Interview with Yaroslav Yanovsky (berserker), CEO of ENKORD

26 01 2009

Yaroslav Yanovsky also known as berserker at Indie Developers Forums is the man behind Enkord. Their latest releases – Totem Tribe and Gunrox – are green lights in indie and casual games. Those games are not only unique, but great fun to play.

Roman: Please introduce yourself and Enkord.

Yaroslav: I am Yaroslav Yanovsky, the man in charge behind our team. I started Enkord in 2003 being a one man company and then grew it up to 10 people with aim to make small downloadable games. Our initial success was with niche shooter game called Clash’N Slash, then we’ve moved to traditional portal stuff like match-3, but after releasing like ten projects we decided to go back to drawing board and make something never done before, therefore Totem Tribe and GUNROX are those games we wanted to make.

Enkord released two pretty unique games recently – Gunrox and Totem Tribe. You can’t find any of these type on casual game portals – why did you decide to abandon casual market?

Casual market is really crowded, but it’s not the main problem for me. The problem that I’ve become bored there – I joined game development business because I wanted to have a lot of fun while making money and lately that fun factor started to decline as you were forced to make clones with good production values in order to make money. Therefore we decided to focus on our own audience.

Totem Tribe seems to be simplified RTS. Do you think that casual players are ready for that?

Totem TribeI think they are quite ready fom something different than flood of hidden object and time management titles. I haven’t been checking portals for a year and now when I checked them again – nothing changed much – same old story. So yeah! Players are ready for light RTS, like Totem Tribe, as long as you keep it casual enough. And to back my words up you can google for Totem Tribe discussions – this game spawned a lot of talking barely been released and people love our new approach.

What about Gunrox – will it be ever released on portals? What is your strategy to monetize this game?

GunroxI would happily release this game on any portal, but the truth is – all hell will break loose before they will accept it. Portals are ultra-protective about their customers and they will treat releasing MMO as a breach in their customer protection even if we hide away all external URLs leading to our site. I hope we will find some good partners to push this game forward, but unlikely it will be casual game portals of any sort. We monetize this game through free-to-play model selling virtual items and so far it been doing quite well, our ARPU (Average Revenue Per User) was around $1.5 last time I checked.

Who do you count as active Gunrox user/player?

Player that logged in at least once during last month.

Can you tell us how many active users Gunrox has? And what is your plan?

I can’t talk about amount of active users cause I have to ask our tech guys to fetch precise data for me but we have several thousands active users and 100-200 players online constantly.

How do you plan to keep those users active? MMO without community is boring.

The GUNROX game itself is main community building factor and this is what I meant by talking about community. Of course we have website that constantly updates, vocal forums, etc.

Gunrox and Totem Tribe is your aim to build dedicated community, but I don’t see any community features on your website – why?

You should look at www.gunrox.com, we are yet to redesign enkord.com.

You plan to be portal independent – how strong are your direct sales and how long did it take for you to get them to that level? What was the key factor to it?

We did a lot of different stuff for the last several years to build traffic to enkord.com, but the main incentive for users is good games of course. With GUNROX we used our previous user base to jump-start player base.

Enkord offers quite interesting affiliate programs. Tell us more about them? Is it worth going beyond setting up a contract in Plimus?

Let me put it other way around – it’s worth trying a lot of different things, not just sitting around and waiting for something. So improving affiliate program over default cookie stuff our e-commerce offers was just one of those steps to encourage other people to promote our games. We don’t expect it to blow your socks off, it’s just one of those numerous steps you need to do to spread your game.

What is your take on casual portals wars?

That’s natural with increasing flood of games, and that’s one of the reasons we decided to focus on our own audience. We don’t want to rely on portals, that’s why we tried ourselves in community building with our GUNROX MMO game and so far we have high hopes on that game.

Would you mind to give any advice for starting indies?

I think best platform for starting indie is Flash hands down. Make a really good flash game and spread it over. You can put some ads in it to monetize, or you can cooperate with some more established developers like us that can help you with both monetizing and developing the game. Contact me at yaroslav@enkord.com if you do.

And for those that already released a game or two?

After releasing a game you will have experience behind your back. You will be able to understand what you can do and what you cant. You can try making a portal game, but it probably has to be a precise clone, or you can make something niche. If you will take a second route – think about how to build and keep community around the game. Community is golden if you will decide to make it true indie style.

And last but not least for the fans of your games – why mushrooms?

Why not? They look funny and add some light fantasy appeal. You can find them in many video games – Morrowind, Maple Story, Super Mario Bros. And people love mushrooms too :)

Update: I removed the paragraph about Gunrox being the first indie MMO. As my readers pointed out, I was wrong.



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8 responses to “Interview with Yaroslav Yanovsky (berserker), CEO of ENKORD”

26 01 2009
Jason Maskell (19:58:01) :

I’m afraid that Gunrox, as cool as it is, isn’t even close to the first indie MMO.

26 01 2009
Jake Birkett (20:00:57) :

Great interview but when I click on links to Enkord.com Firefox tells me this:

This web site at http://www.enkord.com has been reported as an attack site and has been blocked based on your security preferences.

Wow, looks like that may need to be resolved…

26 01 2009
Roman Budzowski (20:02:20) :

@Jason: why? because it’s not MMO or because it’s not first?

@Jake: Enkord is awared of that issue. Not much they can do about it now.

27 01 2009
Chris Pelling (03:47:19) :

Because it’s not first. It was beaten by years. If you count for-profit MUDs and their variants, it was beaten by decades. :-)

27 01 2009
Yaroslav (23:15:32) :

Am I missed something but where it says that GUNROX is first indie MMO? Can’t remember stating that.

28 01 2009
Roman Budzowski (00:47:57) :

You didn’t… I just had to make introduction to the interview. I thought it’s better to be wrong than undervalue Gunrox ;-)

28 01 2009
Leroy Frederick (16:11:34) :

Wise words and great blog! :)

18 02 2009
Highs and lows of working on Totem Tribe | Sell More Games (00:25:02) :

[…] very interesting interview with Yaroslav Yanovsky about making of Totem Tribe. It really adds up to my own interview with Yaroslav. And it seems Enkord acts fast. Just three weeks ago I asked them about community aspects of their […]