Interview: Erik Schreuder, CEO of Iceberg Interactive

Erik Schreuder, CEO of Iceberg Interactive, answers our questions about the adventure past and the 4X future.

By Daavpuke, Posted 24 May 2014

Founded in 2009, publisher Iceberg Interactive is celebrating five years of existence and constant growth. With a sizable line-up under their belt, the company can look back on some success stories within their eclectic cast of games and developers.

We were able to send some questions over to CEO Erik Schreuder to talk about their history, vision and outlook.

Preface:  Conducting the interview was put under duress. I take full responsibility for any lack in research or quality in setting up questions. Pretty much all of it was spontaneously devised off the top of my head. Questions were shortened in the article to fit the model; no content should be different. Additionally, this interview came back to us proofread and edited by Iceberg Interactive’s PR department, who also went on record stating no content was altered. - Daav

Interview,Iceberg Interactive,Erik Schreuder,CEO
Erik Schreuder

Daav: Iceberg Interactive had its humble beginnings from supporting old genres like point-and-click adventures. Was there a passion for point-and-click within the company when it started or was it more a decision to fill a gap?

Before starting Iceberg five years ago, we owned a company called Lighthouse Interactive, which we sold. That company also targeted the genres of strategy, simulation, action and adventure games. So, basically we continued with the same principles. Adventure games have a market; it is possibly not a glamorous genre for some bigger publishers, but they are evergreen titles. We may still sign up point-and-click adventures, when we come across ones that add something to the genre; in fact, we have several under development as we speak.

 

Daav: In general, Iceberg Interactive approaches games that fall underneath the usual marketed genres; oddballs, if you will. Nuclear Dawn, Blades of Time, Gas Guzzlers; they’re not exactly something you’d see pushed often. What drives the company to choose the odd man out?

I guess, when you are a small private company, you cannot compete on equal terms with multi-billion dollar corporations, so you need to find product that is maybe a bit quirky, piques people’s interest and gets talked about on forums, and in the videogame press. We have never released a game we didn’t enjoy playing, which is probably not something most publishers can claim.

 

Daav: Is there less competition when it comes to publishing “niche” games such as these?

Less competition, in that big publishers are likely not looking at these games. In some cases, I think they wished they would. We definitely had some diamonds in the rough that performed insanely well.

There is plenty of competition from other mid-size publishers though. Which is why we aim to sign developers early on, although we don’t sign games based on just a game design document. It has to be playable, from which point on we’re capable of extrapolating current fun to a final high quality product.

Interview,Iceberg Interactive
Killing Floor

Daav: What was the first time when Iceberg Interactive really “nailed it?”

It’s hard to pin this down to one particular game, but I can say that developing our relationship with Steam has been elementary in building large worldwide audiences for our independently developed games.

 

Daav: A more recent success story is 4X strategy game Endless Space. It managed to grab the highest honors at the 2013 Unity Awards. What’s the story behind signing developer Amplitude Studios and did you expect the game to get as much attention as it did?

When we first heard of Endless Space, it was one of the most hyped games in the 4X strategy genre. Although developer Amplitude has already secured their own Steam listing we worked out a different type of deal with them, where we would do other digital and boxed retail and became responsible for typical publisher duties such as PR and Marketing. Amplitude has its own staff for that as well, so it has really been a pleasant co-production from that perspective.

 

Daav: How awesome is Amplitude Studios though, honestly? They’re also making Endless Legend and Dungeon of the Endless and they’re both shaping to be complex and stylish releases. Is this the best thing to happen to the company yet?

Amplitude ARE awesome. Experienced and smart management, they make high quality games we personally like to play and their art is just unbelievable. To top it all, they’re actually really nice guys! We weren’t involved in Dungeon, but we have extended our cooperation, with Iceberg aiding the publishing of Endless Legend from many angles.

Our relationship with Amplitude has certainly been one of the highlights of our business so far, and long may it continue.

Interview,Iceberg Interactive
Endless Space

Daav: Recently, Iceberg Interactive’s attention shifted fully to the 4X strategy genre and space variants.  StarDrive, Endless Space, Horizon; there’s a steady stream of the spacey theme in the portfolio. How did you shift from point-and-click to 4X?

It hasn’t shifted fully to 4X, we still have our horror adventures, plus the combat flight shooter, Vector Thrust, but I get your drift. We have always had a penchant for 4X strategy games – we like to play them ourselves. With Lighthouse, we published Sword of the Stars, and in the early years of Iceberg we published Armada 2526, Gemini Wars and Star Ruler.

 

Daav: With the rise of the digital market, Iceberg Interactive also altered its approach from a lot of retail releases, which still happen, to more digital content. When did you realize the potential of platforms like Steam and how do you use the model to grow your audience and portfolio?

As a small publisher you ride the waves of the industry. Since we opened our doors five years ago, we were aware of the growth of digital, particularly in the States and that digital was where the industry was heading. Europe has always been somewhat behind in such developments, with packaged goods still being viable. As we were a fledgling company, still establishing ourselves, we focused on boxed retail, with the digital business being a smaller part of the equation.

With digital taking over more and more markets share globally, we changed our model in 2011, where our main goal was definitely to develop the relationship with all major and minor digital portals, especially Steam, and build from there. I can’t praise Steam enough: Steam has absolutely enabled us to reach a worldwide audience. It’s like having a country the size of Germany, just filled with hardcore gamers. That’s a PC game publisher’s dream, isn’t it?

We actually publish less games now than a few years ago. We have to reach a global audience now so we have to put more focus on each individual game. We grow our audience by creating localized versions, localized Steam pages and specific local PR campaigns.

 

Daav: The company is also no stranger to fighting its way to the top. Several of your games still need to go through Steam Greenlight, despite Iceberg Interactive’s extensive library there. When does Steam tell you to put the game on Steam Greenlight?

We tend to seek out genres and games, which we know are a good fit with Steam audiences and generally get our games accepted straight away. We have actually only ever had one curveball. The Good Life, which is a ship sim/tycoon/free-roam style of game, had to go through Greenlight, because Steam felt that for such a hybrid game they weren’t sure it if had the audience. In the end, the game got greenlit though and it will be released soon.

 

Daav: What’s the strategy from there? How does the company fight for attention on Steam Greenlight?

As I said, we only ever had one game on Greenlight, so it was more of a one-off strategy. With this particular game we used various methods to get the up-votes we needed, we showed a lot of video, translated our promotional texts and promoted via social media.

Interview,Iceberg Interactive

Daav: You’re also sporadically a target of criticism. For instance, Dark Matter released in an “unfinished” state and caused a stir because of it. How do you, as a publisher and not a developer, handle a matter such as this and how can you help people prevent these problems?

You are right, we don’t develop games ourselves. As you have no doubt seen on various forums, the developer has rightfully taken the blame for miscuing on the ending, but to be fair we were at fault too, and should have tested the game better internally; we simply had too much confidence in the developer and the (now improved) ending snuck under the radar. As a result, we now put all of our games, big and small, through the same level of extensive external quality assurance, to prevent these things occurring.

 

Daav: What’s still a goal for Iceberg Interactive? Is there an ambition to lure in even more titles and become a niche powerhouse? Is the 4X genre the definite lead for now or are there other games in your sights? Where do you feel you can still grow or improve?

Indeed the goal is to become a niche powerhouse, by offering fair deals with developers and putting our hearts and souls into releasing these games, doing justice to the time the developers have put into making them. There is a limit to how many games we can publish per year, so don’t expect us to become a vortex sucking in all indie games all of a sudden.

It looks like in 2014 the 4X strategy is definitely the go-to genre for us, but we don’t work ahead much more than one year, so change is always lurking. We’re absolutely looking at some other genres as well, in fact we have several adventure games, a cel-shaded combat flight game, a multiplayer iOS tank game and some other secret stuff up our sleeve already.

We just like to publish games that we personally like to play. Sci-fi is a logical step from there as I have been fascinated by it since I was a kid and it’s going to remain a key genre. Our growth could be in other formats such as the Steam Machine and other consoles, but we will never abandon PC.

 

Our thanks to Erik Schreuder for making the interview happen on such short notice, especially in a busy period.

Daav Valentaten, NoobFeed (@Daavpuke)

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General Information

Platform(s): PC
Publisher(s): Iceberg Interactive
Developer(s): Amplitude Studios
Genres: Turn-Based Strategy
Themes: 4X, Science Fiction
Release Date: 2012-08-30

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