Where is the Key to Success of the Polish Gaming Industry?

Published: March 15, 2022

Polish Gaming industry is one of the biggest and most important ambassadors of Poland worldwide.

„Witcher 3: Wild Hunt”, „Cyberpunk 2077”, „Dying Light”, „This War of Mine”, ”Outriders” - these are just some of Polish games that have conquered the hearts of consumers and markets worldwide while building a brand of the country's gaming industry. It is worthwhile to have an insight at where the secret of the success of Polish programmers, creators and developers lies in this branch?

The scale of success of Polish game developers is proven not only by individual titles, but also by specific numbers and listings. In 2020 export of Polish games prevailed over the import while over 600 titles are being developed annually in Poland. The number of professional production studios is not much smaller (about 500). The games market itself is valued at USD 924 million (an increase of 17% year-to-year) and there are many indications that it will soon break the USD 1 billion barrier. Furthermore, our country is already the third largest exporter of video games (annual export value of USD 1.5 billion), behind Japan (USD 2.7 billion) and China (USD 10 billion).

- Polish mobile and video gaming industry games is one of the biggest and most important ambassadors of Poland worldwide. We can be proud of Polish programmers achievements as well as creators, thanks to whom Polish games conquer world markets," says Jakub Marszałkowski from Indie Games Poland Foundation.

The might of CD Projekt

Even laypersons of the games market have certainly heard of CD Projekt, a company with its seat in Warsaw and branches in Kraków, Wrocław and Los Angeles, which has an estimated value of about PLN 40 billion and over 96% of its revenue originates from selling games abroad. On 2nd April 2020, the Polish gaming giant became the highest valued company on the Warsaw Stock Exchange (WSE), surpassing such tycoons as PKO BP, Orlen and PGNiG.

The worldwide fame and recognition of CD Projekt was ensured primarily by "The Witcher" computer and mobile game series, which were sold in over 50 million copies. Experts say that CD Projekt's success was largely a result of its excellent sense of the market, refined details such as setting, storyline, animations and the use of modified Aurora Engine from BioWare (in the second series CD Projekt. In the second edition, Polish developers went a step further and created their own engine called “REDengine”, which was improved over time. The new technology allowed for a realistic setting, with detailed locations. It also allowed to remodel the combat system and storyline. Another factor ensuring the great success of the series was excellent promotion and marketing, which began long before the game was launched.

Other successes

Other Polish brands which also are included in the European and global top: 11 bit studios with its seat in Warsaw, Wrocław-based Ten Square Games, Kraków-based All in! Games as well as PlayWay, Flying Wild Hog and People Can Fly. The international success of the first of the above mentioned studio was "This War of Mine", the game inspired by the siege of Sarajevo in the years 1992-1994. The success was so great, that the production costs of the game paid off in just the first two days of sales. The game has an original, compelling storyline - unlike other games dwelling on war theme, the player does not play the role of a soldier - a war hero - but a civilian – a victim of war. In order to survive, (s)he is forced to make moral choices in order to obtain food, medicine and shelter. This is complemented by excellent graphics and well thought out and consistent mechanics. The game is so valuable and informative that it has been noticed and appreciated by government officials. In 2020, the Polish Prime Minister announced the entry of "This War of Mine" into the syllabus of non-compulsory school reading. This is the first initiative in the world to add a computer game to the reading syllabus.

The studio mentioned above People Can Fly also developed "Outriders”, a game enjoying significant popularity. It was appreciated, among others, for its interesting storyline (the game is set in the future, where humanity has completely destroyed our planet and the only rescue was to escape into the stars), great personalization and visual effects. The game attracted 3,5 million players a month after its initial release, occupying lists of the best productions in Great Britain, Japan and Switzerland, to name just a few.

Poland attracts foreign investors

In recent years, an increasing number of western publishers have become interested in cooperating with Polish developers, considered to be global leaders. Investments of foreign brands in the Polish gaming market bring measurable benefits. A good example of the above is Huuuge, a global developer and publisher of mobile games, which would not exist without excellent IT experts from Poland. In May 2019, Traffic Puzzle, a match-3 type puzzle game was released and is currently enjoying big popularity among users. The game was originally created by Picadilla Games, a Polish development studio from Wroclaw, and then published by Huuuge. The global corporation continues to accelerate its development by implementing its know-how and technology in the area of free-to-play games.

- Mobile games are the fastest growing segment of the game market worldwide, while the puzzle games category, to which Traffic Puzzle belongs, accounts for more than half of the USD 10.6 billion worth of casual games market (data for 2020) - the type of mobile games downloaded most often. As of today around 200 000 active users are solving logic puzzles by rearranging parked cars to match three of the same color every day. The game offers over three thousand levels, plus daily events and prizes waiting for players," says Yotama Pappo, General Manager, Traffic Puzzle in Huuuge.

Not only consumer games

The Polish gaming industry has more to offer than just video, mobile or social media games. Esports is a separate and equally rapidly growing branch of this sector. Moreover, esports is slowly ceasing to be just entertainment and a way to spend free time. The evidence to that is, among others, the creation of the Polish E-sport League (PLE) in 2017 or the cyclical organization of the prestigious Intel Extreme Masters tournament in Poland which was hosted in Katowice for the 10th time.

- Esport is akin to traditional sports, as it evokes similar emotions. Millions of people around the world are interested in this rather new discipline. In Poland, the popularity of esports is also high. – says Paweł Kowalczyk - President of the Polish Esport League. Professional esports matches for professional players are very popular among fans, evidence of which are thousands of people in the audience in the largest sport and entertainment arenas in Poland.

- Esport is an industry that has grown out of passion, fierceness and ambition of a young generation who saw potential in what they were doing. Despite the obstacles and skepticism of the environment, young people brought up in the times of Internet cafes wanted something more. Not only small tournaments created by grassroots initiatives, but a professional scene on an international level, allowing players to develop professionally. That passion was the spark igniting the popularity of esports in Poland - says Adrian Kostrzębski, Spokesman of ESL Gaming Poland.

Poland is a holder of numerous worldwide successes in esports, both in terms of rivalry between professional players (e.g., Michal Jankowski's bronze medal with Team Secret at the Dota2 World Championships 2021) and business terms (organizing world-class tournaments and competitions). For years these two aspects went hand in hand.

- To stay on the international level you need to understand the specifics of this industry and be able to keep up with it. Esport is evolving at an unparalleled pace - games, technologies, scope of projects carried out, involvement of brands, changing labor market. All of this means that in order to remain a leader at all times, you can't slow down. The competition is also constantly growing. The growing popularity of esports forces us to adapt. If at any stage our goal is not to do more and better, if even for a moment we consider that we have done everything, we will lose the advantage over the peloton chasing us. If we want to keep the leader's yellow jersey, we must not stop. We must continue dashing forward and adapt to the rapid changes occurring in the industry - adds Adrian Kostrzębski.

What indicates that the future of esports in Poland looks extremely well is the opening of the ESL EMEA Production Hub recording studio complex in Katowice in 2020. It is one of the four global ESL Production Hubs, which allows not only the preparation of video materials, but also for the organization of entire tournaments in the studio version.

This is a project which can scale local operations and make them global. Currently, we can carry out several productions at the same time broadcasting them in high quality to several markets simultaneously. With the launch of the Hub operation we have opened the door to cooperation having an almost unlimited range - argues Adrian Kostrzębski.
Therefore, everything seems to indicate that the Polish gaming industry, already very strong on the European and global market, has an bright future ahead, decorated with even more successes.

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