Hybr has done it again: With Finding Atlantis, the small publisher with a penchant for innovation has launched a new board game with app support. The title is only a few days old, but is already causing a stir. For the makers, hybrid games are not a niche, but a consistent development. The prophecy: "Game of the year 2024: A game with an app!".

Hybr had a surprise success with Soviet Kitchen: The fast card game about strange dishes that you have to brew using a smartphone app was so well received that follow-up games appeared as a matter of course. It was to be like this: Houston, we have a Dolphin and Monster hungry followed as projects. The Dresden-based publishing house recently launched another title: Finding Atlantis.

App forced games

Hybr presented the new work to the public at SPIEL'22 in Essen - and apparently the hybrid game was pretty well received. Flying visits showed: full tables, happy faces, and quite a few copies sold.

Finding Atlantis is a competitive deduction game for up to four players, ages 12 and up. If you want, you can also go alone. The title outlines the theme: Players use their decks of cards to explore the ocean floor. They try to fill the blank nautical chart in front of them with information about the whereabouts of the sunken city of Atlantis.

This is where the technology comes in – and at the same time the hybrid thought. In order to achieve their goal, players scan the respective action card and are informed of the research results by the interactive app. Since your fellow campaigners are listening in, you should keep your own position secret. At the latest when the card is resumed, however, you have to show up. The winner is simply determined: whoever finds Atlantis first wins.

Finding Atlantis can therefore be played using an app. And mandatory. The smart program (available for Android and now also Apple's iOS) is not an optional accessory, but an integral part of the gaming experience. As is the case with all titles that Hybr has brought to the market so far. The small publisher has found its niche. One that significantly larger players in the industry shy away from.

Hybr doesn't mind exactly that. On the contrary: it gives the small team around Andreas Wilde enough space to develop games and dare experiments. The publishing house has long gone through a development. When Soviet Kitchen came out in 2018, it was a little marvel: fun, close to a classic card game, but still packed with enough technology to be considered a real innovation.

finding atlantis

Finding Atlantis is the new game by Hybr: again you need an app. Image: Hybr

What has happened at Hybr since then? Quite a lot, as Andreas Wilde confirms in an interview. "When we produced Soviet Kitchen, the first draft back in 2018, we didn't even have any serious intention of making a profit." Founding a company based on this idea seemed almost absurd. Soviet Kitchen was more of an experiment than a game project, but ultimately stuck in its market segment. This was followed by Houston, we have a Dolphin and Monster hungry, two games that went in the same direction. Mandatory with app, faster fun.

From experiment to company

"We released our fourth game a few days ago, have several interlinked sources of income and are slowly starting to dare to tackle larger chunks," says designer Andreas Wilde happily. Hybr is now an undisputed company.

Not only the portfolio has grown, but also the demands on our own projects. You approach what you do differently: We develop games very differently, explains Wilde. “It was a great blessing that Soviet Kitchen worked so well. To be honest, we never really questioned the game mechanics back then, but started producing immediately. I would like to think that we were lucky too.”

If illustrators, editors or even third-party publishers are on board and they are used to often publishing very good games with very strong game mechanisms, then it is important to keep adding “goals” to the work, explains Andreas Wilde. A game design has to be fun at its core, "and for a larger group of people before we can put a lot of money into the next steps". Hybr uses feedback in social media to be able to validate that you are “not on the wrong track”.

The learning curve is steep for the mini-publisher. "Our rulebooks are getting better, our tutorials are getting better, production quality is increasing," says Andreas Wilde, summarizing some of the successes. No less proud: "I believe that if you look at Finding Atlantis in detail, you will find the most beautiful game we have made so far". Technological advances are also constantly being made. "In Finding Atlantis, for the first time, we have image recognition that even recognizes the orientation of a map," says Wilde. The scanning works noticeably smoother than in the game Houston, we have a dolphin.

And a lot has also happened in sales. “Now we know how to license a game. That is, how to get attention from foreign publishers. How they want to find a game or which conditions apply.” Hybr and the experience of the actors grow with the projects.

So everything achieved? Not for a long time. Hybr brings innovative titles to the market, but is still one of the smaller players in the industry. "I don't think our current reach does justice to our special skills and our unique experience with apps in board games," says Andreas Wilde. Together with partners, however, they now want to position themselves differently. In essence, this means: "Even better games, in even more countries and even more games with Hybr technology, for national and international partners".

crises in this world

What sounds easy is hard work. Even tougher in an environment like the one that the current world situation has been creating for many months. And it gets even harder when you're a little light in the shark tank of the toy industry.

How much are you worried about first Corona, then war, inflation, energy price explosions and last but not least the impending recession? "As a small publisher, you are not only afraid of acute crises, but generally face gigantic challenges," explains Andreas Wilde from Hybr. "There are factors that we can influence that determine our success or failure more than the difficult circumstances that prevail at the moment". After all, board games aren't a bad industry to work in these days because people won't stop playing.

"In particular, our positioning on the edge of the board game scene and with one foot in the digital world makes us more flexible," says Wilde.

Speaking of crises. Board games are known to help many people through difficult times. Corona has shown how valuable parlor games can be in times of isolation. This is also how it is seen at Hybr: "I believe that the physical game, sometimes also at the table, is becoming even more important," predicts Andreas Wilde. The board game as a mass phenomenon is also unstoppable in Europe.

The reason: “We come from a time, from the 20th century, when physical interaction was a natural part of everyday life. Also a part that you could not necessarily avoid. You work with people, go to the office where other people are, you get busy playing football or in the garden together and with all sorts of hobbies and clubs that meet physically. Yet some of us today no longer have a need to meet with people. We now work from home, have food delivered, we play with friends, but online. We are probably consuming more media than ever before. This makes many of us unhappy because we actually need social interaction.”

hybrid

Hybrid games are also initially created “analogue”. Photo: Hybr

The board game is exactly this kind of free time, which counteracts this. "People will seek out this offer even more consciously in the coming years in order to stay mentally healthy," predicts Wilde. In addition, it offers an opportunity for everyone who also likes to be at home to meet physically.

Hybrid games are part of the scene. Established in the meantime, albeit still more of a marginal phenomenon. But: According to Wilde, the development of hybrid games is in full swing. "There's a lot happening right now and I'm not saying that because it's obviously a great thing for us"

For almost five years, Hybr has been in talks with some large publishers about innovative ideas. "We regularly fell on deaf ears," says Wilde. There were big publishers who said that they generally no longer make games with apps - "that was a trend and it's over," says Andreas Wilde, summing up the current situation on the market. "That's a statement that no one would make again today."

Every publisher, whether it's a Ravensburger, an Asmodee, a Hasbro or of course the smaller publishers - almost all are "open to ideas with apps and more and more publishers are at least not categorically rejecting the app, but are open to see what they can,” says Wilde happily.

He is self-confident: "I tell you: In two or three years this shift will also have arrived on the game shelves". His prophecy in the prophecy: "Game of the year 2024: A game with an app!". You should remember that, but don't take the prediction literally.

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