DotEmu isn’t your standard mobile games developer. Founded in 2007 the Paris, France-based company has had a unique and noble mission – to bring classic games to a new audience.
They work closely with classic games’ original developers and publishers, as well as current license holders to maintain the original spirit of those games. Having just released an updated Pang Adventures for mobile, console, and PC, their dedication to finding the perfect balance between nostalgia and modern sensibilities couldn’t be more obvious.
We talked with DotEmu recently about their drive, their process, and what makes their studio so successful at bringing old games to a new audience.
Since 2007, DotEmu’s main goal has been to leverage their considerable technological know-how to maintain the original spirit of classic games while giving them a second life as rediscovered gems for a new generation of gamers.
“We chose mobile for a couple of reasons,” said Cyrille Imbert, DotEmu’s CEO, “First and foremost for us, the ability to instantly reach a huge population of gamers. Not only original fans of our licences but also younger player who never heard of these awesome games before but that play a lot on their tablets/smartphone.”
Another reason? The team loves a challenge “It’s often very difficult to adapt classic gameplay to a touch screen,” Imbert said. The technical environment of mobile gaming makes things simple and great to work in overall though, and this combination creates excellent working conditions, he said.
Premium Apps Requires Premium Quality
Being a premium only publisher in the world of F2P isn’t easy. By focusing on relationships, PR, community, a sophisticated ad strategy, and events, DotEmu is succeeded where many others stumble.
“You have to listen to the community before you release a title”
“We maintain great relationships with the first parties, Apple, Google, Steam, Sony, and Microsoft,” Imbert said. “We always try to show them what we are capable of and the potential behind our productions.” As DotEmu’s portfolio has grown, no doubt these skills become more and more self-evident.
DotEmu has a very quality targeted network of journalists that they’ve built over the years as well. “We also often try to be creative in the way we present our games so journalists don’t get bored with our announcements.” They make sure to present new titles at different events when possible, from relatively regional events like Paris games Week, to E3 and beyond. “By choosing what event we reveal a given title at, we’re closest to the players and the communities, and can have their impressions and feedback right away.”
Since they work on cherished pieces of nostalgia, Imbert says that use very targeted placements on social networks during game launches to push visibility further.
The community has also provided incredible lessons for everyone involved.
“One of our biggest lessons is that you have to listen to the community before you release a title,” Imbert said. During some projects, they began initially thinking ‘Hey we will add online multiplayer and HD user interface, people will love it,’ but after listening to the community, learned that people’s expectations weren’t leaning in that direction, but somewhere else.
“Even if the features we wanted to add were perceived as ‘cool,’ they were not the players’ priority,” Imbert said. “We had to really dig deep into the community’s expectation before setting the production and marketing machine in motion for our titles.”
“We will again try to stay as close as possible to the original title in terms of artistic direction and gameplay”
DotEmu’s most recent success comes with the release of Pang Adventures, a title some American readers will remember as Capcom’s Buster Bros. Unlike some of their other releases, Pang Adventures is a true sequel.
“We are taking a new turn with the creation of new sequels to older licenses,” Imbert said, “We will again try to stay as close as possible to the original title in terms of artistic direction and gameplay,” but Pang Adventures DotEmu created a much more modern version, with new features and polished graphics.
In addition to an updated art style, Pang Adventures adds a ton of new weapons, boss fights, and more than 100 levels to play through. The PC and console versions even feature online multiplayer.
“I think Pang Adventures is really a turning point in our strategy, Imbert said, “Its success or failure will define the face of DotEmu in the following years. Everyone here is excited to see if people will like our ideas and the path we are now taking.”
No pressure then!
“Fingers crossed!” Imbert smiled.
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream
Another reason you might recognize DotEmu’s name from recent news, is from the release of their update of I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream, the 1995 point-and-click video game adaptation of Harlan Ellison’s Hugo Award-winning short story.
Set more than 100 years after the destruction of humanity, the game features Ellison’s voice as AM, an artificial intelligence tormenting the last members of humanity. The horror title received numerous awards when it was released in 1996, including Adventure Game of the Year.
I Have No Mouth and I Must Scream was a partnership for DotEmu. The title was out of print for years due to the closure of the original developer and publisher, but in 2013, the rights were recovered by Night Dive Studios they rereleased to Steam and GoG.com.
Like DotEmu, Night Dive is dedicated to bringing gaming classics to a new audience, so when the time came to bring the game to mobile, Night Dive went straight to DotEmu.
“At Night Dive Studios, our goal is to preserve the classic game titles of the past,” said Larry Kuperman, Night Dive’s Director of Business Development, “Working with DotEMU has allowed us to share a great game with the mobile gaming audience.”
Working with Gaming Greats
Updating classic titles and doing them justice is always easier with a direct line to the original creators. Most of the time DotEmu is in very close contact with great creators like Eric Chahi, known for Another World, Jordan Mechner, the brains behind Prince of Persia, Karateka, and The Last Express. DotEmu has also worked with Shinji Hashimoto of Final Fantasy fame, and Yoshihisa Kishimoto – The man who created Double Dragon.
“These guys are literally rock stars for us and working with them is very inspirational,” Imbert waxed poetic when speaking about the video game legends DotEmu works with on a regular basis.
About the Team
It may come as a surprise to some that DotEmu does all this with just 15 passionate employees. What won’t come as a surprise is that the entire team has a huge culture of video games. “We always feel a lot of emotion when we see our favorite arcade games running on a brand new device,” Imbert said.
“At DotEmu, we feel that we work for the purpose of transforming golden games from the past for a future generation of gamers, developers, game designers, and so on”
With such a dedicated team, it makes sense that gaming permeates every aspect of the culture. At lunch some play FIFA, while others play Monster Hunter or board games. There are also two beautiful arcade cabinets in the office for epic internal tournaments.
The culture of responsibility is entirely goal-oriented. Everyone is responsible for their job and can organize their work the way they want it, as long as the company reaches their goal as a team.
“At DotEmu, we feel that we work for the purpose of transforming golden games from the past for a future generation of gamers, developers, game designers, and so on,” Imbert explained.
The team fully embraces their mission to make ure classic games and their creators are never forgotten, lest we lose part of our culture and identity as gamers, Imbert spoke passionately about the team’s drive and motivation.
Today every single person can create and publish a game. According to the team at DotEmu, what will makes you stand out is your expertise, your talent, personality and the level of quality you can provide to ever-demanding players.
“Don’t try to be a copycat,” Imbert implored other developers. “Don’t try to aim at everyone at the same time. Search for your niche, build your community and gain experience, it will pay off eventually.”
Looking Towards the Future
You never know where the next title for DotEmu will come from.
“We are in constant search of great old titles to bring back, so we also get inspired of all the games we test during our research as well,” Imbert said. “We always try to provide quality in order to have our players talk about our games in a good way.”
This week, DotEmu released their biggest mobile project ever: TitanQuest. It is an adaptation of the famous hack’n’slash title from the 2000s. “The game looks like a AAA title today and runs very smoothly on mobile platforms. It was a real struggle to adapt it to touch surface, but we definitely succeeded in the end” Imbert said. “We’re very proud of the result!”
DotEmu has another awesome licence coming up on mobile this year, and two other remake/sequel projects currently in production, with the same spirit as Pang Adventures. “We can’t talk about it right now though, even though I really want to!” Imbert said.
We can’t wait to see what they announce next.
To keep up to date on all the exciting announcements from DotEmu, follow them on Twitter @DotEmu, Like them on Facebook, or visit their website. They’re always keen to hear from new fans, and ready to listen to feedback from the community about their newest endeavors.
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