Eastern European social games publisher i-Jet Media hopes to help expand the online market in the region, particularly by working with successful North American developers.
The company recently entered a publishing deal with Disney-owned Playdom, which has published social games in the West including Social City and Wild Ones, hoping to not only bring Western games to international markets, but also to combat piracy.
i-Jet media and Playdom aim to identify and eliminate illegally distributed games in Eastern Europe, and plan to release their own games before others can release copied versions of their work.
Gamasutra spoke with i-Jet Media co-founder and general producer Alexey Kostarev to discuss the expansion of the international social games market, the company's partnership with Playdom, and efforts to slow piracy in Eastern Europe.
Social gaming has become much more popular in the last three years. What trends do you see in the market's future?
Alexey Kostarev: The social games market is extremely young and will go on growing, as will social network penetration. The social Internet space will occupy more and more territories, and new social game markets will emerge and grow as a result. In particular, this trend has recently touched Russia, as well as European and Asian countries.
At the same time, those in the developed markets will have to search for new business opportunities, and this process will likely start happening within the next year. Let's take the United States as an example; the American social games market is already close to saturation in terms of audience. Having gained a certain share in the United States, American developers are bound to go to other parts of the world, searching for new opportunities.
For instance, Playdom is entering Russia and Europe. We have just signed an agreement with them which says that i-Jet Media will publish games by Playdom in European and Russian social networks. I am convinced that Playdom will be followed by others: Zynga, Playfish, and so on.
Another trend is that the variety of gaming applications online is so huge and grows so fast that it is becoming more and more unrealistic to develop some hit and then live off its income; you need a few high-quality games in your portfolio. Following that, international distribution networks are in higher demand, because they maintain close contact with dozens of social networks, and help dozens of developers earn more by finding an appropriate place for their products all over the world.
What do you feel are the key differences between the Russian and Eastern Europe social gaming market compared to the rest of the world?
AK: Every market has its own features, and I would not divide the world's social games market into East European and Russian on the one hand, and the others on the other hand. I would consider Eastern and Western Europe as a single European market.
The main point distinguishing Europe and Russia from the United States is that the former are growing quickly now and have local social networks.
Europe keeps aloof; the European market remains in embryo. Europe is more populated than the United States, and therefore the potential audience in Europe is greater. However, Europe represents a greatly multilingual territory and includes a great number of countries. Hence, the following key feature of the European market is the presence of numerous small self-sufficient local social networks.
So you believe companies are undervaluing the space due to its complexity?
For example, the Baltic States have four million people and some five widely used languages. This is very a narrow yet actively growing market. And even Facebook in different European countries consists of a few separate and almost non-overlapping social networks rather than a single social space.
On the other hand, the Russian social games market is larger than the European one, but it yields to the American and Chinese ones. The Russian social games market is a quick-growing one. A few years ago it didn't exist at all, and now its size doubles annually. It is becoming more and more attractive not only for Russian companies, but also for Western ones searching for new markets to sell their products.
Can you discuss i-Jet Media's partnership with American company Playdom?
i-Jet Media and Playdom agreed on cooperation in Russia and Europe. Specifically, i-Jet Media will publish games by Playdom in Russian and European local social networks.
As I have already said, the American social games market is close to its saturation in terms of audience. That is why American companies are searching for new outlets and new users; Russia and Europe are very attractive for them in this regard. Actually, Playdom made a great step toward attaining quite a big share of the Russian social games market. And i-Jet Media will also help Playdom gain better positions in Europe, since we will publish their games in that territory.
The fact that Playdom has appeared in Russia is certainly a key event for the social games market. First of all, it confirms that American developers are entering an active phase of searching for new outlets. This will strengthen the competition in Russia, and increase the quality of social games.
How about piracy in the region and effects on that?
The other aspect of our agreement focuses on cooperating to combat piracy. We agree that members of the professional community are capable of keeping non-distribution of cloned and pirated games under control. Within the framework of our agreement, Playdom is ready to assist in monitoring pirated games, and i-Jet Media will publish and distribute only original titles.
We are in direct contact with many social networks, and we are ready to protect the interests of any honest developer. i-Jet Media also gives Playdom a chance to publish games first in a number of social networks in Russia and Europe at once, which is another way to prevent illegal duplication of the company's products.