Insider Q&A: Creative Mobile CEO Vladimir Funtikov

Image via Creative Mobile

Sometimes, the best thing that can happen for your career is getting laid off.
In the case of Creative Mobile CEO Vladimir Funtikov, losing his job led to the formation of a mobile games company that now boasts over two million daily users thanks to games that have now been downloaded onto over 100 million devices worldwide.
How did he do it?
Inside Mobile Apps sat down with the Estonian developer over Skype to find out.
Inside Mobile Apps: How did Creative Mobile originally form?
Vladimir Funtikov: We were founded about three years ago, just me and two of my former colleagues. We used to work as Java mobile developers, but eventually, the company we used to work for decided to shutdown their offices in Estonia, and we lost our jobs. We were out of work for a while, but then we decided to start making games for Android. There were already so many games in the App store, we didn’t think we could compete there, so we focused on Android development instead. We had a very small team with no budget, no connections, and no experience making games as an independent studio. So we decided to focus on the new platform hoping it would take off. We thought we might be able to win some fans in a niche market, and then go from there. We made a couple of games, but they didn’t work at first, so we explored different business models and tried to figure out how to make games that would be downloaded without any marketing budget. After a year and a half, we finally made something that did well enough to pay our bills. We hired two guys very cheaply, so our team became five people, and we developed a concept of how we could grow the company making small, simple games that we could put into the market very quickly. Then in April 2011, we made Drag Racing, and it took off almost immediately, and it was quite unexpected.
[contextly_sidebar id=”8e8965a98a1669c047c7b838950e80bb”]IMA: What types of numbers were you seeing?
VF: We started seeing $50,000 to $100,000 a day organically. From that point on, we became a different company because we had to support a product that was growing at a crazy pace, and we weren’t ready. We faced lots of technical difficulties and management difficulties, from the servers unable to handle the load to ourselves being unable to support the game, which was quickly exploding beyond our expectations. Eventually we sorted it all out, we fixed all the bugs, we ported the game to other platforms, and we released a couple of spinoffs. Today, the original game and all of the spinoffs have around 150 million lifetime installs. It’s the most downloaded racing game on Android, and the original game is still sitting in the Top 50 Games U.S. in the Google Play store. We had a very successful product made on a very small budget, and it was making us a significant amount of money, but after a while, we figured that the game had its limitations. The design decisions we made just didn’t let us realize the potential of this genre, meanwhile a game called CSR Racing came out, which was very similar to our design, but it was 3-D, and it made a lot of money. Then another game and another game … lots of 3-D drag racing games came out, and at some point we decided that if we really want to develop something special, we needed to start from scratch and develop something truly ambitious. We want to make the ultimate game in the genre. With Nitro Nation Online, we set out to make a game with beautiful visuals, the most sophisticated physics engine, and the most interesting multiplayer component. We’ve been working on it since last summer, and we finally reached the stage where we have something to publish on the Google Play store in a small beta test round.