Although many Western developers know that the eastern European and Russian markets are quickly growing, most are also far from making any effort to enter those countries. I-Jet Media hopes to change their minds.
We first heard about i-Jet a few weeks back, when the company announced a partnership with Playdom to publish a few of its games, as well as combat Russian piracy. I-Jet is actually several years old, though, and its current publishing focus is modeled on a gap CEO Alex Kostarev saw in the market as social games took off.
“In 2009, the most difficult thing was that nobody would help with marketing or users. We were going from company to company seeing if anyone would publish our game,” he says. “So in April of 2009 we went to China and talked to Elex, and started publishing Happy Harvest in Russia.”
Happy Harvest quickly grew to become Russia’s most popular social game, according to Kostarev, and ended up making $20 million in 2009.
That’s not a huge amount of money by the standards of a Zynga or Tencent, but Kostarev says that i-Jet’s focus is on making it effortless for developers to license a game. I-Jet has its own API, which developers can hook their game up to. After that, i-Jet does the work of localizing the game and connecting the API to Russia’s big networks, like Vkontakte, and over a dozen smaller, regional networks around Europe.
By spreading the game across a large number of networks and touching a lot of players, Kostarev claims that i-Jet can earn an extra $100,000 to $400,000 a month for a good game, with little to no effort from developers.
This isn’t the first such publisher we’ve talked to. It’s an increasingly common model in areas of the world where there’s a large, dominant competitor to Facebook. For example, we also recently profiled the Brazilian publisher Mentez, which works mainly on Orkut.
The key for all of these companies is convincing developers from the rest of the world to offer up their best content for a win-win deal — Brazil or Russia is unlikely to produce anything like the variety of social games that comes out of the United States or China, while the developers themselves don’t have the time to work on expanding into those markets.
Terms are key, of course, and we have yet to hear from developers how happy they are with their overseas deals. But for the moment, the publishers are the only game in town; as we’ve recently pointed out in two articles on Inside Facebook, both Brazil and Russia and Eastern Europe are growing on Facebook, but the social network’s presence in either area is still quite small overall.
Kostarev thinks that Facebook may never get the upper hand in countries like Russia. “I think Facebook will be successful here in a year, and we’ll help them to do that. But as far as the leading companies, we see the trend that if there’s a local player, they’ll get the most of the market,” he says.