The new Viennese gaming startup Iron Mountain Interactive broke news this week with a remarkable investment. Oasis Games from China is spending $3 million to grab slightly less than 25 percent of the company foundded in 2017 by Philipp Seifried, Michael Borras, Peter Ehardt and Helmut Hutterer. The plan: Iron Mountain Interactive will develop two game titles for PC and consoles, that are going to be released in 2019.
We sat down with CEO Mike Borras in his new office in Vienna to talk about the deal, about Chinese innovation culture, the upcoming games and how he is planning to scla ethe startup from Vienna. Check out the video above or read the interview here:
Trending Topics: You recently announced a $ 3 million deal with a Chinese company called Oasis Games. How did you manage to get this remarkable investment?
Mike Borras: Long time working in the games industry. Combined, we have 15, 20 years experience in making games, at Rockstar Games and at Socialspiel together with Nexon Korea. In Q1 2017 unfortunately strategy shifted, so we had to shut down Socialspiel here in Vienna with 23 employees. Helmut Hutterer and I needed a small vacation after all these 7 years. We had good luck and this reputation of making games, and we got a lot of condolence calls from publishers, investors and game developers from all around the world. Thankfully we were able to talk with some of our good friends at Sony, who partnered with Oasis Games to launch PlayStation titles. we then met with Oasis at E3, which is one of the largest gaming conferences. They loved what we are working on, we loved the way they approached us. Now we are here today.
Please tell us: $ 3 million is a lot of money. What are you going to do with this big amount of cash?
As I said before many times, 3 million is relative. You have to think of the game industry like the film industry, It is less like startup economics and more like film economics. 3 million is great for a small but growing company like us. I like to view it as a start, to stabilise and grow the organisation. We are ramping up the team, probably to 20 by the end of this year, and the production of two PC/console titles that we hope to launch 2019.
Can you give a hint on what kind of games you are working on?
PC online multiplayer games. We call the genre „hero sports“, which is a genre of games that involve a lot of traditional sports elements, like baseball, basketball, football or soccer, combined with traditional RPG elements. We are going down that direction.
You are focusing on desktop, PC and console gaming and not on the free-2-play mobile market. Why?
Free-2-play mobile is very exciting, but it is very cutthroat and competitive. It is also very expensive. For role-playing games, we are talking about user acquisition costs of 5 to 10 Euro per install, which is getting ridiculously high. We are focussing on the Steam platform, which is one of the largest PC distribution platforms, and we are naturally working together closely with Sony and the PlayStation. Also Microsoft and the Xbox and Nintendo Switch are super exciting to us. But we are also working on some free-to-play economics of course in the game design.
You have a Chinese investor. Is it different to work with a Chinese company than to work with an European or US investor?
One of the things you here a lot about the Asian markets, especially China, is how risk averse and aggressive they are. They don´t think of risk that often, and when they think about it they start to make changes in the way they operate. and they move quickly, and that is what I like. They (Oasis Games) have given us a lot of freedom to make the decisions we want, as long as we make these decision quickly. I think that is important, that is pretty much the way you can summarize the Chinese market. The pace of innovation in China is just incredible, versus Western companies, where it can take 3 months of meeting to just get to the concept phase.
Are you developing your game for the Western market, or for Asia?
Our goal is to focus globally. The games market is entirely different in China, Korea or Japan. One of the things that we noticed during all these years is that if a title is working in the West it can be brought over to Asia. Our titles will be released in both markets simultaniously. Oasis has a lot of experience in the West with successes like Naruto or Legend Online, and we have the experience in taking Western games and make them work in Asia.
You have founded Tupalo in 2006, you are one of the veterans of the Austrian startup scene. How do you see the development of the Austrian startup scene?
2006, when Clemens and I started Tupalo, it was Wild West. there was not as much support as it is now for early stage, seed-level startups. we worked together with Markus Wagner and Stefan Kalteis on Tupalo, they were private investors. if think today, if you are focussed on certain niche industries, like travel, that is working really well in Austria. But consumer facing startups are very challenging, especially when it comes to Series A and above financing. If you are still seed and starting up, I think austria is a great place. The education system is excellent, you have a lot of great students either coming from Wirtschaftsuniversität or TU who you can bring in. For scaling, international teams are key, and you have to look into other markets in Western Europe or Asia or North America.
How do you plan to scale your startup from Vienna?
Production is something we do quite heavily here in Vienna. The game is made here. In terms of marketing, community management and customer support, that is all going to happen in Los Angeles and Beijing.