It's Great to be a Mobile Game Dev In . . . Israel

Developer Stories

September 14, 2015


min read

The Culture is Collaborative

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Gaming Pitch Night image via GameIS[/caption]Israel has a mandatory period of military service for young people, generally two years for women and three years for men. Ohad Barzilay, a producer at Side-Kick Games, says this time spent in the army leads to a culture that is both mission-driven and team-oriented. That dynamic, Barzilay says, is one of the reasons why startups are so successful in the country?and why the game industry is thriving."I think people here tend to push harder to finish a project they're working on, and getting help from other people along the way is relatively easy," he says. "We help each other all the time and the close connections we have propel others upwards."

Hit Games Are Inspiring Devs

Less than two years ago, Jelly Button Games employed a handful of people. It's ?mobile game had just a couple hundred installs a day, almost entirely from Israelis. Fast-forward to today: there are more than 35 people on staff, and Pirate Kings has more than 40 million downloads , and they are already in the midst of producing their second game. It's the kind of story that inspires people to enter?and remain in?the gaming industry."The mind wanders and thinks, 'Maybe I can do it too,'" says Asaf Moshe, the developer behind the studio Apps and Smiles.Previously a well-paid user-experience designer at a tech company, Moshe quit his job and taught himself how to design games. He released 13 games for iOS and Android in the space of 18 months, and while he didn't have the big hit he was dreaming of, he's in the game industry for keeps. Moshe recently accepted a job at a large company in Tel Aviv?he didn't want to name it?one that is poised to enter the mobile gaming market.

Industry Groups Are Paving the Way

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The GameIS 2014 conference. Image via GameIS.[/caption]The nonprofit game industry group GameIS runs networking events like workshops, game jams, and the annual Israel Game Industry Conference. They also host talks from industry leaders like Activision Blizzard president Bobby Kotick and 343 Industries head Bonnie Ross.But perhaps more crucial is GameIS's role in representing game developers in front of a government that's just starting to realize the game industry is actually a serious business."They didn't realize there was a gaming industry in Israel," said Nir Miretzky, GameIS's chairman. "Until we met them three years ago, they thought that the Israeli gaming industry was people making Hebrew games for other Israelis."That sentiment has changed. The government is now including games in its greenhouse accelerator funding program, and it's helping GameIS in its work to build international connections.The result? "We can almost feel the growth around us," said Miretzky. He says he's confident the expansion will continue, partly through diversification. Social and casual gaming markets have already proven successful; now companies like Tacticsoft and Plarium are focusing on the mid-core market, which targets hardcore gamers on social and mobile platforms. "They're making more money from less people," said Miretzky. Israeli companies are also working on virtual and augmented reality games. One example: Side-Kick Games created one of the launch titles for Samsung VR with Romans from Mars.Miretzky, for his part, has a theory on yet another factor behind Israel's game industry growth. "Maybe we just don't like bosses," he says. "We want to be the boss."