets.
So after several months of preparation, we are now about to harvest the first fruits of our labor.
Our multiplayer strategy game Galaxy on Fire - Alliances has just been featured by Apple on global scale and our best-selling point-and-click adventure Secret Files Tunguska will be hitting the App Store very soon. Exciting times, for sure. And we’ve hardly even started!
Why did you think the point-and-click gameplay of Secret Files Tunguska would work well in this market?
We believe that Secret Files Tunguska is a perfect fit for mobile.
On the one hand, the point-and-click adventure is an ageless genre that never seems to go out of fashion. There’ll always be people who love to experience an exciting story, interact with lively characters, visit exotic locations and test their brains with challenging puzzles.
And on the other, it also works well on mobile - especially tablets - because the handling is easily transferable to touch controls and the gameplay is both engrossing and snackable.
With its huge scope, high-end production values, clever game design and fascinating linkage to historic events, Secret Files Tunguska stands out as one of the most interesting and ambitious point-and-click adventures that hit the retail shelves in recent years.
And we’re sure that the mobile gamers will cherish these qualities just as much as the PC gamers.
What sort of changes have you had to make to the original PC version of the game for mobile?
Surprisingly, we didn’t have to make any sacrifices at all when we optimized the original PC game for the mobile platform.
The story, gameplay, graphics and sound design of Secret Files Tunguska have all been taken over par-for-par. The only things that have changed are the controls, which have been adapted to touch screens, the interface, which has been adjusted to mobile usage and the resolution, which has been aligned to 3.5-inch, 4-inch and 7.9-inch displays.
Have you had to compress the game assets in order to reduce the file size to a mobile-sized amount?
Despite the fact that space is almost always a rare commodity on mobile devices, we decided to go with a rather big file size of more than 2 gigabytes.
If we had not done so, we’d have to make strong sacrifices to the game, such as leaving out certain voice acting or deleting various cut scenes. In the end, however, we felt that such 'cuts' would go along with a significant loss of quality and that had been an absolute no-go for us.
So despite the delicacy of this matter, we ultimately decided pro 'gaming experience' and contra 'storage space'.
As well as the usual European languages, you're also shipping with Russian and Polish voice acting. Why did you choose those, but not Italian?
Since the game’s story deals with the hitherto unexplained Tunguska catastrophe, which took place in Siberia in 1903, we believe that the game will be particularly interesting for gamers from Eastern Europe. Besides a lot of other interesting locations all across the globe, you also get to ride the Trans-Siberian Railway and visit Moscow in Secret Files Tunguska.
As exciting as that is, it will be even more thrilling when you’ve been to these places before, or feel somehow connected to them. That’s why we’ve added full localizations into Russian and Polish to the app as well.
As for Italy, we do unfortunately not have respective voice acting, but at least we’ve got all in-game texts translated into Italian. Hence, our fans from Italy can enjoy the game in their native language.
You're going for a paid game business model. Did you consider making it free-to-play and how did you decide on the pricing?
We believe there are still a considerable amount of iPhone and iPad users who are happy to purchase a complete product for a fixed price.Klemens Kundratitz
In these days of complete and utter free-to-play dominance, it almost feels a little odd if you release a paid title on the App Store. Nevertheless, we are convinced that this business model still works for a premium title such as Secret Files Tunguska.
And, more generally speaking, we also believe that there are still a considerable amount of iPhone and iPad users out there, who are happy to purchase a complete product for a fixed price, instead of downloading an app for free and then paying for it 'with hindsight' via micro-transactions.
As a single-player offline game with rich storytelling and vast scope as well as a flawless history on PC and handhelds, Secret Files Tunguska is particularly well-suited for a traditional monetization approach.
Even prior to purchase, most people will know what to expect and hence they don’t really need a free 'trial' period to familiarize themselves with the game and check if it’s really for them. Instead, they pay for the game once and instantly get access to all features, chapters and other content.
It’s a fair and transparent trade-off which our fans will hopefully appreciate.
As for the price, €4.49/$4.99/£2.99 seems fitting to us - mostly because of the game’s extraordinary scope and depth.
After all, Secret Files Tunguska keeps you hooked for 10 hours or longer. And its one-time purchase is still cheaper than a 90 minutes movie, a vanity item in a MMORPG or a tall latte at your favorite cafe.
The game is being released for iOS not Android. What's the thinking behind this?
We’ve decided to release the title on iOS first, because the App Store has always been Deep Silver FISHLABS’ strongest market. We’ve got high hopes that the iPhone and especially iPad gamers will enjoy such a deep and enthralling mystery title a lot.
That does not mean, however, that we’re not considering an Android release as well. We’ll evaluate that option once the iOS version has been released.
Can you currently say anything about other games in the Secret Files series coming to mobile, or does that depend on the success of this game?
Right now, our focus is fully aimed at the release of Secret Files Tunguska on the App Store.
We’ve got high hopes for this title and if they get fulfilled, there’s a good chance that the other parts of the Secret Files saga, such as Secret Files Puritas Cordis and Secret Files Sam Peters, will find their way onto the iPhone and iPad as well.
Finally, can you give us any news about what's happening with the Galaxy on Fire?
Galaxy on Fire 2 is the title that brought Fishlabs to our attention in first place and we’ve always been very fond of the game’s remarkable scope, ambition and quality.
"A console-style gaming experience on smartphones and tablets" is an often-used phrase these days, but hardly ever does it ring as true as in the case of the Galaxy on Fire games.
Unfortunately, though, I cannot reveal any details about the future of the Galaxy on Fire saga at this point of time. I’m sorry, but you still have to be a little patient.