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Dieter Schoeller, Founder and CEO, Headup

Headup: A Leading Developer and Publisher at the Forefront of a Global Gaming Revolution

From Magnavox Odyssey to PS5 and Xbox Series X, the gaming industry has evolved at an exponential rate. With further developments in cloud gaming technology, the future, most certainly, is set to deliver a truly connected and enthralling experience to gaming enthusiasts.
Game development companies across the world are leveraging these developments and catching up to the rapidly changing interests of gamers with the intent of retaining the audience and sustaining their competitive edge.
This edition, Top Gaming Companies Revamping the Future, is purposed towards placing the spotlight on companies making their mark in the gaming industry and developing titles that hold the potential of becoming evergreen.
One prominent name among these companies is Headup, a hybrid games publishing and development company providing players worldwide with hot content from the independent gaming sector.
Headup was founded in 2009 on the notion of being a safe haven for independent developers, in which they could find a reliable and honest partner for production, distribution, and marketing of their creative visions.
The company is an active developer and publisher on all major platforms such as consoles, mobile devices, and PC, and was awarded as “Best Publisher” at the German Developers Awards in 2012, 2013, 2017 and 2019.
With over 80 million customers served on mobile and further several million players on the PC and consoles, Headup is always looking to raise awareness and commercial success for developers who think outside the box.
“We’ve never looked at the games from a purely commercial angle. To us, games always are also a medium of artistic expression. Yet we are of a size where our partners can safely assume a successful commercialization of their project, enabling us to build long and lasting partnerships, and secure stable growth for all involved,” expresses Dieter Schoeller, the CEO and Founder.
The team at Headup has garnered a strong reputation and appreciation from partners for the strong industry knowledge and highly product driven approach of the company.
“Headup is by far the best retail publisher I’ve ever worked with, and the only retail publisher that has ever paid me royalties,” says Edmund McMillen, creator of the hit games Super Meat Boy and The Binding of Isaac. Though Headup’s business has shifted away from retail, this quote exhibits how the company remains authentic to its partnership approach, based on fairness and honesty.
Headup’s inner credo is to treat every title as it was their most important release, often leaning against market analysis and trends. “We know how to deal with sharp edges and favor the projects which bring the foundation to differentiate them from the mainstream blockbuster titles. This mindset combined with our own developer experience results in a high trust level when working with external teams,” Dieter adds.
The Clan Leader
Team Headup is on a ceaseless voyage towards profound business excellence and Dieter, the founder and CEO is at the helm of this journey.
Growing up on the morning cartoons of the 80s such as Transformers, M.a.s.k. and Masters of the universe, Dieter felt right at home with anything related to great and fantastic stories and the lore behind them.
This did not change as he grew older, moving over to the digital space. He lived in the USA for a while; was the best German Sonic The Hedgehog player at the first German SEGA championships; sunk weeks of playtime into Britannia in Ultima IV, and even during his law school, spent most of his free time modding for Quake 3 and RtCW.
Despite his business background, there was always a clear path for Dieter into the entertainment industry. After his law exams he went gathering knowledge at lager corporations such as Ubisoft, Koch Media, and the Bertelsmann group, and eventually laying the foundations of Headup.
Dieter’s private life is completely dedicated to his family and three children, his friends and his biggest passion of music and drums.
Levelling Up
Challenges are an inevitable ingredient that make up the catalyst for success. There is no business that has not faced and surpassed the challenges that came across its way. It is the same scenario for Headup.
“While we are well known in the industry by now—partially due to the fact that we always kept business and partnerships clean and transparent—I feel we still have a lot of ground to cover to make Headup be a known brand with consumers,” says Dieter.
One of Headup’s prominent challenges has been that of moving customers from one project to another since the company’s portfolio covers a wide range of genres and diverse titles. However, the team’s goal and challenge have always been clear: To establish Headup as one of the most known premium boutique publishers for appealing premium game content in the independent space.
Talking about the current landscape of the gaming space, Dieter says, “The role of the publisher has been reinventing itself over the last decade repeatedly. Once a gatekeeper with the key to the retail shelves, we lived through the times of closed digital storefronts until the floodgates opened. Following this we were the first in line to generate visibility for new IPs. To me it feels as again we are in a new phase of definition: With more and more subscription services for games coming to the market, we are seeing an agency approach to become more effective, bundling portfolio and finding out which channels are looking for what specific content we might be able to bring to them.”
Commenting about the challenges brought about by the COVID-19 pandemic, Dieter says, “On the pandemic, we are in a fortunate position that aside from a bit of logistic juggling, we really do not feel hard negative effects in our markets.”
Headup strives unwaveringly towards its ambition of metamorphosing into a legendary name in the independent gaming space. To achieve this, the company is constantly optimizing its internal systems, adding new tools on all levels, be it for social media monitoring, financial backend, HR software and so forth.
On the game technology side, team Headup are not first movers as this is a risk they happily see on other shoulders. “Great content to me is primarily about selling emotions and does not necessarily require the most innovative tech for us. Nevertheless, we tried many things in the past, that’s why you can find games from Headup on nearly all existing gaming devices since our foundation,” says Dieter.
Sharing Valuable XP
Every accomplished entrepreneur has a shelf full of shining accolades and an attic full of lessons. Sharing his personal lessons with emerging entrepreneurs wishing to enter the gaming industry, Dieter says, “More than anything: Don’t believe the hype. The data young entrepreneurs are receiving is often enough misleading or outdated. Trust your instincts and stay true to your vision. But more than anything: Network, Network, Network. Don’t be shy to reach out to people even if they are miles above your own paygrade.”
The Next Season
Talking about Headup’s blueprint for the unforeseen future, Dieter says, “The COVID situation for our industry is not so much of a challenge as people at home tend to play rather more than less. Our strategies are shifting more towards creating games with a high retention even in the premium segment and we are taking the learnings of many free to play games into considerations in doing so.”
Dieter carved out an essence of Headup’s future vision through a conclusive statement saying, “In the end we are less competing for the money of the consumer and more of their time, so player engagement is key for our future growth plans.”