Interview

10 years of Pocket Gamer: Christopher Kassulke on being one of the first to put GPS into mobile games

10 years of Pocket Gamer: Christopher Kassulke on being one of the first to put GPS into mobile games

As Pocket Gamer celebrates its tenth birthday this month, we're sharing the memories of those who have been in the mobile games industry for as long as we have.

That's back when the iPhone was but a futuristic fantasy, and the closest you could get to social mobile gaming was via WAP.

This time, we're talking to Christopher Kassulke, owner and CEO of HandyGames, a developer that has been around since before mobile gaming was even a thing.

PocketGamer.biz: What were you doing in mobile/games 10 years ago?

Christopher Kassulke: A decade ago I'd already had HandyGames for over 6 years. We developed state-of-the-art mobile games on feature phones, WAP, DoJa and i-mode.

We also did the first UMTS and even a GPS-based game. HandyGames were live with a huge portfolio at over 200 telcos worldwide.

Fantastic times in mobile. The golden Age of JavaME/J2ME games, I would say.

What was the hot mobile technology/hardware back then?

We had a lot of great new possibilities compared to 2000, when we officially started the company.

The black and white handsets were leaving the market, and new, more powerful, and colorful devices were produced. The OEMs and telcos boosted the limit to 200KB per game and we were happy about it. Unbelievably small nowadays.

The bee's knees in 2004

We were one of the first devs globally developing games including GPS or UMTS technology for better games, and we changed the world with titles for the new N-Gage Platform.

Nokia helped the entire mobile games ecosystem to come alive in those days.

Nokia helped the entire mobile games ecosystem to come alive in those days. The N-Gage device itself was not a big seller, but it showed the consumer the way that gaming is possible on those devices. Thanks Nokia for sharing the vision of gaming on the mobile devices!

We did so much cool stuff those days in 2006. We even started our first experiment with free and ad-funded games! Fantastic times for pioneers!

Can you remember any games you were playing?

I played a lot of games like Townsmen 2, a ground breaking building-up strategy game. We won so many awards with the title, and built one of the most powerful brands of the genre on mobile!

But I also played other games from Macrospace and Mr.Goodliving. Only very few good devs were around those days, and most of them are gone or sold to others later on.

The mobile games family was much smaller those days ;)

Did you always think mobile games could/would become the widest global gaming sector?

We already believed in it in 1999 when we started with mobile games.

It was hard to convince others that mobile games would be such a huge market, and it took a little bit longer than expected. You should have seen our first business plan from 1999 on mobile games.

But I am happy that we were right and mobile games are now such a crazy huge market with companies worth billions!

Kassulke and friend - rocking out!

Our games are played by millions and millions of players around the world. It is just fantastic what we all as an industry have achieved! Happy to see us still rocking out there!

What do you think has been the most significant event in mobile gaming during the past 10 years?

I think there were several events that had a huge influence on the market that made it so big.

  1. The arrival of iOS/iPhone
  2. The arrival of Android
  3. The change to free and free-to-play games
  4. The open market as before in 2006 we had operators and their walled gardens
  5. Easy payment models with a near to "one click" buying experience
  6. The revenue share developers are getting for their products since Google Play and iTunes are around. Operators were greedy and took way too much money from developers

And many more points.

What have been your favourite mobile games over the past 10 years?

Our Townsmen brand as it evolved from Townsmen 1, developed in 2002, to Townsmen in 2016!

The latest version of the much-loved Townsmen franchise

Establishing and evolving a brand for such a long period is a great effort from our team, and we are not at the end yet with the game.

Besides that, Pocket Gamer loved the game since the beginning.

Looking to the future, what are you working on now?

We have 7 different teams working on outstanding products for mobile, PC, and consoles. We are putting a lot of effort into VR games at the moment.

Over the next two years, we will see a huge consolidation in the market of the top publishers and developers.

We love what you can do on that new playing field! It feels like mobile games in 2006. It’s a new beginning and a new playground!

More generally, what games are you looking forward to?

I hate all those clones out there. I am looking forward to fresh, new ideas that make use of the new features in smartphones and smartwatches. No matter if it's combining user data, wearable data, etc.

I miss the "wow" effect the last couple of years! I want more!

How do you think the mobile games industry will change over the next 10 years?

Over the next two years, we will see a huge consolidation in the market of the top publishers and developers! A lot of midsize developers will find profitable niches.

We will soon just see games, with a cross platform release on iOS, Android, Windows, Steam, Xbox, PS4, etc. There will be soon no more pure mobile, console or PC developers.

Finally, do you have a favourite Pocket Gamer memory you'd like to share?

Vodka connecting people.

Former Editor

Ric was formerly the Editor of Pocket Gamer and the Deputy Editor of PocketGamer.biz. He still pops up time to time to review games.

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