Det har nog inte undgått några att Finland, precis som Sverige, har en het spelindustri. Nitro Games har med sina 10 år i branschen lång erfarenhet och producerar idag framför allt mobilspel, där titlar som Raids of Glory och Medals of War sticker ut lite extra. Sedan deras IPO under sommaren 2017 har de hunnit med att få till ett avtal med den asiatiska jätten Netmarble och fått in fonden Swedbank Robur NyTeknik som ägare. Vi har tagit en pratstund med bolagets VD Jussi Tähtinen om tiden som noterat bolag och vad han tror om framtiden.
First off, could you start by telling us your story in the industry and how you ended up as CEO of Nitro Games?
– My story began when I was a kid. I was fortunate enough to have access to all these gaming devices as a kid. I was simply fascinated with all these virtual worlds and suddenly I found myself making my first attempts at making games and modifying existing games. What started as a hobby became a profession later on as I met with my co-founder Antti Villanen and eventually Nitro Games was born in 2007. My background in games is that I’ve done almost everything, except hard-core programming, so I have a pretty good understanding of what it takes to develop a game and what the developers are doing. Antti’s background is in the field of marketing, so that makes us a great combo. I’ve been the CEO since 2008.
Nitro Games has historically been developing PC-games for big players in the industry like Paradox Interactive and Remedy Games. What was the logic behind the choice of heading into mobile?
– The main reason behind Nitro Games heading into mobile was scalability. Also, we felt that on mobile we’d be able to offer great gaming experiences for the mid-core audience. We saw that there was a growing demand for games for gamers who didn’t necessarily have the time to play on PC and consoles anymore but still wanted to have the same experience. Obviously, the potential to self-publish and the ever-growing scalability potential on mobile were factors that affected this as well. I feel that thanks to our background on working on complex PC games, we have a unique strength in designing engaging gaming experiences for the mid-core audience.
Nitro Games turned 10 years last year, the same year you went public. What were your main reasons for going public? What are the biggest perks of being a public company?
– We saw it as a natural next step for the company on our journey. We are a growth company, and we’re seeking growth through building our capabilities in self-publishing. With self-publishing, we mean that we’re publishing our games on mobile app stores directly, as opposed to using a 3rd party publisher. This means we also need to do the marketing & customer service on our own. Especially in the mobile games market, the marketing is very expensive and requires access to capital. Without proper marketing, it’s very difficult to stand out in the app stores, due to the sheer amount of games released every day. Discoverability is one of the biggest challenges for all mobile game publishers. So gaining access to funds required for self-publishing and marketing was definitely a driving factor in this decision.
In terms of biggest perks of being a public company, I’d say that there are many big ones. Firstly, the public market is essentially a platform. I mean a platform not just for raising funds, but for building a sort of relationship with our shareholder community. We’re communicating with the market through presentations, press releases and numbers in your financial statements and the market communicates back to us with the share price – and all of this happens in pretty much real time. Also being public gives us some added leverage in your company brand value and especially in deal-making. It makes certain things easy when all our data is already out there on your investor website.
Nitro Games has communicated that Medals of War have received a “feature” in the app stores several times. Could you elaborate how a featuring works? What are the pros and cons?
– As I mentioned earlier, discoverability is one the main challenges the mobile game companies are facing. Featuring is essentially an ”advertisement” in the app stores that make our game stand out. So it’s a good addition to our own marketing activities and helps our game to be seen by more potential players. We often hear people saying that featuring means ”free downloads”, but in reality, it’s so much more than that. As featuring is something that is curated by teams that run the stores, it can also be seen as a ”stamp of quality”. So far we’ve been fortunate enough that our latest game Medals of War has been featured on every platform we’ve released it on this far.
Recently Nitro Games signed a partnership with the industry giant Netmarble. Can you tell us a bit about this partnership and what we might expect from it going forward?
– Our plan is that we self-publish our games in the western markets and seek for best partners for eastern markets. According to our plan, we’ve signed Medals of War with Netmarble for publishing in the Turkish and Arabic speaking countries, also known as the MEA market. We’ve carefully customized the game with Netmarble to suit the local tastes, utilizing their local market expertise. On these markets, the game will be published and marketed by Netmarble, and we’re getting a revenue share from the revenues. We started the launch with Netmarble in end of 2017 and are looking forward to opening up the big markets in MEA region soon.
Netmarble also has right of first refusal for publishing rights in Asia for Medals of War.
The past year Nitro Games signed a contract with Wargaming to make a mobile game for them, and a few months ago that budget was increased. Can you elaborate a bit on that project and the reasons for raising the budget?
– This project is a key project for us, even though we haven’t spoken too much about it. The reason why we can’t really talk about it too much is that we’re developing the game for Wargaming and it has not been announced yet. During a game development cycle, it’s common that all sorts of new ideas for new features surface, as well as new ideas on how to increase the quality of the game. In this case, the budget increase was simply to ensure that we can work on all these new features within the schedule. We’re proud of this co-operation as we see it as a yet another proof of quality for our team, process, and our tech.
What is Nitros Games growth plan going forward and how will you beat your competitors?
– Our growth plan is built around utilizing our tech NG Platform and our MVP process in building a portfolio of mobile games for the mid-core audience. We’re currently focusing on competitive real-time multiplayer games. Our unique approach is our data-driven development model. We’re collecting data from our games already in the development stage. This gives us a unique advantage as we’re able to ensure that the games are a match for what our audience is expecting. I think most important thing, however, is quality. We believe that with our experience and with a strong team we can build games with quality that stands out.
Nitro Games seems to be very proud of the NG plattform and through that the MVP process. What is this and how is it important?
– NG platform is our tech and MVP process is our way of utilizing the tech in the best possible way. NG platform is something we’ve been developing for around 5 years now. Basically, it consists of two main elements: the client side game engine and the server side back-end. The client side is a modular game engine. That allows us to develop our games rapidly by using different modules, such as controls, AI, cameras etc from one game to another. On the server side, NG platform gives us solid networking, matchmaking and a back-end that runs in cloud globally. Basically, our F2P games actually run in the cloud, and what happens on the phone or tablet is just rendering this audiovisually for the player. This makes it possible for a Swedish player to go head to head against an American player in real-time over a mobile carrier without even a Wi-Fi.
With MVP process, we’re utilizing our strength of rapid development and the ability to gain data from our games in real-time. In practice, we’re launching our games to a small audience very early in development and measure the performance as we develop the games forward. This combined with the feedback we get from our prosumers and community gives us a good indication of the direction to go and about the potential of the game in the long run. This also helps us to collect data on the marketability of each game early on. This is important, as marketing plays such a big role in F2P mobile game publishing.
In your opinion, what are Nitro Games biggest risks and what are the biggest possibilities going forward?
– I think the biggest risks we have been involved with the industry as a whole. Games are a hit-driven business and especially on mobile gaming, there’s a lot of competition out there so you often see good games that never become a success. However, we feel that with our unique approach to our MVP process, we’re able to reduce this risk significantly.
Biggest opportunities at the moment are in the field of competitive multiplayer on mobile. eSports is making its way on to mobile and by focusing on competitive multiplayer now, there’s a lot of opportunities there as the industry grows and more and more gamers are playing multiplayer games on their phones and tablets.