The games app market is extremely competitive, so finding new ways to keep players captivated is the big challenge facing developers right now.  Finnish-based start-up Tuliotus has achieved just that, by introducing an exciting new approach to game-play with Haunted, which is also the first AppCampus-funded Windows Phone 7 (and now Windows Phone 8) app to be launched on the Windows Store.

The story starts in 2012 when Kimo Boissonnier and his long-time friend Sami Anttila decided it was about time they pooled their talents.  They’ve both worked in and around the games, mobile and tech industries for years (Kimo has worked for Nokia, while Sami has been a distributed computing programmer) but entering a Microsoft competition called Dream Build Play was the catalyst.  Along with Kimo and Sami, the other two team members were Matti Kotala (music) and Jyri Honkanen (graphics), also now working for the Tuliotus organisation.

Says Kimo: “We didn’t win, but it gave us the idea for Haunted.  We could see that there was room for more exciting and challenging game-play.  We did some brainstorming and thought, what if rather than having all the usual swords and other weapons, you could use your own logic to interact with whatever objects you can find, to protect yourself and complete the puzzle? Light keeps you safe from some monsters, others are drawn to the blazing fires of your torch. A rich game play could emerges from these simple elements.”

It is this kind of innovative thinking that led to Tuliotus’ successful AppCampus application. AppCampus is an €18 million open-innovation programme funded by Microsoft, Nokia and Aalto University that aims to help entrepreneurs and start-ups around the world bring breakthrough apps to market.  It is highly selective, focusing on the very best ideas only, so acceptance into the programme is a real achievement in itself. 

Kimo continues his story: “At the time I first heard about AppCampus, I was teaching students about developing apps.  Karl Ots, the Microsoft Student Partner Lead for Finland told me that AppCampus was open to applications, so we tried and were successful.”

During the application process, the team decided to officially form their own company and the result is Tuliotus, fast becoming one of Finland’s newest and hottest start-ups.  “Roughly translated, Tuliotus means ‘fire spirit’ - one of the characters in Haunted is a light-eater, which gave us the idea.”

Working with AppCampus enabled Tuliotus to accelerate commercialization of Haunted, through investment, coaching, marketing and training.   In December 2012, it was the first AppCampus funded Windows Phone app to hit the Windows Store.  Within weeks, it was number 28 on the Russian appstore and 49 on the US appstore, meaning that Tuliotus had scored rapid early success with two of its biggest potential target markets."

Haunted is available for Windows Phone 7 and 8 with two versions: a free trial, and a full version priced at 1,00€, with a free version supported by advertising planned for the future.  User feedback has been excellent, with the app getting 4 or 5 star ratings.  Kimo cites the fact that Haunted appeals to all levels of gamer experience and age groups as a big factor: “I let a six year old kid borrow my Windows phone and it was hard to get it back, he was enjoying playing Haunted on it so much! Equally, there is enough in there to keep more experienced gamers interested.”

Innovative game-play aside, was working with Windows Phone a contributing factor? Over to Kimo: “I was working at Nokia so it was a logical platform to use, but more than that I could see its potential. For instance, I was teaching high school kids how to develop their own games and with Windows Phone, they can create workable apps in just 48 hours. For developers, Windows Phone is game changer.”

Haunted is just the beginning for Tuliotus and it has grand plans for 2013.  Says Kimo: “Our aim is to launch an average of one app per month during this year, giving us a total of 12 and we are working full steam ahead to achieve that.  We are keeping an open mind to what the future might bring, but we’ve got some exciting plans we cannot discuss just yet and are talking to potential partners and supporters who will help us grow our business, so watch this space!”