The Game Bakers Interview: Next-Gen, Mobile Gaming, Nintendo Switch and More

The Game Bakers, the studio behind indie fan-favorite Furi is working on its next big project, Haven. Bearing great expectation, Haven will release in 2020 and, given the opportunity, we talked to creator director and producer Emeric Thoa. Thoa comes from a triple-A background, working on several different Tom Glancy’s titles, including Splinter Cell: Double Agents. After a short period of working on mobile-only games, The Game Bakers are all in for the PC and consoles game development treatment.

During the interview, Thoa made his point about the current state of microtransactions, next-gen consoles as well as what The Game Bakers’ next plans are:

Let’s start with a brief intro. Tell us about your studio a little and how many people are currently working here.

The Game Bakers is a medium-size indie game studio. We are a core team of about 15 employees, currently working with the support of 10 freelance contractors, for the production of our next game, Haven. The two strong specificities of the studio are that it’s self-funded (we don’t rely on investors or publishers) and we mostly work remotely. We do have an office in Montpellier, in the South of France, but 3/4th of the team works remotely, from all over the world. The studio was founded in 2010 by Audrey Leprince and myself.

You describe your company as the Game Bakers due to a contrast between game design and cooking. Would you care to elaborate more on this comparison?

>Well, we strongly think that game design and cooking are very similar. In both activities, you’re given a set of ingredients (game mechanics for video games), and depending on how you combine them, the proportions, how long you cook them, you can make an infinity of meals/games. You craft it with love to share it with people, and they give you love in return.

Overall which platform did you prefer making games for? Was it better and more efficient to make on the mobile or was it a better experience on the mainstream?

To be honest, the platform doesn’t matter that much. I prefer to design for control with a gamepad because I like those inputs, but I don’t care about the platform, and Squids, our first mobile game, has a special place in my heart.

Are all your games connected to each other in any way or are they all separate entities, universes and stories entirely?

They are for sure connected by our design philosophy, our love for some subjects or mechanics. I like to think that our games are very different but share something in common. For instance, they are always very character-driven. Strong characters are always at the center of the game design. I like to think that some of our fans can see the link between all our games, even though they look and play very differently.

Do you believe in mobile gaming as a legitimate industry? Was the switch to mainstream gaming made out of choice or because mobile wasn’t doing as well?

Of course, mobile gaming is a legitimate industry. There tons of crazy good games on mobile. The innovation is great as well. The problem is that, first, it’s an incredibly competitive market. And even more if you want to make a premium game (a game with a premium business model with premium game mechanics). If I had to make a mobile game today, I don’t think I could make it profitable (other than signing a nice Apple Arcade deal with Apple). There are two many games, discoverability is biased by F2P and player acquisition, and the prices are too low.

The second reason for us for moving to console and PC was the gameplay itself. The games we wanted to make where “console games”. A player on the couch in front of a TV or PC, holding a gamepad.

Which Games would you like to Nintendo Switch? How do you see Nintendo Switch different from mobile gaming?

Basically I want all good indie games to be on Nintendo Switch. All the other exclusives, I want them on Switch! Like Below, Sky, Disco Elysium, Twelve Minutes… The Switch has nothing to do with “mobile” (phones) gaming, thanks to its controllers. It’s a platform dedicated to gaming, with buttons and sticks. That’s a game-changer. Not the same experience as playing on an iPad.

Anything you’d be willing to share about your upcoming projects perhaps?

Well our next game, Haven, comes out in 2020. It’s an adventure game where you play as a couple in love (you play both characters of the couple), who escaped to a deserted planet in order to stay together. It’s a sci-fi sequel to Romeo and Juliet, in a way! It’s very exciting, very surprising, and very much missing I think (have you ever played a game about what it is to be in an established relationship?). It’s a game for a lot of people. From Furi fans to people who don’t play video games at all.

Microtransactions are notorious in mobile gaming. What’s the studio’s stance on microtransactions? Are they hurting the mobile market? Or they are a necessary evil?

It’s a very subtle game design subject. There are many ways to have microtransactions in a game, but I see good ones and evil ones. The good ones are not affecting the game mechanics. Basically, you can really play without them, it won’t affect your experience at all. I have no problem with these ones, we should all pay for someone else’s work. But they are never really profitable for the developer. They are more like a bonus.

The evil ones are part of the game system. The game mechanics are designed to trigger these microtransactions. These ones are always linked to a form of addiction. I don’t see anything good to that.

So yes, I do think microtransaction and advertising in games are hurting the market, the game experience, and people’s lives overall. It’s just too much to be good.

The new generation of consoles is coming. You have shifted recently to PC and Consoles. What’s the most exciting thing about PS5 and Xbox Scarlett even Stadia for the studio?

A new platform is always exciting. It’s a less crowded store haha! Otherwise, to be honest, we don’t really do technologically advanced games. We focus on the craft and meaning more than on the technology. So, the new platforms won’t change the way we work that much, at least as long as they don’t change the business models. For instance, if the subscription-based store became the dominant model, it would probably affect us more than a new console generation.

What do you think major companies like Sony, Microsoft, and Nintendo should do to improve the scene of indie gaming in the coming generation?

There are three main things to make indie devs lives better: easy access to development tools and publishing, better discoverability systems on their stores (and probably more curation as well), and maintaining a balance between business models (premium, F2P, subscriptions…).

The Game Bakers are currently working on Haven, an adventure RPG set to release in 2020. The game will release for PlayStation 4, Nintendo Switch, Xbox One, and PC.