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The Games Fund, which raised $50 million earlier this year for a new game-focused venture capital fund, has invested in four early-stage game studios in Eastern Europe.
The Moscow and Los Angeles-based fund is moving fast amid a market that is full of game venture capitalists, but the firm believes it has an edge with the rich numbers of studios in Eastern Europe, said Ilya Eremeev, cofounder of The Games Fund, in an interview with GamesBeat.
He said the fund started its activities in April and actively scouted in emerging regions. The firm wants to be a bridge between international companies and local developers and help them integrate into the global gaming ecosystem.
“All of them show our strategy of investing in early stage companies, free-to-play mobile game developers, young developers, based in Eastern Europe,” said Eremeev. “They are all different with some of them working in the casual space and others on the opposite side of the spectrum in midcore and hardcore games.”
He expects to announce six more investments before the end of the year. And he has a lot to choose from, as he estimates there are 5,000 game companies operating in Eastern Europe. So far, the team has reviewed about 300 pitches. He said that hot trends such as nonfungible tokens (NFTs) and blockchain could be interesting at some point, but such game companies aren’t the fund’s primary focus.
The first four investments are as follows.
Vandrouka Games has raised $1 million in seed stage funding. Its founders are Vadim Komkov and Vladimir Komkov, and it has 10 people based in Minsk, Belarus.
It was founded by games industry veterans with over 10 years of casual game development experience. Previously, the founders worked as top managers at one of the leading gaming companies in Eastern Europe. They decided to start out on their own to make casual games with a focus on innovative gameplay, fresh and engaging meta, and good visuals.
Purple Games has raised $1 million, with about $450,000 of that coming from The Games Fund. Founded by Denis Zhuravlev, the company has match-3 experts with more than 10 years of experience at casual game companies. They believe that the match-3 genre started by Bejeweled hasn’t hit its peak yet, and there is room for innovation.
The first game, Greenvale, is showing impressive results in soft launch and will soon be ready for scaling. Purple Games has 25 people, and it is also based in Minsk.
Jarvi Games has raised $510,000 in a pre-seed round. The Games Fund is a big fan of funding young first-time founders with ambitious ideas, in this case Jarvi founders Ihor Lysenko, Serhii Hrynenko, Dmytro Burnos, and Oleksandr Lysenko. This team has ambitions to break out of the Eastern European games market with Vice Online, a mobile action sandbox multiplayer game — something close to the Grand Theft Auto Online experience, but designed for mobile from the ground up.
No one has really succeeded yet with authentic, mobile-first experience. This is not an easy concept to deliver — the game is in its early stage — but The Games Fund is already having tons of fun and laughs playtesting it, Eremeev said. It is an open world, massively multiplayer online game with sport cars, helicopters, private jets, boats, and a massive arsenal of firearms. Everything blows up. The team has 10 employees in Kharkiv, Ukraine.
“They’re trying to create to recreate that kind of GTA V online experience for mobile,” Eremeev said. “They provide that sandbox experience and focusing on the broader audience. You can do all the mayhem you want in the city and customize your stuff.”
The team will polish the game and create better and better versions, and it will likely raise more money to bring the game to a global audience.
“They have a playable version, and all the core mechanics,” Eremeev said.
The studio has raised $1 million, with $450,000 coming from The Games Fund. The founders are Sergey Petrov and Boris Kalmykov.
The Hypemasters team is a mix of the seasoned core team and fresh blood. It is focusing on creating player-versus-player real-time strategy games on mobile. The first game, World War Commander, is an RTS title set in World War II.
“There are not that many competitors in this space because it is perceived that RTS is not that attractive for foreign players,” Eremeev said. “But we believe that is not true. There is a space for RTS and serious hardcore games.”
Eremeev said that PC games in this genre have a strong community, and he believes that adapting popular PC genres to mobile has a lot of potential. The trick is not to copy or port the game from PC to mobile, but to rework and reimagine the gameplay while preserving and amplifying the very essence of the genre and player experience.
World War Commander is currently in beta in Russia and showing solid results. Hypemasters has 25 people in London and St. Petersburg.
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