Snowprint picks up Black Anvil team

Wilhelm Ísterberg and devs from shuttered Wooga midcore team form new Berlin studio

It's been a rough year for the German games industry, with the past 12 months seeing layoffs at Crytek, GameDuell, Gameforge, Goodgame, and Wooga. But there's good news coming from the scene today, as a group of developers from Wooga's shuttered Black Anvil Games studio have reunited as the new Berlin outpost of Swedish midcore mobile outfit Snowprint Studios.

The new studio will be comprised of eight ex-Black Anvil devs and led by former Black Anvil studio head Wilhelm Ísterberg as GM and managing director. Ísterberg spoke with this week about the transition to Snowprint, as well as what he's seen happening in the German industry. There are signs of consolidation in the industry, he noted, with the quality of games, cost of user acquisition, and demands of consumers all rising in recent years. At the same time, he believes many have been focusing too much on quantity of games and not enough on quality.

"It's not a numbers game," Ísterberg said. "You can't take 10 or 20 or 30 or 100 stabs and hope one makes it. It makes much more sense to have a dedicated team that is an expert at exactly that type of game, then you try to make the best game of your life. We've seen that in the German industry and elsewhere, that it's very hard to sustain very large companies that are making dozens of games when there are so many apps and games [launching] into the App Store."

Snowprint Berlin's first project is still under wraps, but it's reasonable to expect something in line with Black Anvil's first (and only) released game, Warlords. After all, Black Anvil's fate was sealed more by Wooga's decision to focus on the casual market than by any failings of Warlords. As Ísterberg explained, both the game and the team came together nicely for Black Anvil.

"We had definitely experienced some magic there, especially in the last year," Ísterberg said. "We all felt it, I think. The team came together and we had a lot of fun at work, we got good results and got a lot of stuff done. We were working on a game we really enjoyed, and the type of game we enjoyed."

So Ísterberg's studio was closed and his game was killed, but there wasn't much in the way of key learnings to take away because neither had really failed. He said the team learned plenty about making turn-based tactical mobile games, but had to reach for a bigger picture takeaway from the experience. "It's not the best starting point I think when you join a company where the core mission of the company is not 100% aligned with the type of game you want to do," Ísterberg said. "And I'm not very interested in making match-threes, so that's why I was talking to [Snowprint Studios CEO] Alexander [Ekvall] and Snowprint. It's very specific that the vision there is about midcore games that have deeper gameplay but are also more accessible for mass markets, and that's what we're interested in making, so it's a good match."

Ekvall told that Black Anvil was a perfect fit for the company's strategy. He said the midcore market is as saturated as the casual scene when it comes to real-time battle or JRPG mechanics, and he has no interest in going up against Supercell and Clash Royale. Instead, he wants a more approachable and accessible version of midcore gaming without the focus on real-time stress.

"We are claiming this space around more turn-based, tactical or puzzle battles and these types of games where we can be the ones who define that part of the market," Ekvall said. "We want to have the first-mover advantage, and we are betting hard on the core mechanics and the connections to the meta-layers where we see those openings."

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