Tech
Investment climate, Tech

Vilnius the place to be for game developers says Alternativa CEO

April 27, 2015

There was a time when Aleksandr Karpovich, CEO of the game development studio Alternativa, did not believe that it was possible to earn anything from game development. Now the man behind Tanki online, an online 3D game with more than 5 million players, believes it has never been easier to release a game successfully, despite the sea of poor quality products flooding the market.

And Mr Karpovich has chosen Vilnius as the latest location for his growing game development company, which also has offices in Russia, China and Malta. He explained to 15min.lt, a Lithuania media outlet, how his career has developed and why he believes Vilnius is the place to take it to the next level.

– How did you start your business?

[quote text=”Over the past two years, Invest Lithuania has created very good conditions for game developers, and has enhanced Vilnius’ image in the industry. Everyone who plans to relocate is aware of Vilnius and its advantages. This is the place to be for game developers and start-ups, with risk funds available here.” name_surname=”Aleksandr Karpovich” description=”CEO of the game development studio Alternativa Platform”]

– We worked on the creation of websites for a long time. I was a sales manager and sold more than 200 projects. We quickly realised that what we were doing was an occupation rather than a business. As long as we worked we had money, but when the work stopped, everything stopped. I wanted to start a business which would generate income on its own. At the time, we did not believe that we could earn from computer games; but we decided to try anyway. We prepared a business plan and found an investor who agreed to finance us for a year. Back then our team consisted of 8 people.

After a year, we had some interesting technologies but no games. Despite this, the investor decided to extend the financing. We then created a Flash 3D game engine, licensed it, and signed 30 contracts with different clients. However, it soon became clear that this would not be the start of a huge business. Our clients needed technical support, and we also did not have that many clients.

So we decided to create a game using our own technology. Our investor once again agreed to finance us and in our third year the prototype of Tanki Online appeared. In its first days, it was tested by 30,000 people, although we did not even advertise actively. People shared the links and the number of players grew fast. It was then that we realised that this idea would work. Today, 5 million people around the world play Tanki Online.

– Tanki is undoubtedly your most popular game. Are you thinking about new projects?

– We would like to have a number of profitable products. One of our recent attempts is the game Combat Sector. We don’t consider this project a success as the game hasn’t really caught on. Nevertheless, we will keep going in this direction; next year we will be announcing the launch of a number of new games.

– How many people are currently employed in your studio?

– We have one production unit in Perm which employs about 70 people. We also have a publishing office in China which employs 20 people. Then there is our administrative division in Malta and our office in Vilnius, which is focused on the European market.

– What kind of employees will you be taking on in Vilnius?

– We have already started recruitment. Firstly, we are looking for marketing, advertising and finance specialists. We also want to bring some of our employees from Russia to Vilnius. It will be easier for them to adapt here, because many people speak Russian and understand Russians. Despite all the political uncertainties, the relationship between Russians and Lithuanians is good; the politicians have not been able to damage them.

– Why did you choose Lithuania as the location for your business?

– One important factor is that it is easier to invite specialists from Europe to Vilnius. If you need to bring together an international team, there is a great difference between Vilnius and Perm. Hardly anyone wants to travel 2,000 kilometres, whereas Lithuania is a fully-fledged European country that is easy to access.

Another reason is that over the past two years, Invest Lithuania has created very good conditions for game developers, and has enhanced Villnius’ image in the industry. Everyone who plans to relocate is aware of Vilnius and its advantages. This is the place to be for game developers and start-ups, with risk funds available here.

I am from the Ural Mountains. There are large open spaces, forests and lakes there. I am used to this lifestyle, so I like Lithuanian nature. From Vilnius you can easily get out of the city and have a picnic in the countryside.

I also like the fact that Vilnius is a multicultural city very much. People speak foreign languages and there are lots of foreigners on the streets. Lithuanians are optimistic and believe in the future, which is very important for growth and development.

– What is it like to work in a game development company? Some people imagine workers playing games all day, lots of happy colleagues and takeaway pizza.

– There are lots of different types of companies; some where the atmosphere is free and laidback, others where there are very clear-cut rules. Game development is very hard work; strict deadlines, meetings and long hours at the computer.

So it’s not that different to other jobs, except that the product can be very interesting and attractive. Players do not let you get bored either – there is always something new going on.

– Where are your games most popular?

– Our largest markets are in Russia, Ukraine, Germany, China and Brazil.

– Are you thinking about the US market?

– It is very expensive to produce a game for the US market. There is good game supply there and the users are very spoilt. We would have to spend a lot on marketing. The US is in our top ten countries, but we focus mostly on growing internet markets.

– You are going to offer Tanki Online for mobiles. Don’t you think the mobile games market is highly saturated? Will it be difficult to gain a foothold?

–The mobile games market is oversaturated, and 99% of the products are of very poor quality. The worst thing is that it is very difficult to find good games if the company that create them doesn’t spend huge amounts on marketing.

However, now unique and interesting games have a chance to become popular. Whereas earlier game producers had to sign contracts with suppliers, now you can create a game and sell it from your own website. So, if the game is good, millions of people can buy it easily. So far, games produced by small teams have been successful on the market.

– What do you play?

– I am a ‘hard core’ player and I love serious simulators. Now I play Arma 3.  I fly the helicopter a lot and play online.

 

Read the full interview in Lithuanian at 15min.lt

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Aistė Žebrauskienė
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    Aistė Žebrauskienė Press Officer
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