Chris received a Commodore 64 when he was 10 years old and immediately started making games in Basic and then began dabbling with machine language. Through high school, he continued to write various small games while the idea of actually being able to make games professionally felt like an incredibly improbable dream. He didn’t know of anyone that was even a computer programmer let alone anyone that was ever in the games industry, southeast Michigan was all about the auto industry. When he started at the University of Michigan in 1990, he was reading about Jaron Lanier’s adventures in VR and it felt like that future was so incredibly close…
During college, he read about VR and continued to explore his passion for games. In his senior year software engineering class, he read “The Mythical Man-Month” and “No Silver Bullet” which he feels are both still true today. In the same class, his small student team used a full semester to make a multiplayer game called Virtual Cards. Soon after, it was graduation time, job offers were amazingly easy to get and all engineering students had stacks of them. Although some of the offers were incredible, he had a deep need to make games. So he moved into a summer-vacant fraternity house and looked for ways to contact game companies.
He interviewed with Matt Toschlog at Parallax Software. They were working on a game called Descent. And, Matt was looking for someone to help release the game on additional platforms. Although Chris really liked Matt and the game, he wanted to find a more substantial first professional role.
Instead, Chris took Friendly Software’s offer. He helped create Greg Norman Ultimate Challenge Golf over the course of a year. Chris still vividly remembers walking into an EB to see the game on the store shelf. It was magical – the box even contained a real golf ball. As he was standing there, a kid walked up, picked up a copy of GNUCG, and then purchased it. In that moment, he was hooked for life.
He also realized he wanted to be apart of Parallax and called Matt.
Parallax - Outrage Games - THQ
At Parallax Software he started out as a programmer, then as a lead, and finally as the Director of Programming for the studio. Over 7 wonderful years, he got to work with amazing people and they created many successful Descent-related games together. Parallax Software split into Volition and Outrage. He was one of the architects of the room and portal engine used in Descent 3. And somewhere in there around the 9/11 tragedy, their publisher Interplay went Chapter 11. The result was that their very cute Zelda-like game called Rubu Tribe was canceled. Also, Descent 4, being made by Volition, was turned into Red Faction for THQ. And Outrage assisted with Red Faction 2 PC/Xbox and was acquired by THQ. Then they rapidly shifted gears to ship a game called Alter Echo.
Chris always had the utmost respect and admiration for console games. Platformers in particular pushed gameplay limits, were highly experimental, and also were technical marvels.
He got hired by Insomniac Games in October 2003. He started as a Senior Engine Programmer on Alex Hasting’s team. While working on his 2nd Ratchet & Clank game, he was promoted to become the Director of Gameplay Programming for the studio. And as Resistance: Fall of Man was approaching gold and Ratchet & Clank: Tools of Destruction was nearing the end of pre-production, he felt a strong desire to start a game studio. Max Garber, their systems lead at the time, and he had been on a trip to China a year before, loved it there, and everyone they knew in the industry was beginning to talk about utilizing China for outsourced art. They thought… If there are those who love games so much that they’d make art for other people’s games, then there must also be a desire to create entire games there too.
Balanced Worlds [Acquired by Kabam]
In March 2007, Chris Pfeiffer and Maxim Garber moved to Beijing, China. They didn’t speak Chinese. They definitely didn’t know China – yet they were ready for an adventure of a lifetime. For the first 8 months, they took intensive Chinese language classes by day and worked on their game studio at night. And by late Fall 2007, Balanced Worlds’ office was officially opened.
They started work on a prototype, hiring staff, and over a bit of time built a multiplayer 3rd person shooter prototype. While shopping the prototype around, Chris negotiated a deal for Balanced Worlds to make deBlob Online (DBO) with THQ. DBO was THQ’s first and only game produced in China. Chris and Max immediately contacted ex-Insomniacs John Wu and Mike McManus and brought them in as partners. As the studio grew toward 40 employees, Chris continued to contribute to the codebase while also heading the studio. They built up a strong team and were nailing their milestones. DBO had just received outstanding playtest scores when THQ shutdown all Oceania operations and then went into chapter 11.
They assessed the situation and decided to make a game quickly. Balanced Worlds team took Bomb Buddies from concept to online within 5 months! Within 6 months online, Bomb Buddies had already had over 150,000 players. Kabam took notice and Chris negotiated the sale of Balanced Worlds to Kabam in December 2012.
When Balanced Worlds was acquired by Kabam, they wanted the team to take Bomb Buddies to mobile. The team quickly went from being C++ PC developers to Unity C# mobile developers. Chris contributed directly to the C# codebase while also leading the team. The mobile sequel to Bomb Buddies was called Blast Zone! The game received Apple’s Editor Choice across Asia and had over 850,000 players within its first week online.
In 2013, Kabam wanted to get into the mobile RPG space. Chris proposed taking learnings from Asian MMORPGs such as Wartune and applying them to a theme that would better resonate in the west. The Legacy of Zeus (LoZ) team was based in Beijing, China and peaked at 80 international developers plus an equal number of support staff and outsourcers. Legacy of Zeus entered open beta on iOS and Andriod in September 2016. From the start, D1R was already greater than 40% and D7R was 17%. With a projected 3-year LTV between $15 and $45, Legacy of Zeus had the potential to have the highest LTV of any Kabam game to date.
In addition to the games above, Chris participated in MBRs/QBRs, read numerous teardown decks, was a member of the creative counsel for games such as Marvel : Strike Force. And, he became intimately familiar with Kabam’s Beijing-developed games such as Kingdoms of Camelot: Battle for the North, The Hobbit: Kingdoms of Middle-Earth, and Heroes of Camelot.
Victory Lap Games [Acquired by Wargaming]
Just after Chris got engaged to be married, Kabam was acquired by NetMarble. Mike McManus also wanted to stay in Beijing a bit longer. In the post-acquisition wind down, Chris tried unsuccessfully to get the rights to Legacy of Zeus; and in the process, reacquired the Blast Zone IP and then co-founded Victory Lap Games with Mike McManus. Mike and Chris both liked esports and games like CS:Go, Rocket League, DOTA2, LoL, and Overwatch proved PvP-focused games could be a path to durable success. Chris & Mike always felt this game belonged on consoles more than mobile, so they decided to give it a go. Chris contributed to programming, design, art, audio, contracts & licensing, and more. Chris & Mike with invaluable assistance from a handful of people created Blast Zone! Tournament (BZT) for the PS4, XB1, and PC.
Around the time of BZT’s launch, Chris was talking with Keith Kawahata. They had worked together at Kabam; and, Keith was now the Head of Mobile for Wargaming. Keith was ideating and had the goal to create an amazingly ambitious technology platform and a suite of related games. The allure of working on something new and massive was strong. So in mid-2019, Chris and Mike sold Victory Lap Games core tech to Wargaming and began their new adventure in Berlin, Germany.
Chris took over ownership of the ambitious new tech platform and numerous related prototyping efforts. Via collaboration with the various stakeholders, they extracted out the heart and soul of the initiative and focused development efforts on a AAA cross-platform game that realizes the key objectives.