Driven by a desire to create games that come alive and resonate with players, Vladimir Funtikov co-founded Tallinn-based Creative Mobile, and after only four years, it became one of the largest mobile gaming companies in Northern Europe. His passion for games began with his first PC, and almost immediately, he started creating games, beginning with basic Warcraft and SimCity scenarios, then moving to single-player levels for Duke Nukem 3D, and eventually making multi-player maps for Counter-Strike.
Mag Yang shared the creation of their game for the Chinese market in a session at Casual Connect USA 2014. “The bright side of having so many app stores in China is that you can choose a small one for your game to do closed beta testing, and several more for open beta testing,” he explained.
Mag Yang is the CEO and co-founder of Geoe Game Inc., a mobile game studio based in Beijing. He is also a programmer and writes codes himself. The team at Geoe Game now has 15 members developing mobile games and publishing them to the iTunes store and Android markets in China. They also have several business partners who help them publish their games in Taiwan, Hong Kong, Macao, and Southeast Asia. Each of the team members are experienced game developers, some with over 10 years of experience. Before creating his company, Yang worked for over nine years as a programmer, technical director, game producer, and business manager – all experience of benefit to his present company. Now he is responsible for keeping the company going, managing relationships with business partners, attending events as a representative of the company, and writing codes for Geoe Game’s products.
Taking on Some Risks
Starting this company has been the proudest accomplishment of his career. Although they were working with no investors, within six months, they had released their first mobile game title, Adorable Heroes of the Three Kingdoms, which is now holding the 47th spot of the 100 top grossing games in the iTunes store in China. That accomplishment may seem to have been easy, but it was not. Since 2004, they had a couple of failures with new game titles and learned from those experiences until finally they found a way to make good games. Yang says, “We have a saying in Chinese: You can only get to the destination step by step. That is what led to our success, I think.”
Learning From Past Mistakes
Before founding Geoe Game, Yang worked at XPEC Entertainment, a game development company with headquarters in Taiwan and studios in Beijing, Shanghai and Suzhou in China. It was 2007, and he was the producer of a browser MMORPG, Canaan, which sold well in ten countries and eight language versions. Since they were making money so easily, in blind optimism they made some terrible decisions. They expanded the team from 30 to 150 members in just one year, started projects without adequate preparation, separated experienced team members into different projects, and the original Canaan team fell apart. They expected the new team members would mature quickly and that the experienced members would be able to manage the team and take on a leadership role in a short time. Unfortunately, this didn’t happen. His current partners are colleagues from that time, so they share a common understanding: One stable and experienced team is more valuable than three new growing teams.
The partners continue to be extremely careful in recruiting new team members, after starting with a team of only seven. And now, even with their current success and all the international versions of their game, they still keep the team to only 15. Although investors have made good offers to them if they would expand the size of their team or create several smaller teams, they refuse because they remember the mistakes that led to the team falling apart. After all, Yang insists, “We are building games, not companies.”
Rise of Smart TV
Yang believes the next big trend in the industry could be smart TVs, since more and more manufacturers, developers, and users are taking an interest in it. Fortunately, Geoe Games does not have to choose a new operating system because most smart TVs are Android-based. So it will be natural for them to make smart TV-compatible games when the time comes. They are already discussing how to find the right methodology to make games specifically for smart TV.
In Yang’s free time, he is generally with his wife and 10-month-old daughter. He claims to have no other hobbies aside from introducing his daughter to their three cats. He does love to play games, leave his job behind, and just enjoy the fun and happiness that comes from playing various excellent games. Unfortunately, when his game playing is for research and analyzing other games, it isn’t quite as interesting, but so far, that hasn’t spoiled his gaming.
His favorite platform to play on is PC, but recently, he has turned to mobile, both iOS and Android. Currently, he is playing Hearthstone and Angry Birds, but for for work. His team is working on the first playable of their next product, with game play being somewhere between the card game play of Hearthstone and the purely casual play of Angry Birds, so he is studying these games.
Yang adopted F2P in 2004 with his first company in Beijing because that was and remains the only way to make a profit from games in China unless you have a game as well-known as World of Warcraft. The monetization is the most important aspect of F2P for him. At the same time, he and his team are carefully trying to establish a balance between F2P functionalities and core game play. They want to make sure all users can have a wonderful gaming experience while still allowing the company to make a reasonable profit.
As a gamer, he cares if the game is interesting, not whether it is F2P. But more and more F2P games are emerging, and as a developer, he did not expect non-F2P games to be disappearing so quickly. Unfortunately, in the recent F2P games, he can find many bad examples of having to pay for unlocking new levels or repeat the same boring game play 100 times. He emphasizes, “Those developers have forgotten the fundamental rule: never ruin your game with F2P functionalities! If developers think carefully before applying F2P to their games, there will be many more good games on the market.”
For consoles, Yang owns Xbox 360, NDS and PSP, all purchased for work. As his interest has turned to mobile games, he has not bought any more recent consoles. However, he finds inspiration in console games, especially NDS. Some NDS games are so classic that he believes they could be used as textbooks for mobile game developers.