Lithuania’s gaming sector is set for serious growth over the next few years, driven by both local and foreign gaming developers.
Video game development has for several years been a key part of emerging Europe’s technology and innovation sector. Poland has in particular made a name for itself as a source of some of the world’s most inventive, cutting edge, and best-selling games. Indeed, gaming is now an integral part of it national brand.
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So important is the gaming industry for Poland that in 2019 the Warsaw Stock Exchange (WSE), the largest in the region, dedicated an index to it, the WIG Games Index, part of the exchange’s strategy to attract technology companies.
Now, Poland is being followed by its northern neighbour, Lithuania, keen to grab itself a part of what is increasingly a major industry.
Video games are currently played by over three billion people worldwide, with the industry surrounding them evolving faster than it ever has before. Video games and mobile apps are increasingly permeating everyday life and reaching new cohorts, with the average age for a gamer now rising to 35.
According to PwC’s Global Entertainment and Media Outlook 2022-26, the gaming sector will be worth 321 billion US dollars by 2026.
Against this backdrop, Lithuania has emerged as a central hub for developers and publishers.
The game development industry in the country presents serious opportunities for further growth. It generated over 200 million euros in revenue over the past few years, and currently includes around 115 companies who employs over 2,500 people, according to data from Invest Lithuania, a public sector agency that provides investment support for international companies looking to locate operations in the country.
Around 90 per cent of the companies in Lithuania’s gaming industry are located in Vilnius, including several giants.
Nordcurrent — an international publisher and developer of casual games such as Cooking Fever, Happy Clinic, and Pocket Styler — continues to grow despite an already successful history as Lithuania’s biggest game studio.
Wargaming — a Belarusian developer that partially relocated to Vilnius in 2020 — develops the wildly popular games World of Tanks and World of Tanks Blitz for smart devices, as well as servicing other Wargaming projects out of the Vilnius office. The company also plans to increase the number of employees in its new facilities to several hundred.
Furthermore, the game development ecosystem Unity — currently valued at 5.5 billion euros — chose Vilnius as the first city outside of Denmark to set up operations. Other notable companies include Belka Games — which attracts over 100 million players monthly — and No Brakes Games, which developed the hit game Human: Fall Flat.
“We founded our company in Vilnius back in 2002, when video games were a niche sector here,” says aid Victoria Trofimova, CEO at Nordcurrent.
“Interest in the gaming industry has since grown every year. The main reason is the accessibility of games to much wider audiences than in the early 2000s, before the pervasion of 4G, mobile app stores, and free-to-play models. Mobile games are quickly becoming a media channel outperforming television and cinema production,” she adds.
Among the reasons for gaming companies relocating to Vilnius are its favourable business environment, leading tech and IT sector – as well as a growing gaming scene.
In addition, with game development courses offered in three educational institutions, there is a growing talent pool of young professionals.
With just nine per cent of employees engaged in administrative tasks and the rest actively participating in game production, Lithuanian gaming businesses are mostly concentrated on game creation. Local game studios are continuously seeking to employ budding talent, with specialists in technology, engineering, animation, and game and sound design in especially high demand.
Close-knit ties and women leaders
A key driver for the expansion of Vilnius’ gaming industry is the large amount of collaboration that takes place through its ecosystem.
Around 42 per cent of businesses are members of the Lithuanian Game Developers Association, which aims to unite and represent the interests of Lithuanian game developers at a national level. It is especially welcoming of game developers who have moved from abroad, the number of which is currently around 800.
“The gaming community in Vilnius is friendly and cheerful. There are plenty of opportunities to meet each other at events and discuss various issues on community channels. The Lithuanian Game Developers Association plays an important role in strengthening ties between developers, publishers, and creatives,” explains Trofimova.
The Vilnius game development industry also enthusiastically welcomes women specialists — they make up around 27 per cent of industry employees.
This is higher than European gaming industry leaders such as France (22 per cent) or Poland (25 per cent).
What’s more, 47 per cent of Lithuanian game development companies have women in managerial positions.
Photo: A screenshot of Nordcurrent’s Cooking Fever.
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