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Kinda Brave partners with 3 indie studios in sustainable publishing effort

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Kinda Brave is a new Swedish sustainable game publisher and it has signed up to work with three new indie game studios.

Uppsala, Sweden-based Kinda Brave will work with the studios Ember Trail, Dinomite Games, and Tic Tek Toe. The studios are all working on two titles, and Dinomite Games plans to launch Hack n’ Slash Go Fight Fantastic! in 2023, said Kinda Brave CEO Björn Rudolfsson, in an interview with GamesBeat.

The Dinomite Games title is a hand-drawn co-op game, and the other studios will announce their new titles in the coming months. The content is indie-related, but the titles don’t necessarily have an environmental theme. Rather, the publisher is focusing on sustainability in terms of how the games are made.

“We have no standing orders on creativity,” Rudolfsson said. “We’re not looking to make a special kind of game. We’re still making the exact same games that you would expect from an indie developer. We’re trying to elevate those games in terms of the way they are made.”

The Kinda Brave team and its devs.

The company has raised about $6 million and it is using that to fund growth and development.

Rudolfsson said the studios share the publisher’s core aims and ideals, prioritizing “People, Players and Planet.” Rudolfsson started the company in December 2020, and Karim Walldén joined as head of marketing in February 2021. The company takes a sustainable approach to the environment, and it also believes in treating the developers well as well, so they can sustain the willpower to finish their games.

“We are delighted to be working with the talented teams at Ember Trail, Dinomite Games and Tic Tek Toe. We want all of our studios to feel part of the group, sharing our goals, ethos and culture whilst we will do everything we can to provide them with the resources they need to achieve the results that they want,” said Rudolfsson. “The Hybrid Indie model of a publisher is not just focused on commercial aspects, but on the everyday support and growth of studios and the people therein, allowing each studio to pour all time and energy into the development of quality indie titles.”

Kinda Brave will give its studios tools to focus on the people within the company, championing a happy and healthy workplace, built on foundations of equality and inclusivity.·It will provide resources and time to weave accessibility features for players into their games, including training and certifications.

“We’re specializing in the indie scene, working with small teams with big ideas,” Rudolfsson said. “We want to see how we can make independent games with teams that normally operate on their own with pretty limited resources.”

And it will provide opportunities and means to work sustainably through mindful choices of suppliers and manufacturers, recycling and reuse of equipment and to keep travel to a minimum to achieve climate neutrality. Production of titles will also be made with eco-friendly game settings to lower power consumption of players.

Walldén said the company’s first hire was a sustainability manager. But the company also wants to make the companies themselves sustainable so the teams can think about what they want to achieve over five or ten years.

“What kind of studio do you want to be? What kind of games would you want to be progressing towards making? How can you push the envelope for what an indie can be?” said Rudolfsson. “That’s the kind of general philosophy or angle that we’re taking. And as part of that, we’ve taken a different approach as to traditional publishing. We’re not making traditional publishing deals. But instead, we look to add studios permanently to our group, which of course needs to be a happy marriage from both perspectives.”

Rudolfsson said that in addition to financial backing, sales and marketing services, Kinda Brave offers all studios support from shared resources, ranging from human resources, recruitment and legal services to a full-time sustainability manager — priorities that usually only a much larger outfit could justify. By pooling resources together, each studio can stay small and tight-knit, exchanging know-how and inspiration to the benefit of all.

Kinda Brave CEO Björn Rudolfsson and marketing head Karim Walldén.

The studios will also have full use of Kinda Brave’s office space in Uppsala, where the publisher is using renewable energy to power and heat its offices. Kinda Brave has about 10 internal people at the publisher, and the larger group of developers has about 35 people now, with a number of people from other game companies such as Mojang, Electronic Arts, Raw Fury, Zordix and PlayStation. Kinda Brave’s board chairman Kristofer Westergren.

In an age where Embracer Group owns 124 game studios with 14,000 employees, you have to wonder what the place will be for a new and small game publisher like Kinda Brave.

“You need to look at the different options out there,” Rudolfsson said. “I think that’s the most important part. If you’re a developer today, there are many different offerings and many different ways to go about it. You could secure a traditional publishing deal. And you can, you can go along down along that route with established professional options. We’re somewhere in between. We’re not doing really what everybody else is doing. We’re doing something different. We’re getting in touch with studios quite early in their startup phases. And that’s a part of the market where the big ones that are already established are not really focused.”

Kinda Brave’s first three developers.

Ember Trail has a mix of devs from indie and triple-A backgrounds, and it was started to put player creativity at the forefront. The goal of the cofounders was to create a healthy work culture, centered around employee health and happiness.

Previously known as Bad Yolk, the team developed and released Main Assembly in January 2021, providing players with an inventive sandbox experience filled with plenty of challenges. The game was nominated for Best Debut and Best Technology at the 2021 Nordic Game Awards. The studio is hard at work on its next title.

“Being part of Kinda Brave is a natural fit for our shared values around sustainable gaming, while simultaneously enjoying the benefits of shared resources, and developing a strong bond with an internal publisher,” said David Penelle, studio CEO at Ember Trail, in a statement. “Making games is fun, but challenging, so having the pragmatic mindset of internal Publishing providing best in class strategy and operations gives us as the Developer the freedom to focus on the creative aspect of making a great game. We’re on the journey together and we look forward to sharing more about our next game soon.”

Dinomite Games was founded in 2016 as a two-person studio and has since grown into a team of seven in Uppsala. Under the watchful eye of Captain Bowie, the small company dog with a big personality, the studio is currently developing Go Fight Fantastic!, a vibrant 1-3 player co-op hack n’ slash set in a hand-drawn universe. Made up of a team of gamers and a work ethic founded in creativity, the studio is always looking to make the types of games they would play themselves.

“Partnering with Kinda Brave allowed us to focus on what we love – the creative process of making games,” said Lina Andersson, CEO at Dinomite Games, in a statement. “They helped us expand our team and made sure we don’t have to worry about funding, marketing and much more.”

Tic Tek Toe is a small game development studio focusing on systemic gameplay and technical experimentation. Made up of a team of industry veterans, they take all the lessons from their many years of game development and focus on making games that are fun, engaging, highly replayable games. They want to push the boundaries of what a small studio can achieve.

“Kinda Brave has given us an opportunity to focus on making the games we want to make how we want to make them,” said Martin Annander, CEO of Tic Tek Toe, in a statement. “Creative freedom not just in our choice of project but in how we deliver our work, who we hire, and what kinds of processes we use. You pick up quite a few opinions after more than a decade making games. With Kinda Brave, we can put them to the test.”

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