Wednesday, 16 April 2014 00:00

Irish Gaming Startups Emerge After Multinational Goes Pop

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WHAT happens when a multinational firm decides to shutter its Irish operation? Do staff just filter off into other multinational jobs? Or can indigenous entrepreneurs emerge? It's the ultimate post-IDA question: are multinational outfits actually creating an ecosystem that can be self-sustaining?

One case in point is the demise of the video game company Popcap. In September 2012, the US-based developer that makes hit iPhone games 'Bejeweled' and 'Plants Versus Zombies' closed down its Dublin office, letting almost 100 people go.

The move was a surprise: Popcap was one of the more successful 'casual gaming' companies out there. Could its Irish developers strike out on their own?

"Since Popcap closed down, we've had quite a few ups and downs," said JP Vaughan, former senior Popcap developer and co-founder of a brand new smartphones games firm, Rocket Rainbow.

"When it left Dublin, a few of us thought to set something up and give it a go. But we were probably a little delusional in terms of funding. We thought we could just put our hands out and get money. We found that Irish investors regard gaming as a risky business."

Vaughan spent almost six months with startup co-founders Christian Schinkoethe and Zhou Wang putting together a game they thought might be a hit.

"It was based on something with free play built in," he said. "That's where a lot of the market is now and it's what a lot of big games publishers want to see from developers. But we just couldn't find the fun in it. So we put it on the shelf to think about things again."

In the meantime, all three took jobs elsewhere. But they stayed together as developers, making games after work. Then came a breakthrough.

"We decided to get a game together for Gamescom (a major gaming conference) and we were the only Irish developers there. A lot of people seemed to like what we were doing, so we applied for €50,000 from Enterprise Ireland under the Competitive Startup Fund and got it."

A year later, the trio have a mobile game ('Hay Ewe') that is earning plaudits and has just been picked up by a well-known international games publisher, Team17, for international distribution. The company is now based in Galway with two people working from Dublin.

If Rocket Rainbow is taking off after Popcap's departure, fellow post-Popcap startup Six Minute is positively flying. The Dublin-based gaming firm, which now has nine people working for it, just launched its second game in the Philippines.

Read 414 times Last modified on Wednesday, 16 April 2014 13:39
Kerry Slater

Kerry is a Senoir writer at fundedflow