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Friday, 20 August 2010

Interview with Alawar Entertainment

Alawar Entertainment have worked with several indie developers, one of the most famous releases being "Hamlet" by Mif2000.  I asked them a few questions about the indie gaming industry and their part in it.


Kirill Plotnikov, Vice President of Publishing

Kirill Plotnikov has been working as a game producer at Alawar Entertainment since 2003. During his first year with the company, Kirill was promoted from assistant producer to head of the production department. Since early 2009, Mr. Plotnikov has been the company's vice president of publishing. Over the course of his tenure, Alawar has published over 100 games (most of them commercially successful), including the Farm Frenzy series, The Treasures of Montezuma 1 and 2, the Natalie Brooks series, the Sprill series, Settlement: Colossus, The Treasures of Mystery Island, the Craze series and others. Kirill graduated from Novosibirsk State University with a degree in programming.

When and how did Alawar start up?

Two friends, Alexander Lyskovsky and Sergey Zanin, formed Alawar in 1999 in Akademgorodok, the famous scientific suburb of Novosibirsk, to create small shareware games and sell them online. After they released a few projects and started making money, other small companies began to contact them about launching their products in the western markets.  That's how Alawar became a developer and a publisher at the same time.

To date, we have released over 200 casual games for a variety of platforms, and our six internal studios are busy creating games for the PC, Mac, iPhone, iPad, PlayStation 3, Nintendo DS, Mac, Android, J2ME and Blackberry, as well as various social networks. These studios account for about half of the games we publish. External teams, including indie developers, develop the rest.

What challenges have you faced as an indie publisher?

We face a few things on a regular basis, all of which we can solve. For instance, developers often lack the resources needed for developing products that would meet the current standards for quality. This problem applies to sound, graphics, text and other things; small companies just don't have the ability to polish every aspect of their product to perfection. We help them solve these problems, but there are things we can't change, such as production delays, inability or reluctance to fix bugs, delays in signing documents, and more.

Apart from outstanding talent and out-of-this-world energy and industriousness, indie developers often have unwavering confidence in the correctness of their actions. So when a publisher invades the sacred temple of their game concept with friendly suggestions to make the product more commercial, many developers take offense. When this happens, we spend a lot of time explaining to them that games are mass consumer goods, and they must excite not only the people who make them but also the people who might buy them.

What's your most successful release so far?

Our most successful project to date is "Farm Frenzy," first released in 2007.  A company called Melesta created the original game and its sequels.  The series consists of three standalone games and five add-ons for the PC, as well as versions for the iPhone, iPad, Android, J2ME, Blackberry, Nintendo DS and other platforms. Consumers have purchased over 1.7 million "Farm Frenzy" games, and sales are rising.

Due to the success of our collaboration, Melesta is now called Alawar Melesta, and is one of our internal studios.

Speaking of games from independent developers, our recent cooperation with mif2000 was a huge success.  He's the author of Hamlet, a game with unique gameplay and an intriguing storyline.

What's the most important advice you could give to aspiring indies?

Publishers invest not only their money, but also their experience on the market. If you want your game to be successful, take their recommendations and advice to heart.

What are Alawar's plans for the future?

We will continue to develop games for the mass audience and publish them on as many platforms as possible. We're interested in bright, colorful and inventive games with high-quality graphics and mass market potential. We're also interested in creating better conditions for game development.

(Many thanks to Tatiana and amd Alexandra for their help with this interview.)
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