Celebrating a full decade of development this year, Frogwares has become one of the largest independent game development studios in the Ukraine. Though they’re known for their multi-platform adventure titles starring Sherlock Holmes and Doctor Watson, their new ventures into casual games and even an MMORTS are just getting the momentum they deserve. We paid Frogwares’s studio in Kyiv a visit and found out how the company is dealing with all these new projects, while still sticking to their adventure game roots.
The French connection
The two French friends Pascal Ensenat and Waël Amr founded Frogwares in 2000, with branches located in both Ireland, France and the Ukraine. Their passion for adventure games and a love for the Victorian era drove them to create an entire cross-platform franchise of adventure games starring Sherlock Holmes and Dr. Watson.
Though setting up their Ukraine studio in Kyiv wasn’t the easiest thing to do, both gentlemen saw a big potential in the local artist and programmers. As studio director of Frogwares, Ensenat himself mostly admires the courage of the people he works with. ”We believe a lot of people in western Europe have lost this kind ofspirit,” Ensenat says. “There is still a certain sense of importance to your job and your company here.”
Frogwares has focused mainly on the production of adventure games for the retail market over the past 10 years, enjoying very stable sales of 2.5 million on the retail market. “The adventure genre is very stable and people are looking for something interesting, colorful and intellectual,” producer Volodymyr Gorodnychyi argues. Together with assistant producer Anna Popereko, Gorodnychyi is in charge of growing Frogwares’s casual game department. “We started working with casual games around three years ago,” Gorodnychyi adds.” In fact, Casual Connect helped us get started when we accidentally visited the conference. We met some nice people there and decided that it was an interesting market for us.”
Another big challenge that Frogwares has taken on is their recently released online MMORTS called World of Battles. “It’s what we wanted to do because it’s an interesting step for us and it’s what we are playing when we have some free time,” Gorodnychyi says. “We’re trying to make what we like. And it’s working.” World of Battles was developed by a team of 35 who are still at work actively polishing and improving the game since its official launch three months ago. In the meanwhile, German publisher Bigpoint has signed to be the main distributor for World of Battles in Europe. “It always depends on the passion of the people that are developing it,” Gorodnychyi adds. ”In fact, we are very proud because our company is one of the few in Kyiv and the Ukraine that has been around for ten years and we have people who have been with us for six, seven or even eight years.”
Gorodnychyi himself started out at Frogwares as an interpreter in 2005 and grew into his current position from there. “I then became a tester, manager, project manager, then producer, and so on,” he explains. “So it was a step by step program and there was always some progress. I think that’s also one of the things that help you grow as a person.”
While game studios can be found everywhere in the Ukraine, independent ones like Frogwares are quite rare. “We are completely financed from our previous games,” Gorodnychyi explains. Unlike many other studios in the Ukraine, Frogwares was able to survive the harsh circumstances of the recent financial crash and maintain their status as an independent developer without any need for extra income from jobs in outsourcing, something that has been one of the main sources of income for many smaller studios in this country.
Frogwares also recently hired their first PR manager, Olga Ryzhko, who has been put in charge of increasing the company’s own online sales, community management and expand the reach of their casual downloadable titles. Looking ahead, Ensenat also hopes to maintain the independency of his studio by expanding more into casual games because of their rapid development cycles. “We are going to continue expanding in the casual market, maintain our Sherlock franchise and look ahead with new projects. Our future is very bright right now,” he says.
Frogwares’s newest casual game Sherlock Holmes and The Hound of the Baskervilles has been scheduled for release next week.