Thunderful has recently acquired Robot Teddy, Clear Stage, Headup and Coatsink, and will today showcase games in a digital event called Thunderful World to be hosted by Star Wars legend Mark Hamill today.
Thunderful has been making headlines this year with multiple acquisitions, the launch of Thunderful Investment and the recent announcement of their upcoming games showcase, Thunderful World.
This has been a big year for the organisation, so PCGamesInsider.biz quizzed Brjánn Sigurgeirsson, pictured, and Agostino Simonetta (CEO and Chief Strategy & Investment Officer respectively) about their ambitions in the build-up to their big event today.
PCGamesInsider.biz: 2021 has been a big year for Thunderful Group. Why was now the best time to expand?
Brjánn Sigurgeirsson: Thunderful Group being introduced on the Swedish stock exchange market in December 2020 had a big impact on our ability to do this. It puts more eyes on you as a company and that can really help when it comes to conversations and opportunities with potential partners.
The growth has happened organically, with lots of long-running discussions and projects that have been taking place behind the scenes falling into place this year. The acquisitions we’ve made - Coatsink, HeadupGames, Stage Clear Studios, Robot Teddy and To The Sky - have made us stronger than ever before, giving us strengths in development, publishing and investment that has moved us towards being a 360-degree game company, to borrow a phrase from our Chief Strategy and Investment Officer Agostino Simonetta.
Thunderful Investment launched earlier this year following the acquisition of Robot Teddy. What are the aims of this new funding-focused arm of Thunderful Group?
Sigurgeirsson: We’ve been thinking about prototype investment for a long time for a couple of reasons.
Firstly, it’s an area where there’s a big gap to be filled and a lot of developers who need help getting their ideas off the ground. Secondly, it’s a great way of getting in touch with developers. If your only way of starting a conversation with them is to talk about publishing or M&A, it can feel like you are rushing them into things. If those are things that they want to do later down the line, that’s great, but it’s not going to be right for every developer out there.
On a practical level, Thunderful Investment is going to be running two multi-million Euro developer-focused funds. One of them will be focused on prototype funding, helping small developers to tap into their creativity and explore adventurous ideas. The second is a VR focused fund. Again, there aren’t as many opportunities out there as there should be for developers interested in VR and this fund is going to help bridge that gap.
Callum Underwood and his team at Robot Teddy were the perfect partners to help us do this. They’ve got tons and experience and a proven record of success in the area of funding of investment, and with our support, they are going to be able to leverage that more effectively than ever before.
How did Thunderful World come about and can we expect to see the event as a mainstay in our calendars?
Sigurgeirsson: The idea was first floated by our Head of Publishing, Dieter Schoeller. We thought it was a great way of creating an opportunity for us to make lots of exciting announcements for our many exciting internally and externally developed titles in one go. It gives one place for existing fans to see what we are up to and it’s also a great way of testing the waters for new audiences. This is our first year holding an event of this magnitude and it’s definitely been a learning experience for us, but it’s been great to work with the experienced team at The Mix to put the event together and we’re excited to take what we’ve learned this year forward. We hope fans will enjoy watching it as much as we did making it!
The indie scene has been spearheading new development approaches and distribution modelsAgostino Simonetta
Thunderful and The MIX are champions of the indie scene, and it feels like indie games are having something of a golden age right now. How do you account for that, and why are indie developers so important for the global games scene?
Agostino Simonetta: The last 15 years of our industry have seen a truly seismic transformation thanks to what I call the digital revolution, a combination of digital distribution, platforms opening up and easy(ier) to use and cheaper development tools becoming available. This opened the door for people from all over the world to unleash their creative minds and tap into a huge audience.
That revolution has brought with it a burst of innovation, both in terms of new gameplay ideas, and by opening up games development to a more diverse cohort who can bring different perspectives. The indie scene has really been at the forefront of spearheading new development approaches and distribution models too. When you think about Early Access and Game Pass, indie titles have played a huge role in showing us the potential of those models and making them worthwhile for the gaming audience. Thanks to all this, gaming has never been in a better place.
Thunderful World is being presented by Star Wars star Mark Hamill. How important was this celebrity endorsement in generating media attention to your event?
Simonetta: As a brand, Thunderful is still quite young, and we’re conscious of the fact that a lot of people aren’t aware of just how big we are nowadays. We wanted to create a bang and get as many eyeballs on us as possible. Mark is such a beloved celebrity and obviously has close ties to the gaming industry, so we knew getting him on board would help draw attention to the event and give us the opportunity to show the world what we are about and what a significant force we are in the industry.
Game Pass saw a massive uptake in subscriptions last year. With your upcoming title The Gunk being an exclusive for the service do you see this as an advantage or do you feel the game has to do more to stand out from the other games on the service?
Simonetta: We’re incredibly excited about the partnership with Xbox and the Game Pass team. Working with them on The Gunk has been a really positive experience for us. In terms of development, the Xbox Game Pass partnership allowed us to focus on the development process and ensure that we realise our creative vision for the game. Of course, there are a host of fantastic games on Game Pass, but that means that we get to tap into a huge audience of players that will jump at the opportunity of trying this game and we’re sure they will enjoy it once they do!
What can we expect from Thunderful moving forward?
Sigurgeirsson: We are going to keep working to strengthen our position as a powerhouse in the industry. We’ve got tons of talent and competence in the company - our many incredible development teams, our publishing arm and the fantastic partners they are working with, and our new funding focused investment pillar. There’s lots to be excited about when it comes to the future of Thunderful. People will be able to get a glimpse at some of that at Thunderful World, so we hope people will tune in to the event and stick with us beyond it for the many cool things we’ve got in the works.
Head to Thunder World this evening at https://thunderful.world/