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Gaming is one of the few distinct areas where Eastern European startups have succeeded in the past: XS Software, The World of Tanks, Viaden Media, Nordeus, Ganymede. Last week I discovered another gaming company from Slovakia (technically it is Central Europe but for the simplicity – and SEO! – I call it Eastern Europe).
Meet Pixel Federation.
Pixel Federation develops and publishes its own Facebook games, it is the top 20 game developer on Facebook in EMEA region. I have caught up with Filip Fischer, the co-founder and COO, who told me the company story.
Pixel Generation was founded in 2007 and the four founders, who have previously worked in another game development company together. Within the first year of developing games, while supporting themselves with cash flow from web development projects, the founders have succeeded in attracting angel funding of 450,000 Euros from a Slovak investor to start building games. Travian game was all the rage back then, and Fischer and his founders wanted to create the next big strategy game.
The plan, with a hindsight an erroneous one, has been to collaborate with game publishers to market the game. Emporea, a hardcore fantasy strategy game was created, but the marketing strategy backfired as the publisher did not perform. Still the team was stuck with the deal for at least 1,5 years.
Afterwards the company developed a game for Nintendo platform, but then came 2008 crisis, which hit the gaming industry hard, resulting in the mediocre game performance.
At the time, salvaging Emporea, the game the company started with, was too late as the gaming preferences of online users went away from hardcore to casual gaming. Also the money was tight, and the founders decided to concentrate on Facebook games, as Facebook was seen as an effective distribution platform. The niche was found: train station theme, for which there was no game on Facebook yet. As the team played train games in the past, the decision was made to create the something they would enjoy playing themselves.
This proved to be the right decision, but the company was running out of money, so in 2010 a new investor was found, despite lackluster track record in this risky business. With the investor’s money the Train Station game was completed.
For marketing Pixel Federation chose the direct approach, investing the revenue from the game into the user acquisition. A banner campaign was developed, and the game’s viral factor worked quite well too. The issue was to identify the user group which was done with small experiments using Google Ad words. Once the target group was found, the company optimized its advertisement campaign to promote it to the users.
Two years later, The Train Station game has over 400,000 users, the company employs 60+ people and has a few more projects in the pipeline and thus classified as up-and-coming global success story in Eastern Europe. If you have tips on other region’s success story or an up and coming internet business with global ambitions, please get in touch.
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vita at goaleurope dot com