The history of the Novosibirsk company Deus Craft (EleFun Games), which develops games, began back in the late 90’s, when its founder Sergei Shatokhin made friends with Alexei Belkin and Dmitry Shubeikin. They studied together in the same university and played in KVN. The first company in which they worked together – EleFun Desktops, – belonged to Sergey and was engaged in animated screensavers. In 2003, they decided to focus only on games. Alexei, having a journalistic background, started scripting, and later produced the games. Dmitry administered the network and was engaged in sales. Sergei for a long time played the role of art director – he himself did graphics and animation. Now they are three directors and are still three friends. The journalist NGS.BIZNES has learned,
In order to now contain a good mobile game with an audience of 10 million users, you need to release a decent upgrade every two weeks. So it can last 5-7 years – this is the average age of a successful game.
The first three years, she repulsed the invested money, and then begins to bring some income.
One of the most successful games that Deus Cratf has created is Cooking Craze: it was launched in 2015 and released for mobile platforms in 2017. It quickly gained popularity – more than 10 million downloads – and was nominated in 2018 for the Google Play Awards in the category “Best Breakthrough”.
And when it all began, no one considered the investment. Three friends first developed games in their spare time in the evenings, and their first office was in a rented apartment. The guys were eating like real developers – Doshirakom and sandwiches with mayonnaise and onions.
The first game was released in 2003 – Battle Rush Tanks: in fact, it was the Tanchi, as on the “Dandy”. It was a success only in terms of what friends could do something. So, according to them, continued until 2007, until they traveled through conferences, did not get acquainted with the big market, where games are released through partners, and did not understand the main thing – you need to create not for yourself, but first of all for the audience.
On this understanding, they released their first fairly successful game – time manager Cake Shop. This is the first series of games, which now number three.
“Before Cake Shop we worked on pure enthusiasm, and for me sandwiches with mayonnaise and onions were the most delicious and unique food. Now we occupy the whole floor of the business center in the Novosibirsk Academgorodok, we have a kitchen in each wing, coolers and air conditioners in each office and a standard set of the industry in the form of coffee machines, drinks, sweets, fresh fruit available to employees, “Dmitry Shubeykin recalls.
For the game Big Fish Games gave them the first big money – 5 thousand dollars. Then they moved from one-room apartment to their first office and began to grow gradually. They liked to come to work and play their games and games of competitors.
“ It seemed that the games that make money in the top, earn rabid grandmother, the developers flee to the car dealerships and take themselves new cars, but the truth of life was different: the publisher takes a large part of himself,
because it carries a lot of expenses for attracting the audience, and if it also gives a development budget, it risks – and takes even more. This is normal, “Alexey explains.
The next achievement was a signed contract with Starz Media – it was necessary to make the game in a short time on the TV series Party Down 2009 about how a group of guys are hosting a party for the stars. After the company began a period when they began to develop games in the genre of hidden object and hidden object puzzle adventure with elements of the quest (HOPA). They released the Superior Save, which Alawar bought.
“We began to make one more series of HOPA about witches – Witches Legacy, and in principle we have a lot of mysticism. We are probably the second ones in Russia and in the world who filmed some scenes with characters on the green with live actors with the director of the “First Theater” Pavel Yuzhakov and the actors. But then we left this approach, because it greatly increased the cost of development. You can take a picture of a person, and then the artists will draw. By the way, in fact, we do not have green, but purple. Because Big Fish Games conducted a lot of research on their players and came to the conclusion that they like violet shade, some kind of glow, that’s why it’s present, “Alexey describes the subtleties of production.
One of the most difficult projects in history from the point of view of investments, changes and formation of the company Dmitry calls Fear for Sale. All the following were easier. Personally, he still remembered the difficult but interesting experience of 2010 to create a corporate online game for the company BFK.
“I started to implement this project: it turned out that I was a project manager and a programmer – a man orchestra. Three months of hot work. It was gaming in the company. Only a month we agreed everything, we collected facts. Yes, there were a lot of mistakes, we had tight deadlines and a small team – three people. But they were happy. I remember that we did not have time to test: we are sitting with the programmer, the time is 7 am, the game is falling, and after two hours we start the game. We managed everything, but after that we went to rest, “Dmitry laughs.
The period that followed, Dmitry calls the period of uncontrolled growth, when they started to successfully release HOPA-games, it was meaningless to hire a lot of people, did not know how to run the company. In addition, then a model of monetization appeared on the market, like free to play: a person can play for free at least until a certain period. This is done by the developers consciously, so that people enjoy the game. They decided to make Agency on this model.
This was a serious failure, after which they took the company out of the crisis for a long time. They even took out loans to give people wages.
“There were very shameful moments: during the deep financial hole, I had to go out to the employees for two months and ask to wait for my salary. This is probably the worst thing in my career. Each such failure makes us more experienced: next time we are smarter, “- Serghey believes.
In general, businessmen say that the development of games is a high-risk business. “Myth that you can take the game and release it on Google Play and the people will go down there, because it’s cool. This happens as an exception. In reality, no one will notice it. Few people know that all companies have stories of failure: they made 25 prototypes, they swelled a lot of money, only the 26th version turned out to be playable. We also have unreached projects, to which we spent money, and there are successful ones, “Alexey says.
Sergei compares the development of games with a minefield. “You do not know what will happen tomorrow. At you in a month, half a year or year nothing can turn out, simultaneously someone can realize this idea. One of the most unpredictable markets on planet Earth. Even in the movie market, you can predict what will sell. In igrostroy there is no such and, probably, will not. Only the law of large numbers works: the more you try, the more likely that something will turn out. There are a lot of enthusiastic people, even talented people who spend many years implementing their ideas and then find out that it is interesting only to them. It’s very sad, but it’s a fact, “he states.
Medium-sized developers do not make sense to invest in promotion, because it needs about 10 million dollars (or better – 30) to attract players, while no one will guarantee that the game will be successful. It is more profitable to use the services of a publisher whose budget is much larger.
Users do not need to go anywhere to download a mobile game, so the demand is variable. “In fact, all mobile games now are not games, but services. Service for delivering pleasure: you pay for successfully playing. The more you pay, the more fun you get. Not exactly a game story, many developers complain, but this is a given market. The game plays for you: in all successful free to play games, the player is an observer. The game pretends that the player is playing it. There are a lot of hidden mechanisms that make you play the way a developer needs. In this case, there is a big igrostroy, it is now stagnating, but there are still good games, “- says Sergey about the situation on the market.
The player receives benefits: the pleasure of how cool he is. “The game tells him how cool he is. In all mobile games there is a fail rate – this is the concept of how much the player must lose before winning. Then the game will succumb, you will win and enjoy. This business is about the sensations, “adds Sergei.
The founder of the company says that the three of us conduct such a business well, because there is always a majority: the two are harder. But in general, no one advises to do business with friends.
“In my childhood, I was always amazed how grandmother very cleverly makes pies with potatoes – from the side it seems that everything is easy and when you try to do it yourself, some garbage turns out, because all this magic consists of a huge amount of experience and labor. It’s the same with friends. We need to strongly want to work together, because the moments when it is easier to give up friendship for the sake of interests – professional, financial, – very much. The three of us put our relationship at the head. I am sure that if there is a critical situation – to remain partners or friends, we will certainly remain friends, “Sergey concluded.