A recent article in “The Artery,” an art news channel based out of Boston, is declaring 2014 “The Year the ‘Indie’ Games Died.” According to the article, the mainstream video game industry has leveraged its mass appeal to gobble up gaming profits and leave little space for the artistic license, innovation, and risk-taking that small, indie studios once enjoyed.
The journalist who wrote the article has clearly never met the team at Chile’s Sumersion Studio.
Sumersion is a one-of-a-kind gaming studio that is bucking the mainstream trend. The high-performing team makes games targeted specifically toward the “indie” sector: players that enjoy new and unconventional ideas. While most Latin American videogame development companies target casual mobile device players, Sumersion bets on a riskier platform but with bigger monetary gains: the hardcore PC gamer market. All their development throughout the past three years has gone toward testing: testing the game mechanics, the market, and the mass media. They’re taking all they’ve learned since 2011, and putting it into the game they’re releasing this year (“3 Days of Darkness”), which has the potential to be their greatest success yet.
Sumersion Studio founders, Alejandro Navarro and Sebastian Matus, met while teaching university-level digital arts classes. After discussing their mutual passion for the gaming industry, they decided to embark on a joint venture and create Sumersion Studio in 2011. During their first year, they carried out a number of interactive 3D projects, among which was a videogame called “Super Rockstar Creatures”. Check it out:
This first project helped the duo professionalize their work, improve their methods, and put in practice their own knowledge. Realizing that they were missing some essential talent, they invited another friend (also a teacher!), Fernando Gonzalez, to join their small team. In three short years they’ve brought together a fantastic team of 9 engineers and artists of whom the founders are deeply proud.
Connecting gamers with games
Sumersion Studio creates videogames for: 1) their own studio, and 2) advertising agencies. They are well-positioned in both categories; for their own games, they are a stand-out because of their social content. The Sumersion Studio team has a critical spirit, and tries to embody this spirit within their projects. As Co-Founder Sebastian Matus states, “We like to say and expose our thoughts in script, art, and game dynamics; everything has to have meaning for us.”
In terms of game development for advertising agencies, the team differentiates itself from the few other Chilean companies doing similar work because they develop and iterate quicker than others, and are comfortable developing on cross-platform systems.
The team’s collaboration with advertising agencies allows them to finance their work. Sebastian notes, “It’s hard to get funding in videogame development when you’re just starting out due to the fact that it’s hard for the investors to believe you have a differentiating factor. The companies that have gained traction in this market are the ones that are most likely to obtain financing.” The team plans on applying for Corfo and Contact Chile funding later this year.
Recent successes and plans for 2014
Within the short lifespan of Sumersion they’ve already appeared in various national magazines and news reports. In 2012, they created a game where the Chilean seat of government and presidential residence, “La Moneda,” is invaded by aliens. It received ample coverage in all media, was on the front page of The Clinic for 3 weeks, and was covered on Canal 13’s Tecno-Ciencia show, among others.
Last year the team developed a game in which the protagonists were the presidential candidates for the 2013 election. The game received international news attention in the New York Times Santiago and Greece.
That same year Sumersion Studio released a game called Arkadianax, the team’s first test of the PC game market. Developing the game helped them to better understand the Steam platform, a popular online gaming platform that grants the company access to a wider customer base.
This year Sumersion Studio is hoping to get a good public reception with our latest game “3 Days of Darkness”, an action-thriller which will be released this December.
Moving forward in 2014, Sumersion Studio is hard at work on “3 Days of Darkness”, producing much gameplay and a story that the team believes will be interesting for players. An XBOX 360 and PS3 port for the game will be produced later on. The idea is to obtain the attention of big publishers and to consolidate the company at a world market level. Teaser audio and promotional images are available for the game here.
Lessons from the pros
Co-Founder Sebastian Matus weighs in on the joys and challenges of starting a company, and how learning by doing, committing mistakes, and growing from failure is the best way to succeed.
We’d like to share with the readers of AndesBeat a reflection based on our experience creating our company. When we started out, we spent a considerable amount of time gathering information and studying success cases. We were trying to learn about the industry and how to advance the fastest. We wanted the perfect formula, but learned that there’s no such thing, and in our experience we learned by “messing it up” and growing slowly: you must learn by doing. For us its been very important to know how to adapt to change without losing our focus and in this regard we’ve known how to overcome the hardest obstacles, we’ve already crossed the so called “Valley of Death.”
We believe that it’s good for people to know about this side of the coin, especially when you don’t have a lot of capital. It’s not easy to create a company. It’s the sum of a lot of effort, stress and problems, both at a personal and a professional level. For what it’s worth, we’ll share our values which have given us good results at Sumersion: Cohesion, communication, resilience (above all), constancy and perseverance. Without these values we wouldn’t have been able to continue on path. It was very important to maximize our best abilities and correct our worst flaws. In the end, as hard as the beginning is, the sensation of accomplishing the goals we set for ourselves is completely worth it.
Game on, Sumersión!!