Publisher Spotlight: Nekki
Founded in 2002 in Russia, Nekki is a renowned and successful mobile games publisher that has truly evolved with the times, finding success along the way. This success can be seen in the growth of their games over time and across platforms.
Nekki’s early browser games pulled in nearly 11 million users. Transitioning to social games in 2008, the studio was able to draw in over 70 million players. Although this figure is impressive in its own right, it has seen been dwarfed by Nekki’s success on mobile. In fact, their most recent mobile titles Shadow Fight 2 and Vector have enjoyed over 100 million downloads, and Nekki is showing no signs of stopping.
Transition to Mobile
So, why would a games publisher who was enjoying overwhelming success on social take the dive into mobile? It was simple, as Florian Brich of Nekki describes it, “Nekki recognized the gaming market’s turn toward smartphones early on,” driving them to release a mobile version of Vector, their already popular social game. With over 50 million downloads on mobile, this was clearly a smart transition for the company.
Tasting the broad reach and success mobile could offer the studio, Nekki created its next sequel on mobile as well. Shadow Fight 2 attracted over 60 million players worldwide, establishing it as Nekki’s new flagship title.
Of course, transitioning platforms is usually nerve wrecking for most publishers, and is met with mixed success. Yet, Brich described their transition to mobile as “quite natural” to them. So what made Nekki’s transition from social to mobile easier? They were already rockstars at adaptation, and as Dmitry Terekhin, CEO of Nekki sums it up:
“Nekki already lived through the transition from browser games to social network games. Benefiting from this experience, we took the step into mobile speedy and determined.”
As part of their determination to succeed, instead of relying on third party solutions, Nekki developed their own animation engine dubbed Cascadeur. Brich credits the engine as having “become the backbone of our most successful titles.”
Granted, an engine alone does not create a successful game: it takes a talented team. As Brich describes the team:
“The mindset of the Nekki-crew is very much geared toward openness, rapid adaptation and creativity. Our approach is player-centric and copycat-free.”
With around 100 employees across their offices in Moscow and Germany, one might question how adaptive or creative a team of their size could be. However, when watching a video of life around the Nekki office, it’s clear that collaboration, creation, and fun are their focus:
Style & Inspiration
While some developers hone in on one style, Nekki has made a pointed effort to keep their games fresh for their fans by embracing multiple art styles. As Brich points out, “the sci-fi settings of Vector and the asian flavor of the Shadow Fight series certainly stand as testimony for this.”
So what is the inspiration behind their creations? A clue may be found in the name itself: “Nekki” translates from Japanese as “enthusiasm,” and “the energy of passion.” As they describe it, “it is the passion for our work that unites us.”
Passion and emotion are a driving force for the team, with their company motto being “we inspire emotions!” This translates into recognizable, fast-paced graphics and effects that “brings forth the emotional response from players that is vital” to Nekki.
Emotions aside, Nekki’s use of recognizable styles across web, social, and mobile has helped their games evolve into brands, a high strategic goal for any games publisher. For instance, in the Shadow Fight screenshot above, the silhouettes offer a distinct look that sets it apart from other fighting games while also providing a beautiful balance of light and darkness.
Drawing on his thirteen-year industry experience, Nekki’s founder and CEO, Dmitry Terekhin, sums up their biggest lesson so far with:
“Experiment, stay focused, and be creative – This will get you even through difficult times.”
Advice to New Developers
So what advice would Nekki offer to a new developer who is working on publishing their first game? Their CEO Terekhin offers this:
“Be ambitious, take responsibility and improve continuously. To have this on a more philosophical plane: ‘A path with heart is easy’ but ‘In the beginner´s mind there are many possibilities, but in the expert´s mind there are few’. As a new studio, you have to stay somewhere inbetween here, namely: Build on your enthusiasm but also focus on realistic business-scenarios.”
Aside from offering sage advice, Nekki is also entering the publishing business with a rhythm-based bullet-hell game called “Beat the Beat,” and invites other indie developers to show off their games for evaluation.
Fans of Nekki games have much to look forward to this year. Vector’s next sequel is expected to launch on mobile later this year with truly mind bending graphics.
Likewise, as previously mentioned, Nekki’s first publishing title Beat the Beat will launch mid-year. This game, developed by 2Players, will combine furious action with Dubstep beats and a retro design.
(The illustration to the right is a preview of one of the characters in Beat the Beat.)
Aside from these two titles, Nekki has two more projects in the works that they haven’t announced yet. Although they wouldn’t give us the titles, they did leave us with this tease that offers a few clues:
“One will soon rise from the shadows, while the other is a continuation of the company’s early heritage.”