Note: On August 8th, 2011 Trinigy was acquired by Havok, an Intel-owned technology company. Havok and Trinigy have been partners for a number of years and the acquisition will help the companies better focus on expansion into the Asian markets and growth sectors such as social and mobile.

Dag Frommhold, Managing Partner at Trinigy, talks about global game development and growing demand for his company’s middleware solutions.  Trinigy’s Vision Engine is now behind the development of more than 150 games.  The company is about to launch WebVision, what it calls a full-featured engine for browser-based game development.

Dag Frommhold

Dag Frommhold

GBR: How is social gaming impacting the middleware industry? Aside from the growth of social gaming, what other major trends do you see changing the landscape of game development today?

Dag Frommhold: Social gaming certainly creates new requirements for the middleware industry. For instance, since a lot of social games are played in web browsers, browser support becomes a very interesting feature for game engines. Trinigy is addressing that trend with our upcoming solution called WebVision, which is essentially a full-featured engine for browser-based gaming.

Other major trends include, for example, digital distribution models and self-publishing. A growing number of game developers bypass the traditional developer/publisher/distributor model by selling their games on Steam, XBLA, PSN or WiiWare. This creates entirely new niches and is an exciting breeding ground for fresh ideas, which might never have had a chance in the traditional distribution model.

Trinigy Vision

Trinigy Vision Engine (Click to enlarge)

GBR: Do you see any regional gaming distinctions at the developer level, or are developers becoming more globalized in their approach to development?

Dag Frommhold: There are still significant regional differences – both regarding the types of games that are created in different parts of the world and the platforms which are supported. While large parts of Asia (e.g. Korea, China) traditionally have a strong focus on MMOs for the PC, North America, Japan and the UK are much more console-centric. Mainland Europe is pretty heterogeneous in this respect. These varying platform focuses definitely affect how developers create their games, how they finance their games, which tools they used to create their games and so on. Web-based gaming and digital distribution models seem to be gaining steam in all countries. This changes the development landscape in terms of business models, development practices, toolsets and the like; but it also means that for now, there is more global consistency in development trends.

GBR: How do these regional and global trends affect Trinigy?

Dag Frommhold: As mentioned, we are about to release WebVision, our solution for graphically rich web-based gaming. This solution was specifically designed to satisfy the need among web-based game developers for more compelling visuals and gaming experiences delivered in browsers.

As far as digital distribution models, self-publishing and casual games are concerned, it doesn’t change our approach at all. From the foundation of our company, we’ve been squarely focused on making our technology accessible to developers of all types of games, from casual to AAA. Most people do not know this, but we were one of the first middleware providers offering licensing models specifically geared towards these types of productions.

We are seeing significant growth throughout Asia, as seen with our recent announcement about seven new deals in that market. As with our other markets, we are absolutely committed to providing top-notch local support to our Asian customers. We have recently launched a Korean website (www.trinigy.net/ko) and a Chinese website (www.trinigy.net/zh). We’ve started to localize the Vision Engine’s technical information and documentation. And we have many other plans for that region, most of which I can’t talk about at this time.  The funding environment has obviously changed significantly for developers to a more self-published model, what is Trinigy’s strategy in supporting these developers?

Trinigy has a long history of supporting smaller and independent development studios. Since 2004 we have been offering a dedicated licensing model for smaller-scale projects where licensing fees basically scale with the development budget.

In addition, we introduced our Entertainment Stimulus Program (ESP) in 2008, which allows proven developers to create a prototype using the Vision Engine in order to secure funding for a new title. This continues to be one of our most successful programs.

GBR: Who do you view as your primary competitors? Why?

Dag Frommhold: Emergent probably is our main competitor currently as they are in a similar market segment. We are also regularly dealing with Epic and to a much lesser extent, Crytek.

GBR: What differentiates your game engine’s features from your competitors?

Dag Frommhold: The Vision Engine is an extremely versatile engine, which provides developers with practically unlimited creative freedom. I think Vision strikes an ideal balance between a large set of fully integrated features and tools, and extraordinary levels of extensibility and customizability. This makes sure that developers can get a prototype up and running quickly, but it also ensures the developer that they won’t get stuck with a monolithic engine that isn’t capable of meeting their needs should they require changes. With the Vision Engine’s freedom and modularity, there is always a way for developers to reach their goal.

GBR: Trinigy started as a German company and now has an office in Austin, Texas. What have you learned since opening up your US office?

Dag Frommhold: The expansion of our business into North America has taught us quite a few things: First, being “local” is key. Business and support performed on-site by locals is crucial, and should be invested in. Secondly, marketing is critical. If you have a great product and service, shout about it, don’t just whistle. And don’t expect good press about your product to travel from one region to the next without effort. Thirdly, communication is key. Communication between two offices in very different time zones, and with some language barriers, can be challenging. You have to formalize the process to make it work. Lastly, pay attention to regional trends, and factor those into global strategies. Regions may differ in their styles, their requirements, etc. Make sure you remember those when laying out global strategies.

All of these experiences gathered during the last two years are not only important, they are highly valuable now as we expand into the Asian market.

GBR: Where are your biggest markets and why?

Dag Frommhold: We are seeing a pretty even distribution of our engine sales over the various territories, with the biggest growth occurring in Asia currently. We are also seeing rapid growth in our serious games business all over the world.

GBR: What are the top 5 things readers may not know about Trinigy?

Dag Frommhold:

1.    The Vision Engine is available on all major platforms (PC, Xbox360, PS3, Wii), and soon WebVision will take Vision-based games to the Web.
2.    More than 150 Vision Engine-based titles have been released/are in development.
3.    Trinigy was probably the first game engine vendor to offer a special licensing model for casual and downloadable game titles.
4.    Unlike many other middleware companies, Trinigy is not dependent on Venture Capital but has been running profitably from our own revenues since day one. This allows us to focus more of our roadmap on customer needs.