Publishing Focus – Cubus Games

We spotted their involvement at the Frankfurt Book Fair this year, and it was clear that Cubus Games were a fascinating bunch. Their unique range of digital gamebooks and interactive apps have received high plaudits, and are making their mark on the industry.
I spoke to the team about their approach, and how they’re combining creativity and technical knowhow to craft brilliant products.

Tell us about Cubus Games, and what you’re all about.

(Jordi) Cubus Games is a creative studio formed by a team of Gamebook crafters and developers of Interactive Experiences around Cultural Heritage. We create exciting literary experiences with our Gamebook Apps, and we help cultural institutions engage with their visitors using location based and interactive storytelling. We are also using this Gamebook crafting knowledge to work on Narrative Resilience Technology.

What sets your products apart from others in the industry?

(Jordi) We use several game mechanics inside our narrative to get a different and new reading experience. We are not a regular e-book/book-app publishers, in our gamebooks the reader not only make decisions that modify the plot, but also has to be successful in combats, riddles and challenges, bringing this kind of interactive narrative closer to the video game.
(Quim) We pay special attention to the music that accompanies the ritual of reading/playing, so that the experience is even deeper.

How would you define a “choose-your-own-adventure” gamebook?

(Jaume) A gamebook is a non linear story, also called branching plot story, where the user takes the role of the protagonist (or protagonists) of the story, having to decide what to do by choosing options. The story changes depending on the choices made. (Quim) It makes the reader feel part of the story, the center of it, and it’s the most important thing in this kind of interactive reading.

What do you feel about the relationship between the written word and visual graphic design?

(Jordi) The reader’s experience has to be pleasant, and design is the key to achieve that. The graphic design has to guide the reader through the narrative in a very sensible way, so we have to be very careful to not invade the writing with visuals that may distract the user of his reading moment. Somehow we need to tell a story, and visual graphic design is another tool to give strength to the written word.

What have been the biggest challenges in achieving success for Cubus?

(Quim) Starting from scratch, that’s the biggest challenge. It doesn’t only mean that you have to make good gamebooks since the very beginning – design, development, etc -, but also make good PR and marketing. And it’s really hard. I mean, it’s hard to accept that you lack a lot of knowledge about things that are around of the concept of ‘just’ developing games. But also, it’s a great learning and personal growing that’s really worth it.

And what are the biggest rewards? Do any moments stand out in particular?

(Quim) We won the first hackathon we participated as Cubus team, 2 Pocket Gamer Silver Awards, 2 Bronze Awards, Digital Publishing Innovation Emprendelibro Award, and our gamebook Heavy Metal Thunder is nominated for the FutureBook Awards 2016. These are moments when you realize that your hard work – that you love to do – is being noticed ‘outside’.
(Albert) We have some “material rewards” but we think that the best rewards are the positive feedback from our users. Sometimes they send us emails congratulating us for our job and asking for new adventures, this makes us really happy.

How would you recommend that a ‘traditional’ publisher makes the shift to a more digital and interactive approach?

(Quim) The digital transformation is here. If they want to seduce new generations, publishers will have to be brave and innovate by trying, failing and learning. We are here to help them, and to explore new ways of living narrative experiences. It’s not the future, but also the present. I would say them: ‘Just try.’ Open your mind and trust young – but also experienced – developers that have something to say in narrative.

Is the relationship between technology and publishing starting to become smoother?

(Quim) Yes, of course. There’s a lot of tools, platforms, etc. for many things related to publishing industry. They have no excuses to start exploring. They have 2 options: on one hand they can use technology to bring data and help the business issues. On the other hand they can use technology to bring ‘magic’ to their products, i.e. a new book that is traditional, digital, interactive… or a trans-media experience. There’s no boundaries.

How was the trip to Frankfurt Book Fair this year? Tell us about some of your highlights

(Quim) It was very interesting. We met lots of people in the business club, so we could share lots of things, such as our new approach with the Narrative Resilience Technology – we are exploring this new concept with projects such as “HOAX Our Right to Hope”: a stage musical HOAX My Lonely Heart, a graphic novel HOAX Psychosis Blues, and a free narrative app together. (More info here)
Our participation in the fair also showed us the power of the big players and how the publishing industry is trying to face the digital transformation, though it’s still quite reluctant to accept certain facts. We participated in a panel with Sara Lloyd, and we really agree with her vision for how the publishing industry should respond to the digital changes. For me, the highlight is: big publishers need to seduce young readers, and to do that, they can not wait for them sat in their ‘traditional’ business.

Finally, what advice would you give to a startup in the gamebook industry?

(Albert) Be patient and make the gamebooks you love. Is important to do what you like, not what you think will work better because things made with passion awakens users passion too.
(Quim) Be patient and constant. You’re gonna fail, but don’t give up if you really love it. Like in gamebooks, there’s plenty of new paths to discover that now you can’t even imagine.
A huge thanks to the guys at Cubus Games for chatting to us. To learn more about what they do, check out their website and follow them on Twitter.
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