The last couple of years, Eastern European game companies seem to be entering a kind of Golden Age, especially those in the casual arena. Publishers and developers from Russia, Belarus, Ukraine and the Czech Republic have brought entertaining and highly successful games to the U.S. and Bay Area-based but Eastern European-focused company Renatus Media is one of them.
Renatus Media has published a good many games for multiple casual platforms including hidden object game Mystery Revenge: Hidden Evidence, social game Brave Tales and bubble popper, Bubble Cooking. This month we were able to speak to the fine folks at Renatus about what it's like to make games in Eastern Europe, how the process differs from making games in the U.S., and what their approach is specifically, to making and promoting games.
Examiner: What is the game development climate in your country? Is there a lot of it?
Renatus: Despite the fact that Renatus is US-based Company, Eastern Europe is our main field of interests. With IT industry being at the stage of brisk growth here, this decision was only logical.
Right now, there are more than thousand game development companies/studios all over the CIS region, including 200+ from Ukraine. Although coming from different backgrounds, they share the same inspiration – love of games. They have a lot of exciting projects already released and those which they work on. We as a publisher are now working with studios from Ukraine, Belarus and Russia.
New and inspiring ideas appear every day. Some are rather interesting and worthy of note, others are still raw but we see how many people are engaged in the process, how many people decide to dedicate their time to this challenging industry.
Examiner: Do people think of game development as a viable career?
Renatus: Games are not going to disappear. Hundreds of young professionals in various spheres were inspired by success of Rovio, Supercell and some indie developers who started from the scratch but right now call the shots. The ability to create good and successful games is something that leads to high salaries and career development. So, eventually more and more people start to see it as a lifetime work rather than a hobby.
Examiner: Does the government support game development?
Renatus: All Eastern European countries are in the same boat when it comes to IT industry support. In the last few years several regulatory acts regarding the validation of IT entrepreneurs were enacted and some improvements were made in tax legislation. But the key market players still stress on complexity and awkwardness of tax legislation, and passive position of the government in decisions aimed at improvement of the investment attractiveness of the region.
Examiner: How difficult is it to get a game published?
Renatus: Publishing of every game is teamwork of professionals in different fields. Competition on social / mobile game markets has grown considerably in recent years, leading to increased expectations for games quality.
The segmentation of game creation process allows the developer to concentrate on the game, while publisher takes care of other resource-intensive stages of the game implementation to the market. Publisher’s main goal is not just to attract the target audience, but also to present games to the market correctly, to provide careful analytics and implementation of a proper monetization strategy.
Examiner: What's the predominant platform for development? Mobile, PC, console, etc
Renatus: Right now due to the growth of different platforms, both mobile and desktop, developers face the strategic issue of making the suitable choice. Apart from considerate performance growth, the quantity of platforms is also going up. Both PC and web-based games reach a wide audience because of popularity of these devices, although the console form factor is also very friendly for high-quality games.
Active users want to have possibilities to go through another level, to collect items or to fight the opponent while staying away from home, in their spare moments. This is when mobile platforms come in handy. They grow so quickly with the releases of new devices, cross-platform implementation, iOS and Android enhancements and the appearance of new platforms (Jellifish, Firefox OS, etc.)
One of the perks of mobile platforms is their novelty, less competitive environment comparing to console and PC games. It is not uncommon when indie games hit the top charts, leaving behind names of industry giants. This indicates the openness of the market and lots of possibilities for new participants. Technical performance of new mobile devices is comparable to and sometimes even more powerful than some of desktop computers which helps players to play high-quality games off-site. This mobility allows the developer to interact with users, learn more about their habits and behavior patterns.
Examiner: What's the most popular genre? Social, MMO, Casual, etc?
Renatus: Talking from the experience as a publisher we could say that the majority of publishing requests is coming from social games developers. It seems to happen because social networks are so popular among our internet community, and fewer resources are needed to create such games.
Due to the growth of computational power of mobile devices, global tendency to eliminate the distinction between PC, game consoles, cell phones mid-core audience increased dramatically on mobile\social markets and this fact opens up unlimited possibilities for all market players. So following the “trend” we have bold plans to conquer the social and mobile markets in casual and mid-core genres (RPG, Strategy, etc.)
Examiner: What's the focus of most game development houses? Serving local audiences or seeking a world-wide audience?
Renatus: Mobile and social games are becoming more popular. This is the result of new markets development, for example, the Asia-Pacific region. The main trends of both gaming and any other industry are determined by more developed markets. They include USA, Canada, UK, France, Germany, etc. However, to get the most of it, one must also assess individual peculiarities of local markets.
The situation is that the developed countries, in spite of being the most profitable, are crowded with mobile devices to the upper limit. The same may be told about the scope of game audience. While new markets have a big potential, represented by new audience and lower level of competition.
While planning marketing campaigns for the companies, it's also more effective to be guided by the peculiarities of local markets and their solvency. Analysis of behavioral patterns observed in separate countries enables one to determine that some of them are more inclined to on-line payment as compared to the rest. On this basis, one may estimate an approximate economic effect that those campaigns may have on various countries.
Apart from the above-said, there is a great deal of differences between local markets that can lead to the situation, when similar games may achieve success and be popular in one country, and never earn top blockbuster games rating in another one. That is why localization and content selection are of the utmost importance. Those two are as important as the genre assessment of competitive games in each separate location. For example, one can hardly find in the Western top chart positions thу games that are popular in the East. And it's not only language – it's important for users of each location that the game had specific mechanics, storyline and characters.
Choice of local or global markets for a title's release is faced by each developer. The attraction of global markets is their size and trends, but they are characterized by high competition, on the other hand. To enter them, one must be equipped with not only top-notch product, but also have a certain promotion budget in stock. Otherwise, there is a big danger for a product to get overlooked by the users. The situation with local markets is totally different. The company has a chance of getting access to a smaller audience, but a detailed analysis of local peculiarities enables one to make a narrower targeting.
The latter, in its turn, forces developers to improve their product according to the requirements of certain location. The main goal in this case is finding a “blue ocean” - a vacant niche, where instead of competing with major market participants one has to adapt his product so as to answer the local user demand and find its own audience.
Examiner: How did you choose your company's focus?
Renatus: The focus of Renatus company development and growth is determined by the following key factors:
- 7 years of successful experience of Renatus top management in internet marketing
- Holding of activities and reliance on our own internal policy, use of our own analytical platform
- User retention and involved user monetization methods based on our own experience
Factors determined by the game industry state:
- Rapid growth of casual games audience
- Increase in demand for high-quality game content of f2p games
- Misunderstanding/omission on the developers' part of the importance of player analytics in course of creating the in-game payment anchors; lack of experience, financial and qualified staff for working with commercial marketing channels
- And the most important thing: we like to play and this makes Renatus an embodiment of our vision of a “perfect business”.
Examiner: Where does game development talent come from? Are there schools that teach game development, or do developers come from other disciplines?
Renatus: There are courses, seminars, universities, where people teach game development. But it's the same as an arts school: teachers can teach you how to draw correctly, but they can never make you Monet. There is no universal answer to how a world title must be created, but a talented game developer must be fanatic over his work and have a cold head, when it comes to market research, competitor surveys and genre trends.
Examiner: Are there any ratings or content restrictions on the games you make?
Any restrictions are determined by genre peculiarities and in-game content. Working with such genres as puzzle games, social slots games, hidden object games and RPGs makes us almost “immune” to platform restrictions. Basically, those are age restrictions, stated in the App Store rules, as casino games for iOS platform are designed for 12+audience.
Examiner: How problematic is piracy?
Renatus: Piracy on PC and mobile/social platforms has the same roots but different scale. Developers of paid and freemium mobile/social games suffer the main losses in the industry. Due to the global tendency to switch to F2P monetization model, piracy question has grown stale. Our main goal is to get audience to like our project regardless the moment when user decides to pay.
Examiner: What do you consider to be the unique challenges and benefits of making games in Eastern Europe?
Renatus: Difficulties and advantages are closely related. A great number of enthusiasts and professionals, who are ready to create new games every day, live in the Eastern Europe. They can release a game with perfect setting and gameplay, but very often they are too far from understanding of the efficient monetization mechanisms, user retention and game releases with tight deadlines.
The cost of development is a plus, although the period of project accomplishment may last by 50 to 100% more due to the lack of studio's experience in stream production of game products and understanding of their target market mentality. The Eastern Europe has become a birthplace for a number of hits, and there will be more of them in future despite the enumerated difficulties. This is exactly what Renatus is actively working on now.
Many thanks to Renatus Media for providing such informative, candid responses to our questions. The company is unusually helpful to aspiring developers and the company's official website has lots of useful info regarding getting your games published.
Stay tuned and watch for upcoming reviews of Renatus Media.