Marshall Zwicker and Richard Wah Kan of Dreamcatcher interview
A few weeks ago I had a chance to talk with Marshall Zwicker, Director of Sales and Richard Wah Kan, President of DreamCatcher Interactive. We here at AdventureGamer.com were interested in finding out more about DreamCatcher, which is one of the few software companies, focused primarily on publishing and distributing adventure games.
Since its establishment in 1996, DreamCatcher has quietly but consistently taken over more and more of the adventure game market. A segment of the market that is sadly neglected by big companies and publishers who prefer to distribute role-playing games, first-person shooters and action games. DreamCatcher has thrived in this atmosphere establishing its self firmly in this forgotten corner. Yet according to the two gentlemen I talked with, this corner was not going to stay forgotten for long. Both felt that adventure games were on the verge of resurgence thanks to the Internet and innovations in the genre.
We wanted to know about their marketing plans, their feelings on being a North American publisher when lately most adventure games are primarily coming out of Europe, the trends they have identified and why they only sell adventure games.
What sort of process or strategy do you use to seek out new games & developers?
RWK: We have a wide network of contacts who are continually sourcing new games for us from all over the world. In addition, we also have an open invitation printed in our game booklets that invites developers to get in touch with us if they have something they think we would like to see.
What criteria do you use when deciding on the games that you are going to publish?
RWK: We are primarily focused on looking at games that fall into the adventure and adventure style genres. We are looking for a certain level of quality as evidenced by our upcoming spring releases, Traitors Gate and Riddle of the Sphinx, as well as unique products such as The Legend of Lotus Spring and SafeCracker.
What made DreamCatcher decide to focus only on adventure games? Do you have future plans to expand into other genres?
RWK: We kept hearing from our customers that they wanted more non-violent, adventure/puzzle style games similar to some of our earlier titles like Beyond Time and Jewels of the Oracle. We launched a couple of similar type games and noticed through the sales of those titles that customers really were hungry for adventure/puzzle style games. This trend has once again been re-confirmed by the response that we've been getting with our most recent releases, Nightlong, Lightbringer, The Forgotten, and The Crystal Key.
We are seeing other publishers veer away from the adventure genre because their publishing models don't work very well in this category that admittedly, has less sell through potential than other categories. This leaves a void in the industry that we would really like to fill.
Right now our focus is [on] adventure and will remain adventure in the near future. We would never rule out the possibility of expanding into other genres sometime down the road, but first we would like to establish [a] firm footing in the adventure genre.
Over the past year the majority of adventure games released came from Europe and abroad, has the fact that you are a North American company helped or hindered the publishing & distribution of your games?p/b[
RWK: The European games have helped to expand the adventure titles available to the North American adventure gaming community and provide additional exposure and awareness of adventure games in general.
It has helped DreamCatcher, specifically because we can get a good feel for a title's potential based on its success in other territories including Europe.
What are some of the major trends you see on the horizon for adventure games?
MZ: Real time 3D and more adventure hybrids will be the factors, that we feel, will help to re-stimulate the adventure genre. Games like The Longest Journey and Gabriel Knight 3 that start with a great story and weave in multiple paths, with independently functioning NPC's that live [in] real-time in their computer world. Each game adds their own technological advancements to the genre, as in GK3's free floating camera or TLJ's astonishing 32-bit graphic capability and believable, immersive environment. The Neverending Story also has it's own revolutionary twin indoor/outdoor real-time 3D engine with seamless transitions in between. There are many more bright new ideas in store that we feel will bring adventure games back to the top of the best-seller lists.
How has the advent of Internet game review sites changed your business?
MZ: It has helped tremendously! Game review sites like Adventuregamer.com have allowed us to get our message out to the gamers that are truly interested in adventure games and review cycles are certainly much faster than in traditional print magazines.
One of the major problems adventure gamers feel adventure games experience is in marketing, especially since such a large portion of adventure gamers are older adults and women. Is this an issue you have identified? If so, what plans do you have for dealing with this issue?
MZ: Marketing adventure games is definitely a challenge because historically the total sales potential of adventure games just doesn't economically justify high advertising budgets. However, the Internet is proving to be a powerful marketing tool for DreamCatcher as adventure specific web-sites as well as our own web-site help to promote our games.
We have also had successes at in-store advertising promotions with some of our retail partners. We have a pretty good idea about what does and doesn't work when it comes to advertising and this year we definitely plan to increase our advertising efforts in the areas where we are seeing positive results.
How do you plan on increasing your customer base in the coming years?
MZ: Again we plan to increase our advertising efforts in the areas where we are seeing positive results. We are also moving towards better quality games and many more of them!
Do you see yourself as a niche company? If so, how do you see yourself dealing with the competition in the future?
MZ: We see ourselves continuing to evolve to become an even better adventure gaming company and continuing to provide great games and good value to our customers!
You can find out more information about DreamCatcher Interactive at https://www.dreamcatchergames.com.