Miguel Caron is the Studio Head at Madfinger Games. He is known for finding innovative ways to face challenges and inspire leadership instead of an old fashion autocratic management approach. Ten months ago, he moved from Canada. “With 50 % of the salary I had in Montreal I am 22 % richer in my lifestyle in Brno,” he says.
How would you describe the business Madfinger Games does to someone without a clue?
We are a video game developer with a speciality for a first-person shooter (where a camera represents the human). Most of our games are played on mobiles. In these terms we are truly the world leader.
Has a significant portion of players moved from computers to mobile devices?
A player who plays a mobile game and a player who plays a PC game is most of the time the same guy. It’s not so much movement as it is cannibalism – I want him to spend more time on my game. Our games in mobile have the same level of entertainment as PC and console games.
How many games has Madfinger launched yet?
Since 2010 we have made ten games. Shadowgun Legends, which is our biggest project yet, will be eleventh. We are launching it this year.
Your games have over 160 million downloads worldwide. But your business model is free-to-play and only about 1 % of users pay for extra tools and features.
When developers become entrepreneurs and create their own business – which is the case of Madfigner Games, they tend to tell themselves they are not doing it for money. So they have a very soft monetization. Obviously we are growing and now there are ways we can monetize more. Our upcoming game will have a lot of metagaming (when a soldier doesn’t just kill stuff but also goes to a bar with his friends etc.) and we hope that will help people to convert.
What countries do your players come from?
50 % of the market is USA, 30 % is Europe, about 10 % is Asia and Brazil, and 10 % is the rest of the world.
Madfinger has its headquarters in Brno. Everything from design to publishing a game is done from here. How is a new game born?
First there is pre-production where you define your idea. Then we start the production and go to the soft launch in one or two small countries. Then we look at the numbers and adjust the game. Then we go for the launch with marketing. In the live stage we work on updates. After a few years we stop adding content but we still maintain the game and make sure it is running smoothly. When the revenue are lower than the cost of maintaining we kill it.
On average it takes between 3 and 6 months since you come up with an idea and launch a game. But Shadowgun Legends will have taken us a little more than 18 months.
What skills are you looking for at Madfigner Games when hiring right now?
The first and most important one: a certain level of madness. For us to be able to create unique games we need unique people with passion. As for specific knowledge, the video game industry has actors, martial artists, animators, psychologists, economists… To separate all these fields, there are three categories: devs (artists, designers and coders) that make the product, shared services that support the product, and marketing. I always have a need for all kinds of coders, artists, and designers.
At the moment Madfinger Games have about 100 employees. Almost 20 % of them are foreigners. How easy is it to attract them to Brno?
It depends on where they are from and their personal situation. I was the first foreigner here. Now we have people from India, USA, Ireland, Canada, Italy, Turkey, and mostly UK – thanks to Brexit.
The salary I was offered here was more than half of what I had in Canada. But the cost of living is much lower here. When I was visiting Canada last Christmas, I bought tree pints of milk, two packs of bacon and a pack of eggs at a supermarket and I paid 40 dollars.
In Canada, I was taxed on my salary at 52 %. My home tax was about $9,000 a year. And on top of that there was the purchasing tax. Basically 70 % of my gross salary went to the state and I lived with 30 %. Here in the Czech Republic it is the reversed. With 50 % percent of the salary I had in Montreal I am 22 % richer in my lifestyle in Brno.
Can you think of three things that you find better here than in Canada?
More than three things. Your worse winter in many years is the best winter I’ve had in many years.
One of the most beautiful things I love about Czech culture is the live and let live philosophy. It is about common sense and respect for one another.
I also like the fact that you have fewer rules, but you demand more maturity. For example, the public transport is system is based on trust and honour. And almost no one cheats. Once I was reading something in a tram and I was about five seconds slower than everyone else in moving away to let an older person sit, and I got twenty evil eyes looking at me. Same thing when a lady with a baby cart wants to get in, people here fight over who’s going to help her.
When a public place is crowded Czechs start to whisper, versus everywhere else people increase their voice. There is less white noise. Less aggression. Less intensity. Respect is a natural thing here.
Another thing is the cost of living. When you are in Canada, you say “the Czech cost of living is low”. No, the Czech cost of living is the correct one. The other one is an abuse. Also, my wife and I feel safer in Brno, the crime rate is lower here.
Is there anything the city municipality could do to make your employees even happier in Brno?
Well, they cannot help with healthcare or visas, but they could help with having the city apps such as public transport bilingual.