Computer games development has become a fast growing industry sector. The Czech Republic, with Brno being one of the main hubs, belongs to the European powers competing on a global scale, with a total turnover of 230 million USD and 10-15% growth. Incidentally, it’s a bigger size than the local film industry.
2K Czech’s Brno based studio is a part of a company owned by the global top3 Take-Two Interactive, with a turnover of over USD 3 billion, 5,800 employees and physical presence in many countries around the globe.
I spoke with Roman Hladík, 2K Czech General Manager, about the ups and downs of doing business from Brno and the key factors to their success. His is the 9th in a series of interviews with the personalities behind notable Brno companies that operate internationally.
This story contains several names, as the company have also changed through the years, and one more name is still missing. It all started in 1997 when two guys from Brno founded Illusion Softworks. Five years later, they succeeded with the now iconic game Mafia. The studio quickly sold 2 million copies and became one of the two biggest game publishers in the country. A lot of gamers would for sure remember their other successful titles — Hidden & Dangerous or Vietcong.
In 2008-9, the original company was rebranded and in 2017 merged with studios in Brighton and Novato (California). Together with their Prague office, they fused into the Hangar 13 brand that is now a part of the international 2K Games publisher, a daughter company of Take-two Interactive. At present, 2K Czech employs around 170 people in Brno and 20 more in Prague.
Products and how to sell them
Mafie remains their flagship product, with its three editions, the Trilogy and the edition one remake, with a total of more than 15 million sold copies (according to the media). The games are usually designed for three platforms – the dominant Sony Playstation, then for Microsoft Xbox and PC. About half of the sales come from Europe, about one third from North America and the rest from Asia. The Czech market share numbers barely 3 per cent.
Selling copies is still their traditional business model (some 65 USD for new games) — mostly digitally downloaded (about 70% of users), although some users remain faithful to their hard copies. Still, current trends allow for different venues to earn their income through.
For some time now, the largest publishers (2K Games included) have been endorsing microtransactions, when users buy extra extensions, like better clothing or weapons enhancing their game experience. Another trend to mention is the shift from single player to multiplayer games, from consoles to mobile phones, from actions/combats to building new worlds, or from prior-purchased to free-to-play games (paying only for extra extensions or faster play). In terms of technology, live streaming or virtual reality are other areas where innovation is expected to come from.
Brno: city size matters
Unlike in Prague, their Brno team encompasses all the roles in the developing process — from coders, graphic and game designers, to animators, sound engineers, producers etc.
Roman perceives Brno as a surely promising technology hub and attractive place to live, especially for younger people. The city size’s perfect and the quality of services went up significantly in recent years. Though like everyone else, Roman also complains about the lack of international flight connections and dignified railway station. More international promotion would help too, he adds.
“Cooperation with universities is essential for us, the company offers internships and hires some ten graduates every year,” Roman says. They have good relations not only with the usual suspects (Masaryk University, Brno University of Technology or South Moravian Innovation Centre), but also with schools in Netherlands or Czech secondary schools, where they look for promising talents.
Roman sees the key for their future in educating game developers and designers. That is partly why Roman Hladík is one of the active members of the Brno Game Cluster, putting together creative studios, educational institutions and other regional players.
The foreign crew in their Brno office is growing and currently represents about 15-20% of all employees (as usually, we’re excluding Slovaks from that percentage). English is spoken at meetings and nationality stops to be relevant. In that respect, the company would appreciate a bit of support from the Municipality – Roman suggests speeding up the process of getting work permits for non-EU nationalities or general support of the game sector as a part of creative industries, for example through networking initiatives like conferences etc.
2K Czech in numbers
|Turnover (in mil CZK)||128||178||256|
|EBITDA (in mil CZK)||11||17||17|
|Employees in Brno||84||100||140|
Roman created his first computer game when he was 14, and he’s been doing it professionally since 18. He started as a graphic designer at Illusion Softworks, later he worked as a 3D character creator, and when Mafia II and III came about, he was its Art Director. And now, as a General Manager, he’s grateful for the opportunity to make games that are conquering the world, and happy to help other talented developers who share the same dreams.