Development can require a million dollars. Advertising is ten times more expensive.
Games were used for making money in a very simple way in older days — they were sold. Higher profits are now made from in-game purchase that can take you to a new level.
I was making up to 5 thousand US dollars a month when I was 15. I collected resources to sell them to other gamers. I consequently automated this process by using an image recognition system. I developed a bot that played Fight Club for me. In a more complicated Lineage2, I set an ambitious goal to combine 12 clans, which included 400 gamers, and to seize five castles. I was playing for 12 hours a day. I found a way to automate this game in two months. The server administrator started disturbing me. I created an equivalent game and made nearly 100 thousand US dollars.
Pavlo PIKULIN, 32, is a mobile game and robot developer. He was born in Zhytomyr on 21 January 1989. His father is a radio engineer and his mother is a computer programmer. He graduated from Taras Shevchenko Kyiv National University, Cybernetics Department, with a degree in Applied Mathematics and Information Technology. He has been playing computer games since the age of 3. He made his first money at the age of 7 by designing websites. He opened a game development business when he was 20. He is Vice President of WhaleApp, one of Europe’s largest gaming holding companies with $40+ million revenues from games over the past two years. The company has almost 5 million active users each month. Founder of Deus Robots. Ukraine’s champion of amateur karting. In a relationship. He chooses not to disclose his personal life. He lives in Kyiv.
He opened a computer club in Kyiv downtown when he was 19. He lost this business due to the 2008 global financial crisis. He doesn’t see it as a failure. He learned a lesson: offline business is not for him. He opened his own game development company. They currently have five studios in three countries.
Games simulate both life and business. It’s not only about pressing keys and getting artefacts. Games require that the player understands people’s behavior, can make decisions and delegate powers. Organizational skills are more important than resources. Once, he made a deal with another clan to play a game together. He was about to seize the castle. But the allies betrayed during the battle. It was a great lesson.
The Ukrainian market is too small. He is not interested in the success of his games on a national level. All developers are focused on the United States because of the huge audience and revenues.
The goal is to make one million a day
Hardcore games are more popular in the CIS countries while European users prefer casual games. Ukrainians like solving problems more than relaxing. Another there’s one more thing — they are not ready to pay. They’d rather hack a game instead of paying a couple of dollars on resources and bonuses. The same problem exists in India and in Vietnam.
One of my co-workers got addicted to playing a slot game. He lost. He borrowed money from friends and microfinance providers. I lost all his money, again. He had more than 30 creditors and UAH 200 thousand in debt when I learned about his story. He was harassed by creditors and had to go into hiding. I repaid his debt and helped him get treatment for gambling addiction.
A game for which the developer spent $30,000 and got free traffic, say, Google posted it on its main page, can pay off in a month. More often, you need to create a good product and to invest actively in promotion in order to make a great deal of money. Development can require a million dollars. Advertising can require 10 times more investments.
Google Play offered nearly 5 million apps a year ago. Less than 10 thousand of apps were profit-making. If the developer has any doubts about a game, they release it under a different name. But before, they test and elaborate it. If there is still a poor demand for the game, it remains “anonymous”. Once, we combined casual with hardcore to attract new gamers. It was a good product but people were not ready for it.
A game is considered a success if it pays off within a year. The most efficient companies make up to 5 million US dollars a day. We aim to become a top earner making one million a day. There are currently around 100 companies that have reached this level of success.
Dog robots help evacuate the wounded
Developers used to create two different software versions for smartphones: for Android and iOS. Finally, a versatile game was developed using Adobe AIR. This made our Battle of Zombies the best strategy among free games in the USA in 2014. We made 5 million US dollars.
It’s a common practice for a team to improve a game for months and get a few percent gain. I suggested changing the icon, and we got a 10-time increase in downloads. The success was due to the option that did not seem immediately obvious: a battlefield, some buildings and figures. A vague picture. People often vote for novelty rather than for harmony.
The “development team” term is outdated. A serious game can be created by a group of teams — software engineers, artists, analysts, economists, game designers, marketers. Now we have a team of more than 150 specialists working on a new strategy. It takes an average of six months to create a casual game, or up to two years for a hardcore game.
Blitz: Rise of Heroes was created in November 2021 by WhaleApp, a Vinnytsia-based studio. It was among the top Google Play and App Store apps. More than a million downloads over two months.
Software developers told me they needed a month to do a certain task. I did it in a day instead of wasting time on argument. I do a programming task about once a month. I have developed an online timing system in the karting center. It allows users to see how they are doing on the track in real time looking at their smartphones attached to the steering wheel: the distance covered, the distance left, their and other users’ current positions.
I have never been in employment. It means some weaknesses such as lack of reporting responsibility or flexibility. You act more carefully considering multiple options when you have a boss. But can’t bear the thought of having to find solutions for someone else’s ideas. I don’t do what I disagree with or I don’t believe in.
I used to be so much self-confident that I “went into battle” without analysis or calculations. I paid almost twice the price for the computer club, but it was too late when I realized it. I have been dreaming about it since I was a kid. It prevented me from thinking rationally. I now take a break if I feel emotionally overwhelmed. I take a few days to make a decision.
I began making robots four years ago. Consumers are not too ready for them now, the more so at that time. But I couldn’t wait any longer — making money is not the final goal for me. I want to be a pioneer. Artificial intelligence has been my area of interest since early 2000-s. It was only real in the United States and Japan at that time. Today, spare parts are so cheap that everyone will soon own robots like smartphones.
Technological innovations have multiple stages. The economic advantages of an emerging market may remain unnoticed. People think: the needs are insignificant while the costs of technology are huge. But things change just the opposite as scaling up comes into play. Robotics is a highly profitable sector, but in the long run.
Specifications and engineering design are needed to create a device, or even its prototype. Then you order the equipment and wait for it to arrive. There is a global shortage of electronic components now. We sometimes have to wait for three months before they arrive. Then a prototype is made, the hypothesis is tested. If something goes wrong, the next prototype will be ready in three months. You have to pay a much higher price for an error. But this can have some advantages as well — you will leave your competitors far behind if you have made a really good progress in developing a technology.
Boston Dynamics dog robots are the best — they evacuated the wounded through the difficult terrain. It’s cool in terms of technology and the wow effect. The dog robot project, however, did not make the company profitable. It was sold to Hyundai Motor.
The US and China are the leaders in this market. Industrial robots are most common. In second and third places are taken by service and professional devices.
I want to automate human work as much as possible. Robots will be assembled by other robots at our mass production facility. My very first device was designed to polish parquet flooring. We worked hard to ensure it does the polishing better than a human. We offered the device to construction companies, but they showed no interest. We agreed with a family to perform a free test, but they refused at the last minute: “We are afraid the robot will damage the flooring. We will only hire a human!” And I want robots to do all my repairs. Human work can be frustrating both in terms of quality and meeting deadlines.
Half of repair and construction works will be done by robots in 10 years’ time. And we will be at the forefront of the industry at that time. We are currently focusing on warehouse robotics. The logistics market has doubled over the past year. There is a great shortage of warehousing workforce. A similar story happened recently in the UK — gas stations ran out of petrol. The depots had 6-month supplies but there were no workers to deliver the fuel.
Robots are not plotting to take over humanity — people simply don’t want to do these types of work. The manual labor status is getting lower. This means higher need for machines. People will be ready to pay any money for them in the near future. Robots can operate at weekends, error-free, strictly meeting all deadlines.
Ukraine is the best country to open a start-up
I invested one million US dollars from my pocket in robotics. Another million was given by investors. We need a total of 20 million. However, Ukrainian investors have big appetites: “We give you a great deal of money! You give us half of your company.”
We initially wanted to develop robotics in the US. But I realized that Ukraine and is the best country for a start-up like this one. There is no draft legislation which requires that we obtain a license or a permit, or prohibits testing robots. It allows me to create new technology faster. Progress is slower in countries with stricter regulations. On the other hand, investors are used to the US and Europe as they find these platforms most convenient. Ukrainian realities are unpredictable both in terms of legislation and the judiciary. But the situation will change once we introduce a finished product on the market.
We are going to use the raised investment to build a mass production facility in Kyiv. Out management architecture allows for using warehouse, construction, secretary robots and other types. We are currently negotiating with 13 customers in Ukraine and with two foreign clients. They are the largest retailers and logistics companies. We have cooperation agreements with each of them in place. Our machines will be introduced by Nova Poshta at its facilities for sorting parcels this year.
I am waiting for a delivery robot now. It is annoying when order deadlines are not met. Particularly when it comes to food. Kitchen robots are getting more popular. You don’t have to go to the other end of the world to taste food cooked by a top chef. All you need are robots and quality ingredients.