Wooga's midcore spin-off studio Black Anvil Games had a bright future ahead, which made it something of a shock when it was suddenly shut down just after launching its first title, Warlords.
But it's not all bad news. Some of the team has now found a home at a new Berlin-based studio established by Stockholm's Snowprint Studios, where it can continue working on midcore titles after spending so long on its last one.
To find out more about the story behind Snowprint Berlin, we spoke to both Snowprint CEO Alexander Ekvall and new General Manager and Managing Director Wilhelm Österberg about their history together and why the time was right to open a new studio.
PocketGamer.biz: Why did you decide that the time was right for a new studio? Was it when the opportunity arose to work with Wilhelm and the former Black Anvil team, or was it already part of your plans?
Alexander Ekvall: Making games is hard, making hit games in the highly competitive market of mobile F2P even more so, and we have a lot of respect for this fact.
Another important factor to consider is the inspiration that can kick in when you see great things happening around you.
Finally, there's a sort of magic that starts brewing when inspired, talented people start interacting and feeding back on each other's creations.
With all this in mind, Snowprint was founded around a multi game strategy; talented individuals coming together in autonomous, tight-knit teams with a mutual passion and goal of bringing great gaming experiences to millions of players.
It seems like all the stars aligned - Wilhelm was looking for new opportunities and Snowprint was looking to strengthen the team.Alexander Ekvall
However, starting a new game in a new studio with Wilhelm and team was not a part of any initial plan.
What can I say, it was great timing for a great opportunity to work with an amazing team.
Why Berlin, and what will the new studio be working on?
Snowprint is about talented individuals coming together in tight-knit teams with a shared passion for creating great gaming experiences. To get this right is complicated and a rather rare thing.
When we got the opportunity to form a studio around Wilhelm and the talented people he has been working with, we were certain it would be an amazing fit with the Snowprint culture, values and strategy.
Wilhelm and I formed our first company together over a decade ago, and with him being an early investor and advisor to Snowprint, it seems like all the stars aligned - he was looking for new opportunities and Snowprint was looking to strengthen the team.
Berlin is also a city where we will be able to increase the reach of our careful search for talent and continue our very selective process.
Snowprint Studios has now been around for more than a year. How do you reflect on its life so far, and what have been the stand-out moments?
Honestly, the most important stand out moments are each time another person joins Snowprint and the ground we are breaking with our approach to mid-core games.
We've been lucky to have great advisors and investors, some from the start of the journey and some that have joined in more recently. Wilhelm making the transition from advisor and early investor to leading the team in Berlin is a testament to this, one that I am proud of.
What's the current status of "Project Thor" and what can we expect from it? Are there any other projects in the works at Snowprint?
Snowprint's mission is to deliver amusing, approachable yet absorbing gaming experiences that the "everyday gamers" can enjoy for years. "Project Thor" is one of the ways to realize this mission.
The Snowprint Berlin studio and its teams will be working autonomously on separate titles and make us stronger in pursuing this mission.
We are convinced that there's a lot of potential to advance this segment of mobile gaming. We are leaving our prints in the fresh snow. The addition of the Berlin studio will allow us to make larger and heavier prints.
You've surrounded yourself with a great deal of experience and pedigree, from advisors and investors to the core game teams. How have you struck the right balance of skills and personalities, and how important is this for your overall strategy?
This is a great questions and definitely a key part of our strategy. Great talent attracts more great talent - this is true across disciplines. We are seeing this first hand now from the starting team coming together to the advisors and investors up to the addition of the team in Berlin.
Snowprint is about delivering amusing, approachable yet absorbing gaming experiences for the "everyday gamer".Alexander Ekvall
Striking the right balance is hard and something you most often don't know until the team has worked together for a while. In Stockholm most of the team already have and those who haven't at least know someone on the team.
This continues now with our expansion in Berlin and is one of the main reasons we see this as such a great opportunity.
What's missing from midcore mobile games at present, and how is Snowprint looking to address this?
Snowprint is about delivering amusing, approachable yet absorbing gaming experiences for the "everyday gamer". This means finding the right balance and flow between;
- Core mechanics that entertain, challenge and wow the players,
- Aesthetics that spark the interest and curiosity of the players,
- Long term and social drivers that fuel the experience for years.
It comes down to striking the right balance between creating accessible, approachable experiences and game mechanics with room for depth that respects the players need of being challenged.
With Black Anvil brought to a premature end, how does it feel to be reunited with the team for this new start at Snowprint Studios?
Wilhelm Österberg: It's great. We had a really good atmosphere in the Warlords team and also experienced a big acceleration in results as the final production team came together.
As it became clear that Black Anvil was coming to an end, many team members approached me to ask about what could be next. I started looking around for a next step not only for myself but one that could also keep the core team together.
There were several leads, but once we started discussing with Alex and the Snowprint Stockholm team, things fell into place quickly.
How important do you feel that existing chemistry and experience of having shipped a game together will prove?
I think this is extremely important and often overlooked. Elsewhere, like in sports or in the military, a well-functioning team that have gelled together is considered essential to deliver top results.
It's also one of the perhaps most widely known truths of group dynamics. But still, it's so common in the games industry that teams get broken up and redistributed at the end of each project.
For me personally it's also great to get to work with a group of people I genuinely enjoy spending time with. This way, each time we swing another beer jug together we can claim it's for the good of the company.
What did you learn from making Warlords, and how will the experience help in your new role?
I learnt a lot at Wooga, in a number of other projects as well as Warlords. The years I spent there are invaluable to me, not only because that's where I met my now wife, but also because of how great of an environment it was for my personal and professional development.
My ambition for the Berlin studio is to create the best possible workplace for the most talented individuals.Wilhelm Österberg
When it comes to Warlords specifically, it was the first "mid-core" game we launched on mobile and also our first venture, as a team, into hardcore F2P mechanics and mobile strategic gameplay.
These are all learnings that will serve us well in our upcoming game.
What are your ambitions for Snowprint Studios' Berlin studio, and how connected are you with the HQ?
Alex and I have a very direct and informal communication. We've known each other for over ten years and actually founded and ran a small game studio, Pixelknights, together some years ago. You have probably not heard of it - let's say it was... moderately successful.
My ambition for the Berlin studio is to create the best possible workplace for the most talented individuals. We will keep it small since making great games is not a numbers game. And we will work only on games that we are truly passionate about.
I think all of these things are essential to have a chance at creating something outstanding. And this is of course the ultimate ambition: To create something special that resonates not only with us but also with millions of players.
Life is too short to make crappy games.