“I think the model right now for publishing is extraordinarily broken,” Chris Natsuume said during a panel at Casual Connect Asia 2014. “In 20 years, I’ve never seen it this broken.”
When Allan Simonsen and Christopher Natsuume founded Boomzap Entertainment, they had some inspiration from the early games of the casual game movement. Playing games like Bejeweled, Diner Dash and Feeding Frenzy made Simsonsen and Natsuume feel “like we had something to say that would resonate with (users).”
While these games is what inspired the duo to found Boomzap, it was a lecture given by Sprout founder James Gwertzman that finally convinced them such a move was feasible.
Founding and Function
In 2005, Boomzap finally became a reality. Now, nine years later, Boomzap spans the globe. The Boomzap team includes over 90 developers spread across 7 countries in Southeast Asia and Eastern Europe, speaking over 2-dozen languages.
They have become best known for their hidden object puzzle adventure games (HOPA) such as Knightstone and Awakening. “We traditionally look at where the industry is moving and what our audience is interested in, then see how we can make something in that world that takes our ‘bright and beautiful’ design philosophy and add something really new and interesting,” Natsuume says.
The basic idea for a game comes from Simonsen and Natsuume, who are constantly looking at the tools and technology Boomzap has at its disposal. Based on that and what they believe they can sell, they plot out the basic genre, platform, and core design of the game. At that point, the whole team gets involved.
“Currently, we have over a dozen teams working on a variety of projects,” Natsuume says. “Each of these development teams is largely independent, capable of making design and production decisions on their own.” All the games are made with Boomzap’s own engine and using editing/development tools specifically made to mesh with the company’s online work-at-home business model.
All the work has continued to pay off for Boomzap. Their most popular game franchises — Awakening, Knightstone, and Otherworld — have continued to top casual game charts and have received several awards, including the “Best Hidden Object Game,” “Best Story,” and “Best Adventure” awards.
The Importance of Social Media
Aside from the games themselves, social media and customer interaction has been another component that has been “critical” to the success of Boomzap. “We interact with (our customers) daily through our own forums and social media pages. We spend a lot of time reading and responding to their feedback,” Natsuume says. “Getting to know what they want is important in helping us make better decisions about our games.”
Natsuume recalls one of the most memorable responses he’s seen was from a grandmother who was diagnosed with a very serious illness, but found comfort in Boomzap’s games. However, while admittedly not all customer feedback is so uplifting, even the negative feedback is welcomed “as a learning opportunity.”
With all the success and positive feedback Boomzap receives, it would be easy to forgive them if they stuck to the same formula. However, Boomzap is looking to shake things up. The company will be releasing new games over the next few months in a wide range of genres including strategy, puzzle, and arcade. The company also plans to launch a crowd-sourcing campaign with Kickstarter.
Natsuume has long seen crowd-sourcing as integral to the future of gaming. “What’s really exciting about crowd-sourcing is that it allows the developer to reach out and develop a dedicated user base before they release a project.”
So what is this project? Only time will tell.
As Natsuume tells it, “we will be making a lot of new, exciting announcements and surprises in the coming months — a few of them at Casual Connect Asia. … It’s going to be a great year for Boomzap!”