Plays well with others
Koolhaus Games Inc.
May 22, 2009— Vancouver, British Columbia
At first glance, video game production may look like just another high tech enterprise, subject to the same woes that have afflicted the industry over the past decade. However, this remains one business where winning is the norm.
"It's the only entertainment industry form that has actually seen continuous double-digit growth over the last 15 years," explains Wolfgang Hamann.
He should know. Even before establishing his own company in 2004, Hamann had worked with two of the most successful firms in Vancouver's vibrant game-development sector. He points out that such firms regularly create well-honed products that actually make it to market, in contrast to so many software firms that fail to do so. And in contrast to film production, book publishing, and music recording, the audience for video games continues to grow and demand more.
Hamann's firm, Koolhaus Games, is ready to deliver. His approach emphasizes the value of diversity; exploring different avenues for developing gaming technology rather than concentrating exclusively on a particular format. That is how he began looking at small mobile platforms, working on games that could be played on a cell phone screen.
This goal called for a new type of software engine, along with the expertise to create it. Hamann obtained both with the help of the National Research Council of Canada Industrial Research Assistance Program (NRC-IRAP). This federal initiative offers a range of both technical and business-oriented advisory services along with potential financial support to growth-oriented small- and medium-sized Canadian enterprises. NRC-IRAP supports innovative research, development, and commercialization of new products and services.
Koolhaus was subsequently able to develop the necessary software, which demonstrated how a three-dimensional gaming experience could be reproduced in a modest two-dimensional medium. Then, much to Hamann's surprise and delight, this product was picked up by several distributors.
"Our very first game using NRC-IRAP supported technology, as more of a proof of concept, turned out to be a published game," he recalls.
This success had even larger implications. By 2006, Koolhaus became the first North American mobile firm to be approached by the major Japanese game publisher, Square Enix, which seldom seeks partnerships outside of that country.
"It wouldn't have been possible to get that contract without NRC-IRAP support; without developing that technology," says Hamann. "Getting NRC-IRAP support and developing that technology was our calling card to get moving in that particular area."
He adds that value of this support went well beyond any specific product.
"They are supportive in all kinds of ways," says Hamann, noting how NRC-IRAP Industrial Technical Advisors provided business connections, marketing information, and thoughtful insights as to where Koolhaus should be headed.
In addition to helping the company develop games for the Nintendo Wii, DS, PC and mobile formats, NRC-IRAP has been instrumental in helping the company move into PC online social networking, a rapidly expanding field that is quite different from the typical game environment.
Bringing this into 2009, Hamann summarizes the value added benefits of NRC-IRAP's support. "That initial and subsequent support has benefitted us in so many ways," he concludes. "We've gotten a lot of different projects based on the technology that NRC-IRAP has supported which is contributing greatly to Koolhaus achieving its goals."
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