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PlayOn – From Retail to Game Development

tankwars_deathmatch_battle.jpg is the newest addition to the Game Hub Denmark Incubator teams! We talked to the guys about being novices in the game industry and about their ambitious browser-game TankWars

PlayOn was founded by the two brothers Martin and Nikolaj Mortensen and their friend Mark Laursen in April last year. The guys live and work in Grenaa and has no professional experience with game development. Regardless, they decided to invest all their time and money in creating TankWars.

Martin: “We are all here from Grenaa, and we own a hardware store down by the harbor, and that’s where we get our income. We’ve had the hardware store for 11 years now, and the last 4 or 5 years we’ve had this idea that it would fun to find a way to make money without it being physical trading. We’ve been looking at web-server hosting and stuff like that.


 The bird game

 The guys had the original idea about starting a game company during a holiday about three years ago.

Martin: “Nicolaj had been developing a bird game in Unity which he showed to me, and I thought: We can make money on that!”

They originally planned to launch the bird game during the Christmas holiday, but for different reasons they decided to drop the idea.

Martin: “Agar, which is a browser game, came out at that time, and we noticed a market space for this type of game, and therefore we chose to focus on that instead. We wanted to make our own browser-based multi-player game”

They started out with no knowledge about the game industry: While Nikolaj is a self-taught game-developer, Martin and Mark has no experience with developing computer games at all.

Nikolaj: “I’m a self-taught game programmer. I’ve studied other things before, but it’s been a while”
Martin: “I got a background in retail”
Mark: “I studied at HTX (a highschool degree), but I dropped out”

While Nikolaj has the role as the company’s programmer and designer, Martin handles the economy, and Mark is responsible for marketing, communication, PR and community management.

Martin: “I work to give Nikolaj room to make games, also I provide feedback to the production and comes up with new ideas for the game”


Big ambitions

 The guys all had high hopes for TankWars success right from the beginning, and initially thought that they were going to make money straight away – even though that hasn’t happened yet, they all have big visions for the company and the development of TankWars.

We’ve dreamt that we were millionaires a year ago” Martin says and laughs. “But we’re not.
Nikolaj: “The game system is quite deep in comparison to what other game companies are making. Our game has almost everything – you can talk to your friends, you can create groups. We would like to transmit that layer to other games as well. 
Martin: “Our biggest mistake was that we that we were too ambitious from the beginning. We wanted make our own version of Steam for browser games, but we’ve put that idea back on the shelf for now, and decided to focus on the game”
Nikolaj: That meant that it took too long to make the game, and when we were ready to launch there were 30 other companies with the same idea”
Martin: I think it would have been easier for us to get noticed if we had been number three or four to launch, but now we’re just one out of many”


About TankWars

Nicolaj: “In TankWars you have your own tank and play against other players. There are different modes in the game: all versus all, and one where you must conquer different zones and get as many points as possible – those are team versus team. We have made an editor in the game so you can design your own tank – things like stickers, backgrounds and textures. Players of all age groups can play the game – it’s quite casual”

The game now has many of the features that the guys originally wanted and even though they already have a solid player base, they still have a lot of ideas about future additions:

Martin: I don’t think we’ll ever be done. We’re at a point now where the game is viable. We have about 5- 6000 players each day, and we can see that about 38% of the players are coming back. We have 40.000 registered users. We have done all of that without having a publisher or without any kind of marketing, but this is where we are now. Now we would really like to boost the marketing and speed things up”


Game Hub Denmark

Nikolaj, Martin and Mark

Nikolaj, Martin and Mark

 The guys joined Game Hub Denmark to get help with marketing, and connect with other people from the game business. They hope to raise enough money to be able to hire programmers and graphic designers to develop new games.

Martin: “We’ve tried a lot of different things and we were starting to get frustrated about spending a lot of our money without getting any pay off. It was hard for us to get things rolling. We called Business Development Centre Central Denmark and they sat up a meeting with Game Hub Denmark”
Nikolaj: "We would like to get help with everything that isn’t directly connected to the development of the game – marketing, networking and so on. "

The guys also decided to join the AU-program at Game Hub Denmark. This is a two-year education, with a focus on marketing and business development.

Martin: “It’s fortunate that the first module is marketing. Another advantage is that we can network with the other companies during the program."

PlayOn does not have an office at Game Hub Denmark, but depending on how things develop in the future they’ll might consider it.

Nikolaj: “If we start hiring people, they need a place to work”
Martin: "We plan to hire people as soon as we can afford it – which depends on our marketing for the game."
Nikolaj: “Our original intension was to hire a lot of professional people to work on the game so that we could concentrate on developing ideas for new games – but that can only happen if we make money”
Martin: “We are privileged in comparison to other game companies. We have a steady income and we have a healthy business in the hardware store. We are not millionaires, and that’s the reason we’re doing this” 

Marie Haagensen