In a world of giants like Wooga and Zynga, it’s perhaps understandable that a ’boutique’ games studio like eelusion wants to hold onto its secrets for as long as possible. But the Berlin-based startup has some big plans – and it’s hoping a new game combining geolocation and augmented reality (AR) will propel it past the big hitters.
The world of eevoo is set to hit the App Store later this year, and the eclectic and international mix of people behind the game sat down with Silicon Allee recently to discuss their pet project while trying hard not to give too much away.
Guillaume Vaslin-Reimann ticks lots of boxes when it comes to being a Berlin entrepreneur. Young, fresh-faced, ambitious, self-assured – and foreign. But despite being brought up in France and speaking English with a rich French accent, Guillaume has a German passport courtesy of his mother and feels at home here. He moved to Berlin four years ago to study business before starting a masters degree in leadership and digital communications at the Universität der Künste.
And it was a chance meeting with fellow student Stephan Schoenen during his first week on the course which led to eelusion, with Guillaume as the CEO and Stephan the chief communications officer. Quickly bored by their studies, the pair finished the 36 months of the course in half the time.
When Silicon Allee went to talk to them at their roomy, attractive office running alongside the canal in Kreuzberg, chief production officer Jason Garber, a Canadian-Dutch mix, was also there. Jason is the head of productions, while other senior members of the team include legal expert Tim Hufermann and Jürgen Lange, the initial investor who now acts as CFO.
Using the Full Potential of Smartphones
The idea behind eevoo came from a belief on the part of Stephan and Guillaume that current mobile games don’t use the full potential of the available technology – what would happen, they asked themselves, if you took a format as popular as Angry Birds, for example, and integrated features like AR, geolocation and a fuller social function? “We thought maybe we could provide something new by ourselves, like a new kind of gameplay using the full potential of smartphones,” Guillaume said.
Innovation was a key idea behind what they had in mind: “We didn’t want to do a copycat game, we wanted to be the Apple of the gaming industry, provide something very clean and very well designed.”
The team saw the rise of social and mobile gaming and asked themselves where the two would connect in the future – specifically, which current smartphone functionalities were not being properly utilised. What they came up with was a game in which users are placed in a realistic environment and challenged to move, an underestimated angle when it comes to geolocations, according to Jason: “Geolocation is not about finding myself at location A, but rather going from A to B.”
As for the augmented reality, Jason added: “Within our game, the AR is the visualisation of the world of eevoo, and also a ways and means of having our creative ideas translated. And it’s a very peaceful game – we’re not about war; we’re about competition.”
When pressed for what the actual theme is, the answer – “the theme is eevoo!” – shows their dedication to staying dark for as long as possible. Guillaume said: “We don’t write anything on line, we’re being very careful. There are lots of copycats and a lot of competitors!”
But press, press and press… and a kind-of description was finally forthcoming: “Call it a geo-social house-building simulation game,” with management of houses and occupation of a map, Foursquare-style. The beta is set to be released in an unspecified German-speaking country in August – probably Switzerland or Austria – and a trailer for the game is in the works.
And since we spoke, eelusion has launched a social media campaign ahead of the launch in the autumn. Guillaume explained how they are introducing the world of eevoo onto Facebook through a character called Prof. Archibald William McEvo and how he discovered the world. Later there will be snippets on the “special energy” followed by the little robots which help the player and then finally the world itself, its assets and its possibilities.
A Very Good Story
The business model, meanwhile, is a freemium one, with more playing options available for subscribers, as well as in-game shops. There won’t be any advertising, however. So how does the eelusion team see themselves as different from the larger mobile gaming companies?
“We believe that we are doing things in a different way to how game studios are doing it right now,” said Stephan, “because we are fully concentrating purely on eevoo and really planning everything around it. We believe we have a very good story for the game, because we think that 50 percent of a game is a good story.”
Another difference is the move away from a pure game, as Guillaume explained: “I would say that we are doing a lifestyle game… I want to do a gamificated app rather than a pure game. I want this constant connection between the life of the player and the game.”
With that in mind, Guillaume is determined to see the policy of secrecy through, as he explained: “We are really small. For a studio like Zynga, they can develop a game in two or three months, and one of our biggest advantages is that there is no similar game in the App Store. If somebody brings one out before us, we lose this huge advantage.”
And so the team of around 16 – which includes at least eight nationalities – will keep their heads down and look to shake up the world of online gaming when their first title finally gets a release, which initially will be through an iOS app. Watch this space.