December 06, 2023

Riot vets at Treehouse on leaving competitive behind for co-op

Codename: Islands studio execs on the misguided metaverse trend and the potential for survival crafting without being hunted by naked cannibals in the woods

When we first heard from Treehouse Games, it was 2020 and the startup of six people was just getting started with a vision of creating cooperative social connection-building games for an audience that sees gaming as a venue to hang out with friends, the way others might go to get a coffee or dinner.

Since then, we've seen the advent and decline of the metaverse, with major companies chasing that dream as a driver of future growth for a while before shifting the marketing message to Generative AI as the next big thing.

With the bloom off the metaverse rose, Treehouse last month looked up from its work to release a teaser for its first project, the strictly cooperative survival crafting game tentatively known as Codename: Islands.

With as much overlap as there seemed to be between Treehouse's vision and that of the metaverse chasers, we touch base with Treehouse CEO Michael Chu and chief product officer Andrea Sepenzis to get their take on the trend, and why they seemed to sit on the sidelines for its duration.

"As a core game developer, I think the metaverse wave felt like this vacuum of attention that skewed things in a way we weren't super-excited about," Chu says. "A lot of things people talked about – being interconnected and shopping in the same place you do X, Y, or Z activity – it really takes for granted what people want to actually show up and do, and the human needs they have. It's assuming those things will be there and then looking at how you can add on top of it. And in my eyes, you can't take that thing you actually want to spend time doing with your friends for granted. That's the hardest thing."

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