Reus developer Abbey Games on escaping the basement

Alex Calvin
Reus developer Abbey Games on escaping the basement

Like many development studios, Holland-based Abbey Games was set up by a group of friends who shared a passion for video games.

The four founders, Adriaan Jansen, Bas Zalmstra, Maarten Wiedenhof and Manuel Kerssemakers met as prospective game programmers at University of Utrecht and decided to set up a studio and started work on their first release – god title Reus.

Reus started in the basement of the university, where a small team came together to spend our extra hours working on a project. But we quickly moved to an office in the [Utrecht-based games business centre] Dutch Game Garden,” Kerssemakers tells MCV.

We grew and spent more and more time on Reus instead of our studies or other jobs. From there we worked another one and a half years, strengthenedby lots of criticism from peer game developers.”

"Our first game Reus showed us that we could do a great job of marketing our games ourselves."

Manuel Kerssemakers, Abbey Games



That title hit Steam in May 2013 and to date has sold 800,000 copies. It was so successful, in fact, that it has kept the studio afloat financially, and allowed them to continue games development – specifically work on its second release, adventure title Renowned Explorers: International Society.

Reus was created with the incredibly low up-front investment of €12,000,” Kerssemakers says.

The only way we could create our follow-up, Renowned Explorers, was by reinvesting our profits from Reus.”

This success and financial stability allowed the studio to remain independent. Renowned Explorers is being created without the aid of any outside company.

Turning to a publisher wasn't necessary for funding, and we'd rather have full control over the project, both creatively and in terms of project management,” Kerssemakers explains.

Publishers nowadays are especially great to work with for marketing purposes and connecting to a greater audience.

But Reus showed us that we could do a great job on that ourselves. Renowned Explorers is mostly created for the same audience, which allows us to build that relationship without the help of a publisher.”

Thus far Abbey Games has focused entirely on PC development. Although there may be console gamers who'd appreciate its roster of releases, we aren't going to see a PlayStation 4 or Xbox One port of Reus or Renowned Explorers any time soon.

We create games of a larger scope and complexity than most titles in our price range. Due to interface and game history, we find our audience is mostly on PC,” he says.

Both Reus and Renowned Explorers could have an audience on console, due to the strategy genre being even more underserved there than on PC. But Reus is technically a hard port to do.

Renowned Explorers has been created in our own engine, which gives us the option to do it ourselves, but also increases the cost of that option. We'd rather focus on the already strong community for Renowned Explorers on PC before we start working on ports.”

Kerssemakers also says that there was no interest at Abbey Games of chasing PC trends, such as Early Access, either.

While Reus was released as a premium game, Renowned Explorers was released with community in mind,” he says.

We still finished the game before releasing it, since we feel that selling a finished game fits us better than working with, for example, Early Access. But we're in constant dialogue with the growing community and are looking into many ways of developing the game further if possible.

We ask everyone that's playing Renowned Explorers to get into contact with us and let us know what you want, be it expansions, modding, Renowned Explorers plushies, translations or ports.”

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