Playrix: The Russian Mobile Game Developers That Became Billionaires

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A couple of decades ago Igor Bukhman and his younger brother Dmitry Bukhman decided to think outside the box and beyond the borders of their hometown of Vologda. They wrote the code for a video game similar to Xonix after one of Igor’s university professors suggested that he should try programming games and selling them on the web. He followed that advice, teaming up with his brother, and a year later the Xonix-based game earned them their first $100, Bloomberg reported.

“We had no experience, no business understanding whatsoever—everything we could imagine was writing games.”

Regardless of the fact that both Bukhmans didn’t have a business background, they soon realized that if a game can earn them $100, they can make more games and increase their income, so they seized the opportunity right then and there. Today, almost two decades later, they are billionaires. According to the official Bloomberg Billionaires Index, each of the Bukhman brothers has a net worth of $1.4 billion.

Дима Бухман рассказал @harvard_business_review о технологиях удаленной работы в #playrix. 🔗 в stories.

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For their company Playrix’s first projects they worked with small platforms like Major Geeks before moving over to the wider exposure that moguls like AOL and Yahoo! provided. The market for games available for free grew larger, so they focused on producing free-to-play games that relied on in-app purchases and in-app ads. This step led to the release of Townships in 2013, a mixture between farming and city-building mechanics that hit all major platforms – Amazon, Mac’s App Store, Google Play, Windows’ Phone Store. In 2005 Playrix released Fishdom, a match-3 puzzle game similar to the ever popular Candy Crush.

Fishdom became such a hit that the two Russians released Gardenscapes the following year before losing their 15 minutes of fame, which became their ticket to worldwide stardom. Due to Gardenscapes’ success, the duo managed to get into the list of the world’s top 20 biggest mobile game developers. Fast forward a year later and Playrix was officially the leading mobile game publisher in all of Europe.

With the launch of Gardenscapes’ spin-off game, Homescapes, the Bukhman brothers secured their leading position in the industry as a publisher of innovative match-3 puzzle games with constant flow of brand new content. Having in mind free-to-play games require a never-ending string of updates on the gameplay and the features, Playrix’s family grew larger and larger. The company currently operates with over a thousand employees in dozens of offices spread across Russia, Ukraine, Ireland, Armenia and Kazakhstan, as well as with a number of employees who are working remotely.

Oddly enough, even though they have successfully achieved their rags to riches goal, few people know of them. Before they appeared on Bloomberg’s radar in early 2019, neither of the brothers had been featured in any global wealth ranking as a millionaire, let alone as a billionaire, so any mention of their names didn’t ring a bell for most people up until recently. The name Playrix, on the other hand, always turns heads among gamers and developers alike.

According to an interview they gave for Bloomberg, the two Russians aren’t planning on selling Playrix to a high bidder and are aiming for the top tier level of computer and mobile game developers like Blizzard, Electronic Arts and Tencent. Apart from constantly producing new content for their existing games, the Playrix team just launched a second spin-off to Gardenscapes. The new game is entitled Wildscapes and focuses on a zoo theme. Only time will tell if it will shine in the same limelight as its series’ predecessors Gardenscapes and Homescapes, but judging by the fact that Playrix sets a notably high standard for all match-3 puzzle games out there, chances are the company will continue to thrive and flourish.

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