Two weeks ago, the German based adventure game studio Animation Arts released Lost Horizon, their newest adventure title. Animation Arts’ managing director, Marco Zeugner, (middle) talked with us about how the company was founded, the challenges of conquering the German adventure market and why it’s smart to remain small.
Founded in 2002, Animation Arts started out doing contract work for other games working on interface design and in-game graphics. “We had the idea to position ourselves as game developers for a long time,” Zeugner says. “When we finally took the step to bring in programmers, we had a team together very fast.” Animation Arts eventually launched their first game in 2006, a point-and-click adventure called Secret Files: Tongusca. The game sold beyond expectations and caught the attention of some big publishers in the process. “We’ve been working with our current publisher, Koch Media, ever since,” Zeugner explains. The success of Secret Files also allowed Animation Arts to work on two sequels.
Animation Arts recently released their newest adventure called Lost Horizon. The game features a familiar storyline of Nazi henchmen traveling the world in search of occult weapons to assist with their plans for world domination. “It’s a classic adventure game, with an Indiana Jones type of setting,” Zeugner says. “We had the biggest team ever with 18 people working on the game.”
The German adventure market
The considerable size of the German adventure game market makes even the niche of adventure games rather profitable. Nevertheless, the rising competition within the market hasn’t made things easy. “It’s tough,” Zeugner admits. “The adventure game market is a niche market. In Europe, the French, Italian, German and Spanish markets are interesting to focus on, but the German market remains the largest. Even for foreign developers, Germany still has a very lucrative demand for adventure games.”
The rise of foreign competition has resulted in only the top sellers making an actual profit. “We calculate that of the 10 adventure games that come out in the German market each year, only two are a real financial success,” Zeugner explains. “The danger is when we don’t end up in the top 3, we will not reach a break even point and the game will end up being a financial flop.”
Keeping it small and cheap
Zeugner and his team have enjoyed their small scale operation with many benefits resulting from their size. “Adventure games are great for small developers because the development costs are always clearly set out,” Zeugner argues. “Because of the structure and technical properties of adventure games, it’s easy to develop them in small teams that range between 6 to 18 people. The financial risk is lower with such small scale projects. With a smaller budget like that, it’s also easier to find a publisher that’s prepared to back you up!”
Lost Horizon, developed by Animation Arts, was released on September 17, 2010.
Vlad Micu is managing editor of Gamesauce.org. He previously has been a freelance game industry professional for over five years and traveled around the world while running his company VGVisionary. Starting VGVisionary during college, Vlad was able to work independently as a pr & marketing consultant, event manager, industry journalist, speaker and game developer. He just returned from Bangkok, Thailand, where he pursued his dream of making video games as the game producer at arkavis, an up and coming casual game studio.