Brunette Games Business Feed

In the Middle of a Crisis, It's Good to Know Who's Got Your Back

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By Lisa Brunette

In late March, just a week or so into the quarantine lockdown due to the coronavirus, we had quite a scare here at Brunette Games HQ when a fire broke out just one building away. 

Ours is a mixed-use neighborhood of businesses, apartment buildings, and established single-family homes. The town's roots go back to before the Civil War, when it was an outpost to growing St. Louis. Many of the buildings, like ours, are 115 years old, dating back to the World's Fair Era boom that established Maplewood as a destination.

Everyone who lived in the apartment building that caught fire escaped unharmed, but the fire gutted their apartments, destroying everything they owned, only the brick structure remaining. The fire blew out the windows in the building next door to us and melted the siding off the home on the other side. It blistered a wooden deck we worried would catch fire, bringing it closer to our building. Fortunately, the fire never touched us.

Here's a video taken by an eyewitness on the street behind Brunette Games HQ.

While the fire grew to an engulfing, raging size with alarming quickness, the fire departments were on scene and battling it before it could spread. Thanks to them, no one was hurt, and only one building was damaged. 

Our sympathy goes out to the residents of the gutted apartment building, who've lost their homes during an already difficult time. We're glad to hear they received some emergency support from the Red Cross, and that all of them had a place in town they could go to stay.

In the middle of one apocalypse, they got another. After pandemic and then fire, what's left?

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Fire departments from seven different municipalities responded to the alarm.

But it's always good to remind ourselves of how fortunate we are, and that goes for many of us in dealing with the pandemic. Here at Brunette Games, we are very lucky we can continue to work through the quarantine, and are relieved that no one we know has suffered from COVID-19. We're also grateful to live in a place and time in which a formidable fire foe can rear its fearsome fury, and a legion of water warriors arrives to vanquish it... just... like... that.

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It's been reported the fire was started by an accident with a barbecue grill. The enclosed porch on the back of the flat was reduced to char. Once the blaze was extinguished, firefighters pulled down what remained of the porch, just skeletal, burnt debris. Here's how the back of the building looked the next morning.

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It's worth taking a moment to recognize the people who put themselves in danger in order to help others. It's quite a calling to be a firefighter. The rest of us could only stand on the sidelines - trying our best to maintain social distancing - and watch in awe as they did their swift, expert work to squelch the fire. 

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As a business, we know our local community is just as important as the global gaming community we're very much a part of. We are members of our chamber of commerce and have been impressed by the ingenuity our fellow business leaders have shown to continue business despite the lockdown. Our local fire firefighters had actually been hoping to pass a measure this spring for increased funding for equipment, but the election has been delayed due to the shelter-in-place order. We reached out to the fire department to see if we could donate, and they suggested we give to The Backstoppers. We have made a donation in the name of Brunette Games LLC, to recognize our gratitude and support for firefighters and other first responders. The Backstoppers mission is to provide:

Ongoing needed financial assistance and support to the spouses and dependent children of all police officers, firefighters and volunteer firefighters, and publicly-funded paramedics and EMTs in our coverage area who have lost their lives in the line of duty.

We've been able to continue our business without interruption through the quarantine, and we emerged from this fire unscathed. We look with optimism and hope to the future and wish you all the same luck and fortune in your work and life.

Note: The fire was covered in 40 South News, and a local filmmaker created a short documentary of the event:

 


Now in Soft Launch: Kuuhubb's 'Tiles & Tales'

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We're really excited to see the soft launch of a project we've been working on for the past year with Helsinki-based studio Kuuhubb, as it continues our march at the forefront of the visual novel genre. This will be our studio's fifth visual - or "interactive" - novel and the third mobile novel app project we've helped bring to market. 

Here's the official press release:

TORONTO, March 19, 2020 (GLOBE NEWSWIRE) -- Kuuhubb Inc. (“Kuuhubb” or the “Company”) (TSX- V: KUU), a mobile game development and publishing company targeting the female audience with bespoke mobile experiences, is pleased to announce the successful soft launch of its newest game, “Tiles & Tales”. The new mobile game app will be a unique combination of two very popular genres within the female gaming community; match-3 and visual novels.

Jouni Keränen, CEO of Kuuhubb commented, "Tiles and Tales is our flagship second-generation game and Kuuhubb’s key focus in calendar year 2020. I am extremely proud of our talented development team for all the dedication, hard work and love they have poured into the game. I am confident that this is the beginning of a new long-term franchise and a important growth driver for Kuuhubb in the future”.

A photo accompanying this announcement is available athttps://www.globenewswire.com/NewsRoom/AttachmentNg/2740ee3d-946b-4384-828b-b0ab168a7475

Match-3, or tile-matching games are a multi-billion-dollar market and are the most popular genre with female gamers by a significant margin, with some titles generating USD 25-50M in monthly revenue. According to HubSpot, 69% of match-3 players are women. The growing match-3 market is estimated to generate over USD 5B annually and of 20 games that have lifetime revenues exceeding USD 1B, five are match-3’s (Disney Tsum Tsum, Candy Crush Saga, Puzzle & Dragons, Gardenscapes and Homescapes) (Source: Sensor Tower). Recent consolidation within the match-3 segment has seen Playtika and Zynga acquire the Helsinki-based Seriously Digital Entertainment Oy and Small Giant Games Oy for ~USD 275M and ~USD 650M, respectively.

Where puzzles and stories meet - a unique combination

Tiles & Tales is the first game in the market to merge match-3 games and interactive visual novels. While the audiences of these two genres have traditionally been considered separate, market research conducted for Kuuhubb  showed considerable overlap among players, making this game ideal for specifically catering to both groups in addition to holding significant cross-over appeal.  The unique match-3 and visual novels combination has the potential to enhance the respective audience sizes and enables fans of one type of gaming to broaden their horizons by introducing them to another popular genre.

Unique gameplay - wide audience appeal

In addition to the unique genre mash-up, Tiles & Tales introduces new game mechanics that set it apart from other match-3 games: throwing pieces to make matches, rather than simply tapping them, shakes up the traditional gameplay in a way that will get even the most experienced puzzle enthusiasts excited.

From solving a murder to enjoying a romantic vacation, a wide variety of genres and art styles ensures that there is something that will appeal to every player. The well-stocked library has plenty more stories and adventures to come. One of the stories available was written by award-winning author Lisa Brunette, who has contributed to other major story-based games such as Choices and Matchington Mansion, among many others. Brunette is also the founder of a leading narrative design studio, Brunette Games.

Tiles & Tales is the latest example of Finland’s game industry innovation and is the first game developed entirely in Kuuhubb’s Helsinki Game Studio using an in-house developed match-3 engine. The Company is focused on the expansion and diversification of its product portfolio through the creation of its second-generation games, and anticipates that the Kuuhubb game engine will significantly reduce the resources and time required to bring new titles to market.

Availability

Tiles & Tales is currently in soft launch and available for both iOS and Android devices in the following countries: Finland, Croatia, the Netherlands, Philippines and Australia. Global commercial launch is anticipated for H2 2020.

Download Tiles & Tales:  https://linktr.ee/tilesandtales
Tiles and Tales on Facebook:  https://www.facebook.com/tilesntales/
Tiles and Tales on Instagram:  https://www.instagram.com/tilesandtales/

About Kuuhubb
Kuuhubb is a publicly listed mobile game development and publishing company, targeting the female audience with bespoke mobile experiences. Our Mission is to become a top player in the female mobile game space. We believe in empowering women by creating games and apps that will have our female audience relax, express and entertain themselves every day. Through our games and partnerships with select developers, we explore new lifestyle trends that can be converted into games and apps which will bring value to our users, employees, and shareholders. Headquartered in Helsinki, Finland, Kuuhubb has a global presence with a strong focus on U.S. and Asian markets.

Cautionary Note Concerning Forward-Looking Information

This press release contains forward-looking information. All statements, other than statements of historical fact, that address activities, events or developments that the Company believes, expects or anticipates will or may occur in the future (including, without limitation, statements relating to future revenue and development, growth of the Company’s business and the closing of the Proposed Financing) are forward-looking information. This forward-looking information reflects the current expectations or beliefs of the Company based on information currently available to the Company. Forward-looking information is subject to a number of risks and uncertainties that may cause the actual results of the Company to differ materially from those discussed in the forward-looking information, and even if such actual results are realized or substantially realized, there can be no assurance that they will have the expected consequences to, or effects on the Company. Factors that could cause actual results or events to differ materially from current expectations include, among other things, risks related to the growth strategy of the Company, the possibility that results from the Company’s growth plans will not be consistent with the Company's expectations, failure to execute the definitive documentation in respect of, or complete, the Proposed Financing, the need to satisfy conditions precedent with respect to the Proposed Financing, the possibility that the completion of the Proposed Financing may be delayed or that the terms of the Proposed Financing may change, the early stage of the Company's development, competition from companies in a number of industries, the ability of the Company to manage expansion and integrate acquisitions into its business, future business development of the Company and the other risks disclosed under the heading "Risk Factors" in the Company's annual information form dated November 7, 2018 filed on SEDAR at www.sedar.com. Forward-looking information speaks only as of the date on which it is provided and, except as may be required by applicable securities laws, the Company disclaims any intent or obligation to update any forward-looking information, whether as a result of new information, future events or results or otherwise. Although the Company believes that the assumptions inherent in the forward-looking information are reasonable, forward- looking information is not a guarantee of future performance and accordingly undue reliance should not be put on such information due to the inherent uncertainty therein.

Neither TSX Venture Exchange nor its Regulation Services Provider (as that term is defined in the policies of the TSX Venture Exchange) accepts responsibility for the adequacy or accuracy of this release.

For further information, please contact:

Kuuhubb Inc.
Jouni Keränen - CEO
jouni@kuuhubb.com
Office: +358 40 590 0919

Bill Mitoulas
Investor Relations
bill@kuuhubb.com
Office:  +1 (416) 479-9547


COVID-19 Update from Brunette Games

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Today's view from the home office window.

Life seems surreal this morning as we read of the border closing (by mutual consent) between Canada and the U.S., in an effort to curtail the spread of the coronavirus. Here in St. Louis, our iconic Gateway Arch just closed to visitors. Restaurants, gyms, yoga studios (including mine), schools and universities, museums, and other public gathering places have closed. Notable in this region with an active Catholic community, all masses have been canceled. There's a danger of a blood shortage because so many blood drives have been canceled.

The count of those known to be infected with the virus here is relatively small: 15, as of last night. But Chicago is just up the interstate, with 160 cases and one death. We know our family, friends, and colleagues on the West Coast, especially Seattle - where more than 1,000 people have tested positive and 52 have died - are feeling this pandemic even more.

Our work, however, continues, despite all this, including cancellation of the Game Development Conference, which would have taken place this week. We miss the opportunity to meet with our clients and friends. But we've been a remote company since the early days when it was just me and my computer, freelancing from home. Our entire staff continues to work from home, serving clients remotely as our regular method of doing business. And that business must go on.

Our hearts go out to our clients in China, who've continued to press on despite their location near ground zero. Many of our clients are able to shift to work-from-home arrangements, and that's a huge advantage our industry has over others. Hopefully it will help us all weather the tide of what's to come.

Stay safe out there, everyone. We wish you well.

 


Brunette Games at Game Development Conference 2020

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We're excited to announce the participation at this year's Game Development Conference of two members of our team: Lisa Brunette and Dexter Woltman.

Lisa returns to GDC this year after a five-year hiatus and will be presenting as part of the Game Narrative Summit. Her talk: Conflict, Mystery, and Connection in Casual, Free-to-Play Puzzle Games. It's scheduled for the first day of the conference in the afternoon. Lisa has spoken at GDC previously, as a headliner in 2012, delivering a talk that was covered by the game industry press.

For those local to our Missouri headquarters, Lisa will be previewing the talk for the St. Louis Game Developers Co-Op on March 2 at the St. Louis Central Library.

Dexter will be attending GDC for the first time. His previous conference experience includes PixelPop 2019, and he has also presented to the St. Louis Game Developers Co-Op.

We want to express our regrets to our friends in China who are unable to participate in the conference due to the coronavirus epidemic. Be safe and sound, and we look forward to catching up with you in 2021.

Please contact Lisa Brunette to set up meetings during GDC. We hope to see you in San Francisco!

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We Grew Three Sizes This Year! A Brunette Games 2019 Recap

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The Brunette Games crew, from L to R: Anthony Valterra, Lisa Brunette, and Dexter Woltman.

At this time last year, I'd taken my first steps toward going beyond the solo act by engaging with a few project-based contractors, but I soon discovered that wasn't enough. There was opportunity to build Brunette Games into the dream team I'd always envisioned: A collaborative cabal of casual game scribes delivering the best narrative in the business.

Brunette Games has now tripled in size, with three full-time staff members:

  • Anthony Valterra, an industry vet who steered flagship brands such as Dungeons & Dragons and Avalon Hill for Wizards of the Coast. His publishing company also released the only roleplaying game guide governing the romantic lives of D&D characters, The Book of Erotic Fantasy. His thirty-year career in brand and grant management makes him ideal in his role as business director, and we've been grateful to get his seasoned perspective and writing chops on unannounced projects for Jam City, Daily Magic Productions, G5 Entertainment, Tuyoo, and Super Gaming. He's also contributed to our work on a new game app set to release in 2020, Tiles & Tales for Helsinki-based Kuuhubb, and Jam City's 2019 game Vineyard Valley. Some of you already know he's my husband in real life, too, making Brunette Games truly a family business.
  • Dexter Woltman, who, though new to the industry, is cut from the same cloth as the rest of us. As one of my original contractors, he's now put in a year with Brunette Games, and sometimes we think he gets us better than we get ourselves. Dexter is lead writer/designer on the top-performing Redemption Games title Sweet Escapes, and in his spare time, he's also written his first interactive novel for an unannounced new mobile app and designed and written for a new franchise title to release in 2020. A superb team player, he's also contributed to our work on numerous games for clients Kuuhubb, Jam City, G5 Entertainment, Tuyoo, Super Gaming, Storm8, Belka Games, and Cherrypick Games, just to name a few!
  • Lisa Brunette, intrepid owner and leader of Brunette Games. My focus this past year has been on taking the skills I honed on industry-dominating titles Matchington Mansion, Lily's Garden, and Choices, plus the five years I spent at the narrative helm at Big Fish, and transferring them to my team so that we have a group expertise not dependent on any one of us. Our collaborative process ensures clients an above-average narrative product, and I'm confident we'll see many more hit games in the coming year as a result.

In addition to the core three, we've got two others on the Bru Crew, both voice-over actors. Cammie Middleton records voiceover work for TV, film, and games out of her L.A. studio, while also playing lead roles in both film and stage productions, including appearances in the Golden Key award-winning "Rochester 1996," to rave reviews. Andy Mack is a longtime video-game voice actor whose work has been showcased at E3, Gamescon, GameInformer, and elsewhere and includes 2019's The Amazing Fantastics and Postal 4. They've both recorded for an unannounced Jam City title to release in 2020.

It's been a whirlwind year of success, but not without its struggle. As a small business owner, I can tell you that running a business from scratch is one of the hardest things I've ever done... from providing employee benefits such as health care to grappling with decisions like liability insurance to handling the complexity of a remote client network spanning the globe. Whether it's working over the July 4th holiday on a rush job (which we did) or getting up for 6 am calls with clients in an opposite time zone (which we do regularly), you have to be willing to go the extra mile. I'm proud to say everyone on this team is, and we have the game credits to prove it. That makes the struggle so worth it!

In 2019, Brunette Games worked with a total of 12 different clients to release three new games and produce new content for three existing games. We've also been working on 10 other games still in development. 

Here's a list of our 2019 new releases:

  • Lily's Garden, for Tactile Entertainment - narrative design, concept origination and character consulting, intro storyboard
  • Sweet Escapes, for Redemption Games - intro storyboard, narrative design, scriptwriting
  • Vineyard Valley, for Jam City - general consulting

We delivered new content for the following games:

  • Survivors: The Quest, for G5 Entertainment - narrative design, scriptwriting
  • Homicide Squad: Hidden Crimes, also for G5 Entertainment - narrative design, scriptwriting, editing
  • Sweet Escapes - narrative design, scriptwriting

And finally, we're working with the following clients on unannounced projects in various stages of development:

  • Graphite Lab
  • Daily Magic Productions
  • Storm8
  • Belka Games
  • Jam City
  • Tuyoo
  • Super Gaming
  • G5 Entertainment
  • Kuuhubb
  • Cherrypick Games

Looking ahead, we're excited about the opportunities for us in 2020 both close to home and far away. Our projects gel best when we can kick off the teamwork in person, which we were able to do this year right here in St. Louis with Graphite Lab, in Helsinki with Kuuhubb, and in L.A. with Jam City. Not every client has the budget for an onsite, but we look forward to seeing you at the Game Developers Conference in March and perhaps at other venues later on.

We wish you a prosperous 2020 filled with creativity, imagination, and great game stories!