Company: Connective Games LLC
Business: Online gaming software development
Location: Tomsk, Russia
The talent behind Connective Games LLC has been providing clients with online gaming software for the past decade. Now, with gaming via the internet already a proven winner worldwide and with plenty of room still to grow, the company is looking to become one of the top five players in the B2B market for online gaming.
Connective Games is an offshoot of Intrice LLC, which has provided so-called “off-shore” software development services for all kinds of industries since 1996. Past clients have included international insurance and financial firms, auto makers, accountancies and consultants.
Although Intrice was already producing software for a number of online gaming clients, in 2006 then-Marketing Manager Konstantin Zubarev proposed to bundle all the gaming business into a separate brand. Connective Games was born, with Zubarev ultimately becoming its CEO.
One reason behind the push to grow the gaming side of the business was that general software development was increasingly moving to China and India, due to the incredibly cheap labor costs there. Intrice and Connective Games are situated in Western Siberia, in the Russian city of Tomsk, where labor costs are still very competitive compared to those in most industrialized nations. However, the focus on a single category of software product created an added benefit with more weight than just discount pricing.
As a result, today, almost all development work has moved to the Connective Games entity. The company employs 65 full-time staff supported by several external teams. Separate, designated departments exist within the company to work on innovative development, the assembly of standard online gaming packages, and marketing and technical support for clients. Connective Games does not offer its own brand of online casino or poker to players, choosing instead to supply turn-key solutions and software components to independent operators and gaming networks.
Siberia might seem an odd location for a company looking to become a world leader. But Tomsk is in fact the second most important center of science and technology in Russia, trumped only by Moscow, which is a four-hour flight away. The Russian Academy of Science operates a branch in Tomsk, and there are six universities and more than a dozen research centers within the city of only 500,000 inhabitants. Tomsk is a center for R&D in biomedicine, nuclear science, precision engineering, information technology and software.
Zubarev, 35, graduated Tomsk Polytechnic University with a master’s degree in computer science. Connective Games maintains working relationships with several of the local universities, training potential future employees while still at school and then hiring them after graduation. The average age within the company is 25.
Though much of the talent is young, the background of working with clients from all kinds of industries has provided Connective Games with a lot of experience in customized projects. Intrice has ISO 9001 certification and Connective Games employs the same methodology in its own work.
“We focus on the client’s needs,” says Zubarev. “Unlike some of the bigger players, we offer more than just standard packages. Our partners always receive what they want; we turn their ideas into reality.”
Specifically, Connective Games supplies both standard and custom systems for online casinos and poker rooms. The systems contain all aspects needed for operation, including payment processing, game security and player support in the target language. The systems are scalable and expandable, so the client can start out with a smaller product to handle, say, a few hundred players and later just add more server capability to be able to host thousands of players at the same instant. It is a good feature for new operators looking to test the waters before making a substantial hardware investment.
“Land-based casinos and online casinos are absolutely different businesses,” says Zubarev. “If you want to start an online business using the same approach as you would for land-based, you will fail. You want to extend your land-based service to the online world, to bring yourself closer to your clients even when they are sitting at home or traveling elsewhere. One good usage of the online representation of your brand is to allow players to win tournament entries and VIP packages, which will bring them into your physical property.”
Connective Games also customizes its product. For example, for slot games, any proprietary games or signage to which the land-based casino has the rights can be implemented in online versions, adding depth to the reach of the brand.
Another consideration, when looking at online poker or other multi-player games, is whether an operator wants to be part of a larger, existing player network or prefers to build a new and unique network from scratch. Especially for the latter, it can be advantageous to work with a provider experienced and specialized in custom work.
Although time-to-market will naturally vary greatly depending on the level of customization involved, Connective Games promises to have a standard, client-branded online gaming package up and running in about six weeks.
Connective Games continues to work on adding new products to its mix. Games that will appeal to the Asian market are being developed, as well as mobile device adaptations of existing online products. The company is not averse to working with other developers if the cooperation makes sense.
“We are currently talking to a mobile gaming developer from Hungary,” says Zubarev. “They have a very interesting mobile poker application, and if we can work with them, we won’t have to spend thousands of hours attempting to develop pretty much the exact same product. And we can offer them a faster route to a wider market than they might achieve on their own.”