The gaming industry is one of the most popular and promising areas of technological evolution. Modern people gladly spend their free time playing computer games, that no longer look like time-killers but represent a huge community of billions of completely different people, who have only one thing in common - love of games.
Today we're going to talk about games, how they're developed, and what to do if you've always wanted to create (or invest in) games, but didn't know how to get started. But first, let's take a look at the figures that will show us the scale that game development has achieved over the past decades.
Gaming industry in numbers
According to the Global Games Market Report, today, about 2.7 billion people play games. Over the past year, the gaming community has spent $159 billion, 48% of which belongs to the mobile games market. Last year, total turnover was $148.8 billion, which indicates a 9% growth over the past 12 months. According to analysts' forecasts, the turnover of the gaming industry will exceed 200 billion by 2023.
There are more than 2 500 companies in the USA that are somehow related to gamedev. The number of employees in the industry only in American companies reaches 240,000 and is increasing by 15-20% every year. The average gamer age is 35 years old and he or she plays games for about 7.5 hours a week. By the way, despite the stereotypes, the number of women and men who play games differs slightly: 45% and 55%, respectively.
How far has it gone?
Games have shown incredible progress over the past 30 years. They grown from primitive monochrome 2D models or isometric designs, to huge open worlds that are comparable to modern cities or even states created by developers. Primitive shadows have been replaced by full-fledged realistic lighting that emulates the behavior of light rays in the real world, including reflections and more. And artificial intelligence (A.I.) has learned to imitate the behavior of real people.
As the detail and complexity of projects grew, budgets and development teams grew as well. A little over 20 years ago, a team of 10 people could make a game for the Sony PlayStation 1 in just a year. For the next generation of consoles, which was represented by the PlayStation 2 and Xbox devices, it took about fifty people and at least two years. And in 2012, to develop an AAA game, a team of 100-200 full-time people had to work for three years to release a finished product.
Developing of modern games takes even longer, and budgets in some cases exceed hundreds of millions of dollars. For example, one of the most popular and famous games of the last decade, Grand Theft Auto V, reached $ 265 million, which is comparable to the most expensive movies in the history of the film industry. However, Rockstar has successfully recouped the development investment as GTA V's retail sales exceeded 135,000,000 copies. And the value of the TOP game development companies is estimated in billions of dollars (Electronic Arts, Activision Blizzard, Take Two).
There are a huge number of companies in the world that are engaged in game development, as well as hundreds of thousands of enthusiasts who develop Indie projects personally, or with the help of small teams of just a few like-minded people. Many of them manage to achieve serious success and earn a good reputation. Millions of people around the world dream of becoming a part of the gamedev, but not everyone realizes that these dreams are closer and more real than they seem.
Together with Maxim Miheyenko, investor, co-founder / COO 5518 Studios, and Author of the book “Millions of Billions” (a bestseller in Russian business literature), we will figure out if there is a free space for novice game developers and why it makes sense to enter this industry now.
From Ulyanovsk to LA
Having discovered an interest in games during his school years, Maxim went through a very eventful path in the gaming industry. While still a schoolboy, he managed to agree on the development of the first 3D models for one of the Russian gaming companies. The first success inspired him to continue working in this direction. Now, after some time, at the age of 33 Maxim is a co-founder of the full-cycle development company 5518 Studios. Together with Michael Casalino (co-founder and CEO, 5518), Elvina Antonova, Olga Doronina, Alex Nazarov, the 5518 team works from all over the world - Los Angeles, Moscow, St. Petersburg, Ulyanovsk, London, Toronto. Today, the global outsourcing industry does not require all team members to be in one place.
5518 created 3D models and animations for game blockbusters such as Star Trek: Fleet Command, Apex Legends, Borderlands 3 DLC, Call of Duty: Black OPS 4, Metro Exodus: Sam's Story, Homescapes, Gardenscapes, Paladins, and many others familiar to every gamer!
With such a huge experience, Maxim decided to share it with the community. Many of them, like him once, dream not only playing games but also creating them . Maxim's book “Millions of Billions”, co-authored with Michael Casalino (ex-art director of Disney Mobile, ex-VP of Art, Scopely), an experienced game developer and partner of Maxim Miheyenko, has become a serious work in this direction. We also recommend watching the video "Silicon Valley" (24m views on YouTube) from the independent Russian journalist Yuri Dud, in which he interviewedthe leading Russian and Belarusian developers in the California.
Like Jason Schreyer's “Blood, Sweat, and Pixels”, today's books on the gaming industry can be a guide for kids in the world of video game creation. The authors of the book Millions of Billions” note that modern books could help you “get started remotely, make money, and create your dream game,” and these are not just words. Today, you can enter the gaming industry through the books and online resources of global industry leaders such as Gnomon, Vancouver Film School or UCLA.
Gamedev: inside view
According to Maxim and Michael, everyone who wants to work in game development must accept two main conditions:
1. In the game development industry, passion is the key. It is important that you do the job on time and with the high quality.
2. People don't come to gamedev just for money. It doesn't work that way. Everything here changes so quickly that trends are updated several times a year! Fall Guys, one of the hot trends of 2020, could be not popular tomorrow.
Anyone who is going to devote their life to game development should truly love it. It is a secret sauce.
We had a great desire to make great games and help the best studios in the world create 2D/3D art for the best games on the earth: this is our dream. — Maxim Miheyenko and Michael Casalino (5518, founders).
Where to look for clients?
Definitely, the Western market is one of the largest in the industry. Software giants that develop games very often have their headquarters in California, like many other well-known technology companies, including Apple, Facebook, Tesla. So, negotiating in English and understanding clients are key skills for finding Western ones..
But what is more interesting and especially relevant in our time is the possibility to work with companies remotely. The 21st century gives us great opportunities when people from different parts of the world can work on one project in real-time. For example, cooperation with EA, Activision Blizzard, or Google is real and possible if you are in Novosibirsk, Odessa, or Vitebsk. In addition, it is much more pleasant to live with an American salary in CIS countries.
A good income is available even in the provinces, and the standard of living of a 3D-artist from Kazan, Minsk or Kiev will be... higher than that of the same artist from California. Compare the prices of living in the regions of Russia or Belarus with the same in the United States. Therefore, earning 2-3k USD per month in Russia, you can live, allowing yourself a lot (but such an amount in Monaco or London, of course, will be very small for life) — Maxim shares.
Therefore, the developer does not need to relocate to work on amazing international game projects.
The charter of each game developer
For this article, Maxim gave some key advice to everyone who is going to work with large US corporations and indie-studios:
- Believe in yourself anytime, anywhere. Your talents and skills will definitely be appreciated. Find what you are best at. Passion in the gaming industry will always be appreciated: if you are the best in match-3, you can build your career on it.
- Ask if in doubt. Communication - King. People from the CIS countries are sometimes embarrassed to ask questions, as they are afraid to seem stupid. Here it is better to clarify the case several times to turn it in a clear and convenient form than to end up doing the wrong thing.
- Be open. Trust people, colleagues, and clients. We all work simultaneously as one team to make the coolest game for the student, housewife or bully, which drives them crazy. Visibility and transparency in the gaming industry is an important component of successful work (especially considering that each employee is located remotely and communicates with other team members from anywhere in the world using Zoom, Slack or MS Teams).
- Don't lose your enthusiasm! It's easy to get used to the monotonous work, so don't forget why you came to gamedev - for the sake of a dream. That is why I always say that the most important thing for an applicant is tру love of games. Those who come only for a salary in dollars, and not for the sake of games and pleasure, we do not need them. They won't last long in this business.
As the founder of 5518 Studios has repeatedly noted, studying at the university (Ulyanovsk State Technical University) played an important role in his career. This laid the foundation of knowledge and taught him to work with a lot of new information. In the early stages and in the process of becoming a specialist, training is a cornerstone of every developer, designer, artist or manager. Technology changes and evolves. And the developer must move “toe to toe” with them to stay relevant in this fast growing market.
Game elements are getting great popularity in applications as well, for example, a startup Loona (from the authors of MSQRD, sold for Facebook a few years ago), an anti-stress beautiful 3D application with real-time 3D graphic, or Spatial.io, the New York project, creating remote work conveniently and comfortably, from former Uber art-director (Peter Ng). Even big corporations like Starbucks or Nike are introducing rewards and gameplay elements to increase user loyalty in their apps.
Maxim actively invests in such applications as a business angel, as according to him, this is a hot niche (the mix of games and apps): the experience of the gaming industry helps in the development and promotion of new projects. For example, EduDo.app, a promising startup from Minsk, such as TikTok for education with premium content (soft launch, November 2020 evaluation is about 2-3m$). In Moscow, a startup Jewwish.ru, which combines online and offline connections: exclusive dating service, created by Alexey Likhtenfeld. His wife Alina, and Mihoel Stavropolsky run the operations and a dedicated team of contributors help over 1000 members find “kosher” love online and offline. It is a great sample of narrow and effective niches at the intersection of games and applications, where offline and online work together smoothly.
As Maxim says, the gaming industry is just beginning to take shape. Big world giants come here, and the market is not overheated yet! A significant number of investors see a new next big thing in the gaming industry, and in 2021/2022 there will be a good number of important announcements and M&A. The growth of the industry is only accelerating, and the transition to 5G, the second wave of COVID-19, as well as remote work around the world are only stimulating the development of the gaming industry. Here we need fresh talents, smart money, and great investors. sincewe are only at the beginning of the gold rush. The gaming industry needs hot talents and judicious investors from all over the world, including Monaco.