Another year has passed, and as the calendar turns to 2024, we at GameDev Estonia decided to look back on what we’ve accomplished through 2023. This was a hard year, and the upcoming 2024 may be even more challenging, but our community continues to cooperate and support one another, ensuring that the small Estonian game development industry is still on the map and will continue to grow in the years to come.
Overview of the Local Industry
In 2023 we tried to make some research in the field of salaries, but due to the international market downfall the numbers we collected may look a bit off. At the same time only 53 individuals were open to share their information, and for the realistic numbers we would need at least more than a hundred answers. All data is in Brutto numbers.
There is much more additional information that we managed to gather. 70% had no internship or trainee program in the game industry prior to their work. 80% feel stressed and overloaded at work, and 19% of those people are stressed constantly. Only 20% of people don’t crunch or work overtime. Despite these demanding conditions, 60% of developers believe that the workload is manageable, making overtime a norm in the realm of local game development.
Outside of the salary questions, the teams now face their greatest difficulty in talent acquisition. At the same time, many individuals lost their stable workplace. So in the end, it’s a really deep conundrum. Small teams with tiny budgets can’t get experienced developers into their team and, at the same time, cannot provide a well-needed practice to junior developers. Junior developers are left with a very small selection of possibilities and have to make unpaid practice to grow any kind of portfolio. The lack of opportunities for junior developers not only hampers their growth but also limits the overall growth of the local game development industry. Without a solution to this talent acquisition dilemma, the industry may stagnate and lose its competitive edge in the global market. And working on this, and other problems in the industry, will be one of our main tasks for the upcoming year.
On the positive side, we can mention that due to the small scale of most of the local studios and a traditional way of developing on a low budget, our local studios had much fewer layoffs than the European industry as a whole. We had zero closed studios, and that is already a big win.
When it comes to creating video games, PC is still a king. Many studios are self-publishing. This year we had only five releases. Chaosmonger Studio released Clunky Hero, a platformer metroidvania with a ton of humor, Three Minutes to Eight a mind-bending adventure game, and the first chapter of Soul Tolerance, an investigative RPG made in voxel art. So they were the main driving force of the year. A free game The Missing Parts of Maria Gwozdek was released by Senokos Games. And Dark Chess by Tall Troll Games went into the full release. CM games, in cooperation with Mythical Games, released Nitro Nation: World Tour. There were some additions to the released games. First DLC to Artist Life Simulator (Cakes & Guns: extra content) released in spring by Interactive Fate.
There are some serious releases planned for 2024. Gamecan is finishing cooking Contenders: Arena (a high-octane 3v3 arena shooter featuring acrobatic moves and intense combat). Hammer&Ravens Games are tirelessly working on the Ale Abbey – In Hops we Trust (A Monastery Brewery tycoon). Cydonian Games announced a Redux re-release of their game Voidship: The Long Journey. Bootstrap Island, an intense VR roguelike survival game is planned to release in February 2024.
Overview of our Work
In this segment, we highlight the main activities. In reality, there was much more work to be done. The website was constantly updated, and our social channels grew exponentially. We tried to create more video content and started working on our YouTube channel. There were many meetings with governmental officials and representatives from other industries. Our team was present at most of the main events in Estonia, such as Startup Day, W3N, and Lattitude59. Our team also actively participated in international conferences and trade shows, showcasing our games and studios.
Global Game Jam Pärnu 03.02.2023
The Global Game Jam Pärnu was back for the second time and was better than ever! The event was held in the beautiful Wasa Resort and Spa and was organized by Gamedev Estonia and Gamecan. 60 participants from all corners of the world, including the USA, India, Turkey, and more, came together to create 14 exciting game prototypes in just a few short days. The participants displayed remarkable collaboration and
creativity as they brought their ideas to life.
GameDev Meetup March 05.03.2023
Our March meetup brought together like-minded individuals who share the same passion for video game development. Many new people came to the event for the first time. Our guest speaker, Kristjan Thomas Haaristo, led a fascinating discussion on the process of creating a soundtrack for a film or video game. The main keynote was the importance of the recurring motives in the creation of a coherent soundtrack.
GameDev Meetup April 06.04.2023
This time we had two talks: Art Direction Methodology for Small Teams By Sergei Dragunov (Art Director in Ringtail Studios and Head of Fat Snail Studios). Introduction to Machinations, a practical game design tool By Vahab Ahmadvand (Senior Technical Designer and Unreal Authorized Instructor).
GDWC 2022 Awards Show 22.04.2023
GDWC 2022 Awards Show in Tallinn, Telliskivi. The hybrid event was held on 22.04.2023 in Erinevate Tubade Klubi and was sponsored by Simple Magic, Gamecan, Ringtail Studios, with the help of the Enterprise Estonia (EAS) project. The special price of the best Estonian game was won by Mister Morris Games for Haiku the Robot. This game previously won two awards at the Digital Vikings Awards ceremony and became one of the biggest success stories in recent years. The physical event was attended by many local studios – Tall Troll Games, Crypto Rogue Games AB, Placeholder Gameworks, Mishura Games, Chaosmonger Studio, Fxfx Studios, and many others. We even had an afterparty hosted by Simple Magic. Our main media partner for this event was Mobidictum.
Narrative Design Worshop 20.05.2023
In May we had a great lecture by Steven-Elliot Altman on the topic of Narrative Design. At this open event in the historical building of ARS Kunstilinnak, he shared his experience of writing different stories for video games and gave everyone hands-on training in narrative design.
We are happy to share with you part of this lecture: https://youtu.be/qBGxRawXTj4
DevGAMM Vilnius 20.06.2023
GameDev Estonia had its own booth at DevGAMM Vilnius. We were representing Estonian gamedev at the event and showcasing latest local projects. Andrejs Rusinovskis took part at the panel on the Games Industry in Baltics with Ricardas Jascemskas (Project Manager at the Lithuanian Game Developers Association) and Jāzeps Rutkis (chairman of the Latvian Game Developers Association). We brought with us developers from Placeholder Gameworks with the new playable builds of Broken Alliance and CraftCraft. Additionally, we had a new playable build of “Immortal” by Mishura Games.
The Estonian delegation made a strong showing at Gamescom, highlighting the country’s growing community. GameDev Estonia was present at the Creative Europe Desk – MEDIA booth. For the first time Estonian Association had a representative at Games Industry Trade Association Reception organized by EGDF. With the help of Enterprise Estonia (EAS) project “Development of support structures for the creative economy” Simple Magic, Placeholder Gameworks, Fat Snail Studio, Weird OÜ, Ringtail Studios and SQA partners managed to attend Gamescom conference and had opportunity to organize meetings at Creative Europe booth. Other Estonian studios that were present at Gamescom were CM Games and Interactive Fate.
Read full article here: https://www.patreon.com/posts/88371231
FullCycle Academy Opening 01.09.2023
GameDev Estonia took part in the opening ceremony of the Gamecan Full Cycle Game Academy, where alongside Estonians, young people from 40 countries will study video game development. There are over a hundred students starting their way into GameDev.
Mobidictum Conference 05.09.2023
This year we had a real trade mission to Mobidictum conference with representatives from Gamecan and Fxfx Studios. At GameDev Estonia booth we had a lot of meetings with local developers and at least half of them already got, or planning to get Estonian E-residency. At least two studios were planning to start hiring people in Estonia in a near future. There are many reasons for Turkish businesses to open companies in Estonia. Creating and operating businesses is bureaucracy-free, it takes just 15 minutes to register a new business and all of the management can be done online. Additionaly Estonia has no corporate income tax for reinvested profits, no capital tax, and no property transfer taxes.
GameDev Meetup September 12.09.2023
First time in Estonian history- meeting with Mao Sugiyama (business development manager of Nintendo) and Bedran Kayan (representative of the marketing team). Was very happy that most of our studios were present and many have plans of porting their games to Nintendo Switch. The process of accreditation is much easier that we ever thought and additional free marketing from Nintendo side is fully possible. Hope this will give a new direction to our GameDev community.
Our space at MängudeÖÖ was a blast. Room was constantly full of people. Big thanx to Gamecan for bringing a bus full of developers from Pärnu to represent your next game Contenders Arena. Big shoutout to our developers that came to showcase their projects Placeholder Gameworks, CM Games, Chaosmonger Studio, Crystals of Naramunz, Fat Snail Studio. Ringtail Studios came with their team too and helped us to build the showcase. Next to us Maru VR Productions made an awesome showcase of their marvellous Bootstrap Island
Our space at MängudeÖÖ was funded by Enterprise Estonia (EAS) project Development of support structures for the creative economy 2019-2023.
Mobidictum Network Tallinn 26.10.2023
Mobidictum Network Tallinn 2023 event was a success. With 130 attendees, the event provided a valuable opportunity for game developers, publishers, investors, service providers, and other professionals to connect and network. GameDev Estonia was the local partner for this event, and provided constant support to the organisers team. Great financial support came from EASi ja KredExi ühendasutus. This event has a very interesting program that targets roundtable discussions. Attendees had the chance to be part of the table about Ai, game art, International cooperation, applied games, marketing … there was something for everyone. One of the things that made the Mobidictum Network Tallinn event so special was its intimate atmosphere. The smaller size of the event allowed for more meaningful interactions and conversations among attendees. Everyone had the opportunity to get to know each other and learn from each other’s experiences.
GameDev Meetup November 23.11.2023
In November we had a really nice meetup with a great group of friends at Põhja Öökul. Thank you all for such a wonderful evening and special thanks goes to Chaosmonger Studio for sharing the latest news and Placeholder Gameworks for always being so open with their development process.
GameMaker Game Jam 09.12.2023
At the end of the year, we held a GameMaker Game Jam, and it was amazing! A total of six groups had their imaginations unleashed. Tallinn University has been incredibly helpful, and we appreciate all of their support. In this live event, participants had a tight deadline of two days to design and build a working prototype. Because of time limits, each team ended up producing three games in GameMaker and three in Unity, even though they all tried GameMaker. Various teams worked on puzzle games, graphic novels, and arcade shooters. We will announce the winners soon. They will be decided by GameMaker and Lost In Cult.
We ended this year with two Christmas parties. One in Pärnu, and other in Tallinn.
We want to mention studios and people who helped the local community the most. It’s important to appreciate the help that we are all getting. Some of the studios and people who have been instrumental in helping the local community include Placeholder Gameworks, who provided mentorship and guidance to up-and-coming game developers, and Ott Madis Ozolit specifically, who shared his knowledge with aspiring professionals. Their contributions have greatly enriched the local gaming ecosystem and fostered a sense of collaboration and support within the community.
In addition to Placeholder Gameworks, there are several other studios and individuals who have played a significant role in supporting the local community. One such studio is Simple Magic, which has consistently through the year organized events and sponsored some of our main activities. Their commitment to giving back has made a positive impact on the community, and they are constantly expanding their workforce with local developers.
Another notable individual is Jordan Morris (Mister Morris Games), a solo developer who has dedicated part of his time and expertise to mentoring young aspiring developers. Jordan is openly sharing his experience in the industry with the local community and supporting our events.
This year, we had a new unexpected media partner, Mobidictum. We are very happy that the Mobidictum team, and Batuhan Avucan specifically, invested in our local market and organized the biggest event of this year, Mobidictum Network Tallinn. The event provided a platform for networking, knowledge sharing, and collaboration within the gaming community. The partnership with Mobidictum has truly elevated the local gaming scene to new heights, and we are excited to see what the future holds for our community.
And in the end, we, of course, need to mention the giant work that was done by the Gamecan team and Marten Palu specifically. They helped with almost all of the activities throughout the year; their team was traveling from Pärnu to Tallinn constantly throughout the year for almost every event we had. They grew the size of Full Cycle Academy and welcomed 100 students from all around the world to study in Parnu. Without their contributions, the local gaming community would not be as vibrant and thriving as it is today.
Other people, who were very helpful this year: Anton Iljin (Ringtail Studios), Mikk Luige (Cydonian Games), Nicola Piovesan (Chaosmonger Studio), Raimond Tunnel (Head of the CGVR Study Lab in the Institute of Computer Science, University of Tartu). We are grateful for their invaluable assistance and are committed to paying it forward by continuing to contribute to the growth and development of the local gaming industry.