Indie Game Studio Newfangled’s Success with Paper Trail at Gamescom 2023

In this post:

  • Newfangled Games’ Paper Trail wins the UK Game of the Show at Gamescom 2023 with its unique folding mechanic and striking visual design.
  • 2. CEO Henry Hoffman shares the studio’s journey towards sustainability and the importance of understanding the business side of indie game development.
  • 3. Newfangled Games looks to the future by fostering local talent, partnering with Netflix, and aiming to create games with hooks beyond mechanics.

Indie game developer Newfangled Games has emerged as a prominent player at this year’s Gamescom with their unique and visually stunning title, “Paper Trail.” The game’s innovative mechanics and striking visual design have earned it the prestigious title of Best Family Game at the event. This recognition, coupled with a deal with streaming giant Netflix, is catapulting Newfangled Games into the spotlight in the gaming industry.

Fold, merge, solve: The mechanics of “Paper Trail”

At the core of “Paper Trail” lies a captivating puzzle adventure where players manipulate the game world by folding it. Each level in the game possesses a front side and a back side, allowing for the merging of two worlds when folded together. This ingenious mechanic creates opportunities for solving puzzles and navigating through intricate challenges. The top-down perspective enhances the experience, creating optical illusions and revealing hidden paths, akin to the beloved titles Monument Valley and Carto.

Building a sustainable studio: The journey of Newfangled Games

Newfangled Games, led by CEO Henry Hoffman, has set its sights on establishing a sustainable indie game studio—a stark departure from the cyclic model often seen in the industry. Hoffman, renowned for his creation “Hue,” aimed to break free from the pattern of founding studios, developing a game, and then winding down operations. This practice led to a constant turnover of talent and unsustainable work hours.

The idea for “Paper Trail” began when Hoffman collaborated with his brother, Frederick Hoffman, who served as the art director for “Hue.” Their brainstorming sessions resulted in the concept of folding game levels to create a side-scrolling puzzle adventure. The duo experimented with different viewpoints, eventually settling on a tilted top-down perspective that expanded gameplay possibilities and enhanced the game’s aesthetic appeal.

With the goal of building a long-term sustainable studio, Newfangled Games initiated an internship program to nurture local talent, bringing fresh faces into the industry. They also became a visa sponsor to attract international talent, fostering a diverse team. Newfangled’s commitment to creating a supportive work environment extends to partnerships with freelancers in China and Japan, aiming to transform Norwich into a thriving game development hub.

Astra fund and Netflix: Partners in success

Newfangled Games received support from Astra Fund, a philanthropic venture fund focused on financing “thinking games.” This partnership helped secure the future of “Paper Trail” and the studio’s growth. Additionally, Newfangled Games inked a deal with Netflix to release the game on its platform, alongside traditional console and PC releases scheduled for 2024.

The collaboration with Netflix materialized during Gamescom, as the streaming giant recognized the game’s potential for family-friendly gaming. The alignment with Netflix’s target audience and focus on touch controls played a pivotal role in sealing the partnership. This venture reflects the changing landscape of premium mobile gaming, shifting towards subscription services like Apple Arcade and Netflix Games.

Mechanics as a hook: Crafting unique experiences

Hoffman acknowledges the challenges indie studios face in the mobile gaming market, emphasizing the need for a compelling hook. While IP-based games appeal to family audiences, securing such IPs can be elusive for smaller studios. Newfangled Games distinguishes itself by specializing in creating innovative game mechanics, breathing fresh life into the medium.

However, Hoffman cautions against relying solely on mechanics, as a game’s hook can also stem from its story, world, characters, or overall aesthetic. He points to “Night in the Woods” as an example of a game without groundbreaking mechanics but with a captivating experience that resonates with players.

The future of newfangled games: Ambitious goals

Beyond “Paper Trail,” Newfangled Games envisions a future of growth and exploration. The studio aims to secure grants to support its next projects and expand its team. As Newfangled Games strives to create a sustainable work-life balance and foster a positive work environment, they seek to emulate the success and model of studios like Ustwo, renowned for their talent and balance.

Hoffman draws inspiration from Geometric Interactive’s “Cocoon” and expresses interest in exploring less hardcore and more experimental puzzles, as well as atmosphere-driven titles. The studio aspires to broaden its appeal and create an open-world game with puzzle elements, crafting a gaming experience with a broader reach.

Newfangled Games’ “Paper Trail” has not only captured the attention of the gaming community but also forged vital partnerships with Astra Fund and Netflix, solidifying its presence in the industry. With a focus on innovative mechanics and a commitment to sustainability, Newfangled Games is poised for a promising future in the world of indie game development.

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