Victoria's TinyMob studio debuts a game built out of passion

Victoria’s TinyMob Games, one of the newest local design studios, took a big step in its evolution Friday by pulling back the curtain on its first game, Tiny Realms, on the opening day of a massive gaming exhibition in Boston.

The game, a mobile real-time strategy game for the iPad and iPhone that has players building and governing their own worlds, assembling armies and waging wars, is the first offering for TinyMob, which opened its studio last fall.

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“We’ve been working on this game essentially since we started the company, so this is a huge deal for us,” said chief executive Alex Mendelev.

“It’s definitely our flagship product, and a game that is fueled by the passions of the founders and people who work here.”

The team unveiled the name, images and a trailer of game play at the PAX East Boston gaming conference. The finished product will be released later this spring.

Mendelev said in a massive industry like gaming, it can be tough for a small company to make a big splash, but he’s confident they have the tools to carve out a segment of the market.

There’s plenty to carve from. The global gaming market was estimated to be worth $63 billion last year and it anticipates revenue figures close to $78 billion by 2017.

Mendelev believes Tiny Realms may set itself apart as it promises a “deeper” experience than what’s been available in the mobile gaming market. That translates into tactical and strategic decisions that affect not only a player’s experience but others playing the game, a chance for players to control their own destiny and each action having an impact on how the story’s narrative unfolds.

“We think that means a very rewarding experience for players,” said Mendelev. “It’s a much deeper experience in real-time strategy than what’s been out there in mobile gaming today.”

The company will also do the media rounds and promote its game through ads, though much of its marketing energy is being focused on cultivating a community of gamers to spread the word.

Mendelev said they have shared content and progress on the game’s development with players, hoping to grow its fan base by giving people what they want and letting them feel like they have input into the game’s elements.

That’s essential for small developers to succeed, agreed Tim Teh, chief executive of independent Victoria game design studio Kano Apps.

“You need to separate yourself from the bigger companies, and for us that’s meant using our efforts to build that community of users,” he said. “We want to bring players into our game and have them stay a long time.”

Teh said that requires providing real value for money, offering elements players want or need to succeed, and strong customer service.

That’s why TinyMob decided to unveil the game at the Boston exhibition.

“PAX East gives us the perfect opportunity to connect directly with the fans,” Mendelev said.

“It’s difficult to make a splash. It’s not a trivial thing to do, but at the end of the day, the game has to stand on its own two legs. We’re hoping the quality and the bar we are trying to hit will be very high and speak for itself.”

That’s been the mantra of many of Victoria’s gaming studios, which have exploded in number over the last five years.

According to an economic impact study of the Victoria video game development scene released last month, the sector boasts 19 studios, employs 240 people and spent $24 million locally last year, most of it on research and development.

By comparison, there were just four studios in Victoria as of 2008.

Teh believes the growth potential is huge and Victoria’s industry could see double-digit growth over the next several years.

aduffy@timescolonist.com

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