tl;dr: After 10 years, I’ll leave the games industry. Before explaining this, I’ll beat around the bushes below and lose myself in some memories.
I don’t often do blogs, but when I do, it’s important.
It took me some evenings to prepare this post, I hope you’re at least entertained reading it.
I consider myself being a part of the games industry now for 10 years.
10 years ago ex-fellow students and I founded one of the first “real Indie” studios in Germany: Vulcando Games. I even truly believe it was THE first, at least regarding what we understand under the term “Indie” today.
We got a small funding, we pursued our own goals, we didn’t want to take advice from anyone who had experience in the games world.
I’m not an Indie Games historian, but it seems like in 2008 Indie Devs rose up. 2D Boy was huge with World of Goo, and Notch was starting to dream about Minecraft. They proved, we thought, that indie game developers can be financially successful without much external support. Chances are that some industry old-timers, journalists, potential partners and investors visited our Augsburg office and maybe tried to give advice. But we didn’t care. Apologies. Are you one of them? Let me know in the comments. I’ve never asked that since then.
We spent three years of our lives building that company, at which we wrote at least 4 different games related diploma theses in Art and Computer Science. We released two ambitious and highly anticipated online MMO PC games — Celetania (4X MMO) and Hive Rise (MMORTS). For the former we used a WoW-like subscription payment model and had -IIRC- 16k players after the first weekend via digital download from our own web servers — we offered the first 30 days for free. This was a huge number we reached back then without having a publisher, and it still is today even when having a publisher — especially in the mobile gaming world. Rondomedia later helped us distributing Celetania on DVD to different retail stores. Dynamedion created music and sound effects.
Unfortunately, three years later, we failed.
This was primarily because of a grow-only server technology we’ve unwittingly built for Celetania. It got more and more expensive the more users we had, until we saw it coming that we wouldn’t be able to pay our bills anymore if we continued. Also we missed having enough financial expertise on board. We were only a bunch of programmers and artists and only had a tax lady coming into the office once a month. Bummer, but these learnings are the foundation of my following career. Failing is important!
After realizing that we’d have to stop what we were doing, I applied at Munich based Chimera Entertainment. Chimera was three years old in 2009, founded by Chris, Alex and Hendrik. I remember the job interview had been relatively long and intense. But maybe I only felt like this because of the high temperatures mid-June 2009 and the beer garden location. Or maybe because I wasn’t used to apply for jobs. I started working at Chimera in September 2009. I was happy with my first 6 months project based contract. I brought all the online knowledge I gathered since the late ’90s (I did a lot online tech work before I started doing games).
Chimera back then was already using Unity 3D since 2008, being the first engine licensee in Germany. Yet the first frontend tech we used to create our first online browser game, Warstory — Europe in Flames, was Microsoft Silverlight. It was exotic at the time, but we saw a bright future for it. I was confident that with the planned global rollout of Silverlight to every Windows PC via Windows Updates in 2010 we’d have a high market reach in the future. Also, Unity 3D’s browser plugin was not very mature yet.
We even started another Silverlight game, Skylancer, later published by ProSiebenSat1 Digital.
Using Silverlight in Warstory and Skylancer also allowed us reusing a lot of C# code in Unity3D, and the product out of that was Mission Genesis, published by DTP, which unfortunately went bankrupt in 2012. (Their bankruptcy had a severe impact on Chimera, and we fought hard to successfully recover).
The future of Silverlight suddenly got destroyed by Bob Muglia of Microsoft in October 2010, when he prematurely announced Silverlight’s death and the shift of Microsoft towards HTML5. We hated Bob for that and the resulting overall situation, we were gleefully happy when he got fired a few months later, ousted by then-mighty Steve Ballmer (because, emotions).
But this couldn’t revive the Silverlight strategy at Microsoft.
In 2016 all major browsers removed Silverlight support. It’s basically dead in non-enterprise environments.
Warstory is still running today. It’s like a game zombie. You can show it some love if your browser still can handle Silverlight.
Several smaller mobile games (or should I say: gems) later we landed our first huge success with our self-made Angry Birds Epic and our friends at Rovio, who put all their trust in us: Over 90 million downloads worldwide. I think we’re leading some German statistics here.
No question — I’m convinced that there will be more and maybe bigger successes for Chimera Entertainment in the future. It’s an awesomely skilled team in a well-built company culture. Only look at Angry Birds Evolution, which is just huge — and in Soft Launch currently. It’s Chimera’s prime time currently. Yet I won’t be part of Chimera’s future successes, because I decided:
After 10 years I’m going to leave the games industry.
I ‘ll be gone at Dec. 1st 2016.
I think this was the hardest professional decision I ever had to make.
There are several reasons for me to leave, but the most imporant one is my hunger for progress. The problem with success is that you’re getting easily comfortable. I don’t want to get comfortable. I want to have new challenges every day — big challenges.
Also the current situation of the German games industry in general has made my decision a little bit easier. I feel it’s a good point in time to take a break from it, I’m not leaving at the industry’s prime time. I don’t think it’s a sane and fully functional economic environment currently.
It’s not like that the “current German games industry situation” is affecting me professionally so much everyday already. It just cannot carry my personal expectations from the future. In fact this situation is limiting my possible combat radius. I feel that for several months already. The industry is at stake, and I know a lot of people who feel with me, even if everyone has different little aches and pains.
I’d really like to put a supporting link behind my industry assessment above. I’ll do so as soon as some other industry players start to be quite clear about this — whose words count more than mine and who might have analyzed the causes behind the current situation more thoroughly than I have.
I can’t say that I won’t ever get back to making great games again. For now, it makes sense to get some distance and to invest all my available energy in something new, fresh and funky.
That’s why I’m moving on to join an #InsurTech startup.
Naturally I got a lot job offers and opportunities over the past years. I always refused, I never believed in a company, product or idea which would have made me leave behind what I helped building up for so many years. This time it’s different: I strongly believe in the new idea, the new service and the new product we’ll be building: A German private health insurance, focused on digital services and simplicity. No brokerage but a fully fledged insurance company. In the future you’ll be able to chose us as your private health insurance (if you’re eligible by current law to do so). Get you some of that.
This idea is basically so insane (for me) and hard to realize (for everyone) that it only happens once in ~15 years (roughly, don’t quote me exactly on this). That’s attractive. There’s a lot of messing around with German laws, rules and regulations.
To be full and frank: For me, this is not a “make the world a better place thing”: It’s the overall challenge and the realistic goal of economic success which is attracting me. And of course, also the risk involved.
I will still be the dedicated tech guy. I’ll be able to utilize all the expert knowledge I gathered in the past 20 years of my professional work. Besides that, I’ll still provide Gamification ideas to the insurance world and consulting to the general tech world. Of course there’s still a lot to learn, and I’m looking forward to working with all the bright minds and seasoned talents in this new company.
Good bye games industry, it was fun while it lasted.
That’s all I wanted to say.
Let’s stay in contact!