mercury vapour

Trained to play the “Champion”.

Today, Mercury Steam is the undeniable reference in Spain when it comes to video games for consoles. For example, it’s the first non-Japanese company that Japanese giant Konami has hired to develop one of its star titles, the latest installment in the Castlevania saga.

Born in 2002 from the union of a group of orphaned professionals after the closure of Rebel Act (one of the classic Spanish studios), Mercury chose from the start to trust in the talent of its team of programmers, designers and artists and to compete in the league of blockbusters despite a world dominated by large multinational corporations. For Enric Álvarez, co-founder and leader of Mercury, this decision has proven to be a success because “the simpler something is, the more likely it is that someone can do it better than you. Although we obviously chose to go the hard way, we are now in a position where publishers are looking for us as there are very few studios in the world that can do it.

For whom? They create products for video game lovers like themselves who are looking for something “that pushes the console to its limits”.

your guns. Mercury Steam developed its own cross-platform game creation technology, which at the time took care of presenting it to the major publishers in the industry.

TONICA GAMES

Video games for non-gamers

The video game sees itself as “universal entertainment where everyone, regardless of gender or age, can find their content”. This is the way the Tonika Games company has chosen to bet, as expressed by its CEO Gonzalo Guirao. In his opinion, current productions are neglecting a large potential market of people “who would like to have a video game to entertain themselves but just can’t find it in the current offering, too attached to traditional gamers”. Dedicated to achieving them, Tonika debuted Play English in 2010, a game co-developed with Vaughan Systems to help them learn this language.

For whom? Tonika’s audience “is the one that’s not playing massively right now. Female gender in general, women over 25 in particular; under eights, in their forties, in their fifties, retirees, families, etc.,” Guirao said.

their guns. Giving up the traditional player can become a strength when you create your own market instead of competing for a saturated one, as the Blue Ocean strategy recommends. In this case, the decision to teach English was “an inherent need of Spanish citizens” and PlayStation’s strong marketing campaign guaranteed to capture the interest of the target audience.

good documentation. Tonika, for Vaughan’s team, chose to “work with people who know more than video games” and have “a broader vision that will help attract new audiences.” For another project in preparation they have the advice of a guru.

DIGITAL LEGENDS

A super production on your phone

This company has been dedicated since 2003 to the development of video games for mobile phones, a niche that started as a poor brother of the sector but turned out to be a gold mine thanks in part to the incursion of the iPhone and iPad. Her early involvement in mobile phones has meant that the phenomenon has put her in a good position and today it is one of the world references.

Key to this was his seven-year relationship with Nokia, which, according to company boss Xavier Carrillo, “started a bit by accident, as a commitment to a niche that even big distributors didn’t believe in.” However, their efforts gave them the experience to the point that in 2008 Apple chose them to teach one of their mobile games at the iPhone 3G launch alongside Steve Jobs as an example of what the support could come from. “That was the beginning of a new phase. Today we have specialized in the so-called triple-A games, the mobile blockbusters.”

For whom? “We’re targeting the lifelong gamer, but for example, our latest game based on the life of Bruce Lee is so accessible that anyone can have a good time.”

your guns. “Invest heavily in technology to be able to develop mobile games that can compete in quality with console games,” explains Carrillo.

EXAGGERATED

Use the available media

Being newcomers to a market as complex as video games, competing against companies with resources they didn’t have… “Where could you stand out?” was the question Roberto Álvarez asked himself in 2008, determined to create his own launch companies, although the crisis in Spain had already shown its fangs. The answer for him and his small team of three was to innovate what professionals in the industry call “gameplay” and create a video game for an even newer platform, the Wii, that would fully embrace its controls and less-explored features exploits .

“Something small but innovative and of great quality”, as Álvarez defines it. The result was NyxQuest, a low-budget game that however managed to turn Over the Top into something of the revelation studio among new Spanish developers.

The other pillar on which the strategy is based is distribution via digital download, a route not yet adopted by the major publishers. “It allows us to compete with the best titles and sell the game directly and at a low cost,” says Álvarez.

For whom? Its target group is “those who use the downloads, i.e. people between 18 and 35 years old. That means they must be of legal age because they have to pay by credit card for this type of purchase”, explains the person responsible for Over the Top.

your guns. Despite his youth, Álvarez has extensive experience, having worked at Pyro Estudios, one of the most important Spanish companies, since he was 19 years old. This knowledge helped him better define his product because “learning how to make big productions helps you discover methods that you can then apply to your small productions.” Another key is self-financing through your savings: “If they had to pay the labor costs, the cost would have been around 120,000 euros.”
The trip. They managed to make their game NyxQuest “a letter of recommendation for the company, proof that we can create quality things”. You receive benefits from the first year.

BITUN

The social network for the video game

If virtual communities are pervasive, how can we not apply this pattern to the world of video games, one of the most closely related to them? That’s exactly what Bitoon, based in Madrid, has done, specializing in free multiplayer games and online communities where you can share the experience with other fans. The business comes from micropayments for the purchase of virtual goods that can later be applied to the game: shoes to run faster, character customization… The idea is to captivate as many users as possible “and create the critical mass you have to do the job, a profitable product,” emphasizes Fernando Piquer, CEO of Bitoon. In Asia, this formula is already working with surprising results: “Nexon, a Korean company, has 150 million players a month and a bill of around 700 million Dollar”.

For whom? For anyone with a computer handy. “I always say that the best customers for this are people who usually play from work. The secret is to attract people who only play for a short time but have a good experience, something that invites them to come back,” admits the Bitoon CEO.

your guns. Behind Bitoon there are not a few rookies with airs and graces 2.0. Piquer was responsible for developing the Coca-Cola movement, one of the first virtual community experiments in Spain. Bitoon’s other leg is David Cantolla, creator of Pocoyo at the Zinkia company, where he coincided with Piquer and his brother (now a partner at Bitoon). Precisely a game developed at Zinkia to test multiplayer technology was one of the factors that encouraged them to bet with Free2Play over the Internet: “This game has got 600,000 users by word of mouth.”

For Piquer, another benefit of this model is “that you can distribute your product without the need for a physical point of sale, so you get rid of all the middlemen.”
The trip. Their first game, Basket Dudes, is coming out this fall, and they already have offers from brands looking to include their marketing in it. Bitoon’s goal is to reach two million users in three years, 3% of whom make payments. “That would mean sales of 1.4 million. We would already be at an advantage.”