Lea Schönfelder and Franziska Zeiner believe female audiences are being woefully underserved by the current games business.
And their Berlin-based start-up Fein Games aims to rectify that. “Almost everything we as women play is designed by men,” Zeiner tells us. “You look at any other medium, relatable female experiences exist – in games they simply don’t. There’s nothing out there. That’s where we want to provide a different perspective.”
Fellow cofounder Schönfelder feels just as strongly. “You browse the Netflix catalogue and you get, like, tons of these lighthearted family drama shows and they work really well,” she tells us. “You look at the bookshelves and you get tons of these stories…in games you just don’t.”
Fein’s debut game is designed to full that gap. Finding Hannah is “a hidden object game about a woman who has everything she needs, but is still not happy in life,” says Schönfelder.
As Hannah seeks the counsel of her grandmother and mother, the game tells the story of their experiences in the Berlin of the 1940s, 1970s and today. Fein is working with Rebecca Harwick, former head of writing on Wooga’s June’s Journey, to write the story.
“It has an art style that speaks to a younger audience than the typical hidden object game,” says Schönfelder. “And it tells stories about real female experiences, experiences that Franziska and I can identify with.”
Schönfelder is a former game designer at Flaregames and Ustwo, and Zeiner has worked in design at Wooga and Huuuge. They set up Fein Games two years ago, and make a virtue of their relatively unconventional journeys into the games business: Schönfelder started out making interactive art projects, and Zeiner is more of a games academic who cites Jane McGonigal as a big inspiration.
“I like the approach of people having different backgrounds, making games about different topics that you would maybe typically not cover in games,” says Schönfelder.
Fein has some initial investment from former Gameforge and Flaregames boss Klaas Kersting, and is on the hunt for more as it builds out Finding Hannah.
“When we made our fundraising deck, we know that the target audience for this deck is male,” says Schönfelder. “So we have to be super clear that we’re not just doing this out of, like, ideology – we see a business case in it. It is a market that’s not being served.”
Unlike most studios right now, Fein has found hiring a breeze. The studio’s flexible 32-hour workweek, spread over five days, has been an important part of that.
“You hear there’s a shortage of labour and that everyone’s struggling to hire – we don’t,” says Zeiner. “It’s super easy for us to hire. Our salaries are pretty much average…for one of our last hires, we got 150 applications from a tweet. And if we look at the applications that come in, 75% of them are female or non-binary.”
“We’ve managed to target a part of the workforce that has been forgotten by other companies – people who are maybe not interested in working for other companies because it’s just a bunch of dudes in hoodies.”
Fein expects Finding Hannah to go into soft launch early next year, but isn’t in a hurry, adds Schönfelder.
“We want to give ourselves time so maybe that is also something different from other free to play companies,” she tells us. “And it doesn’t mean that we won’t pivot, we are not blindly following our vision. We are regularly testing and launching in different markets and seeing the numbers that come in.”