We meet Howard @ at the AR marketing event, his headset based game Dustcloud looked pretty cool, and when he mentioned that his Berlin based company had been enticed by Enterprise Ireland to relocate to Dublin, we figured it might be an interesting interview …
Welcome to Ireland. What’s your background, why Dustclouding? (if it can be a verb!)
Thanks. I’m a former magazine editor, so I guess my core skill-set is production. I used to edit and produce magazines every month, on deadline, so was pretty good at working with a disparate and itinerant crew of staffer and freelancers, writers, photographers, illustrators, designers. Tech is different, but the machinery for getting things done is just the same. Doing whatever it takes to get finished product out the door on time.
How did you find the AR marketing conference?
A lot more marketing-driven than I was expecting. I’m aware of the great work Metaio have done in writing algorithms for great tablet and phone based AR, but I was surprised that advertising really dominated the conference. Also the fact that smartphones and tablets were the focus. We were at CES and Vegas and Mobile World Congress in Barcelona this year, and headsets are definitely the breakout technology.
What aspects of AR did the people you met seem to be interested in?
I guess we were the only developer at the conference that had developed for headsets. We were partner/developers for Sony’s SmartEyeglass headsets, so have a very good understanding of the strengths and limitations of headset technology right now. I always have to launch when I see amazing Matrix-like simulations of what headset tech will look like in the future (Magic Leap, I’m talking about you) because it’s so far away from what headsets can actually do right now. But it’s coming. It’s definitely on the way.
Does this differ to the response and questions you receive in Berlin or at other conferences around the world where you have showcased your work?
I’m impressed by how on top of AR and innovative gaming Ireland is. I’ve demoed Dustcloud through Europe and the States, and our headset game has always been classified as fringe tech. The attitude in Berlin seems to be, “We will wait until we see flawlessly working hardware running flawlessly integrated software, and then, and only then, will we take this platform seriously.” Which is a big part of why Ireland’s gaming industry had the jump on the Germans as far as mobile was concerned. Germany has some big gaming companies, but they all started late. The trick is to see emerging platforms and markets, and take the leap early.
What were your factors that convinced you to relocate Dustcloud to Ireland?
Sean O’Sullivan and Cyril Ebersweiler from SOS Ventures and Haxlr8r found us on Angel List and invited us to China, so our first seed investors were Irish. And then Linda Coyle from Enterprise Ireland got behind us and was a real champion for Dustcloud. Making the decision to come to Dublin wasn’t hard.
Where there any particular things that the IDA / Enterprise Ireland wanted you to focus on when you set up in Ireland?
Just to set up a sustainable business. Hire ten people and generate annual revenues of €1 million plus within three years. That sort of thing.
Can we expect to see massive multiplayer games taking place in Dublin / Ireland somewhere?
Not massive. But we would like to have a live headset-based street game up and running by Web Summit. I guess Paddy’s going to have to rename Web Summit sometime soon, isn’t he? The one thing we learned in China is that people aren’t spending so much time on the web anymore these days.
How do you want to grow Dustcloud? What happens next for the game / and / or the company?
I think this will depend on a couple of decision that will be made in the next week or so. I came to Dublin to find a partner with a gaming company, but may have found something better instead. Don’t want to jinx things by talking prematurely, but this could be a real game changer.
What else should I have asked you / or you would like to add?
We were lucky to catch the eye of Paul Hayes and Mark O’Toole from Games Ireland, who took an interest in us and introduced us to a ton of really helpful people. The vibe here is similar to the vibe I remember from growing up and working in Australia. The whole “rising tide lifts all the boats” attitude where helping each other out is no problem. I have really appreciated that while I have been here. Looking forward to reciprocating once my boots are on the ground.