Climbing Mountains and Playing Games
Chris Natsuume, co-founder and Creative Director of Boomzap, has a rather unusual hobby. In his free time, he climbs mountains for charity. He works with the group Three Summits for Nepal, which raises money to build schools and orphanages in Nepal. He was part of a team that raised over $40,000 US during the past year. Just before Casual Connect Europe, he returned from a three-week trek in Nepal building one of the schools they helped to fund.
When not climbing mountains, Natsuume also spends time playing games, although much of this is for research. When he is playing for enjoyment, he prefers using PC. Currently he is playing Civilization 5, which he says has all the best parts of the previous Civilization games together in a great, polished package. He feels, “The Civilization series just keeps going, and for me, it never gets tiring.” He also likes their sales model, saying, “I have a lot of respect for ‘buy an original game, then buy add-on packages’ because it really speaks to what gamers want. They are willing to play more money if the game is good.”
In contrast to his feelings about this add-on system, Natsuume also appreciates the F2P business model for games because it forces games to be good and fun. Players will not pay for a game they do not enjoy. However, he does not like being constantly upsold and would prefer to pay a larger amount less often. He expects to see this model evolve in the future, with players getting a small game experience for free and then paying at reasonable intervals for more content. He expects to see better longevity when the payment system is less intrusive.
It’s All About Energy
As Creative Director of Boomzap, Natsuume works with the designers, producers, artists, and QA teams. The Technical Director, Allan Simonsen, is responsible for the code and development aspect of the games. Prior to founding Boomzap, he was a producer at Crytek. It was a young company, with a team full of talent and enthusiasm, but new to game development, and it was his first time as a producer. But with this team, he learned “with enough energy, drive and passion, you can take a bunch of very diverse young people and go out and do great things.” And now, despite the many core differences in what games they build and how they build them, he thinks of his work as creating the Crytek of Southeast Asia.
Since Boomzap has a virtual office, with employees working out of their homes, they see each other face to face only a few times a year. Natsuume emphasizes that the times when they can meet together are really inspiring and that the team is a source of pride to him. Seeing that Boomzap can bring a higher quality of life to employees who are doing something they enjoy without having to move far from home or live away from family gives him great satisfaction. He insists, “I am proud of all the games we’ve made, but I’m most proud of the company we’ve built.”
Making a Difference
Even so, he does value knowing that Boomzap games make a difference in people’s lives. He quotes a letter from an avid fan of the Awakening games, who is also a 70-year-old grandmother. “I am hoping not to ‘croak’ before the next one comes out. I am serious here! Thank you so very much for making such wonderful, enjoyable games. You have an outstanding team.”
Natsuume sees crowd-sourced marketing as the next big trend in the games industry. He believes the real value of Kickstarter results because it directly engages the customer from early development and creates a ready-made audience. He expects more and more developers to reach out to consumers in this way, allowing them to be involved and have a say in how the game develops.