We continue our series of interviews with developers and game industry experts. Today we have an interview with DEFU Games Co-Founder & CEO Semen Meleshko. Semen loves games and sports and is a co-founder of the ZAL gym club in Odessa, Ukraine.
Could you tell us how it started and how you entered the industry?
It all started with an acquaintance. We were on a business trip with my partner Andrey, and he told me that there was a girl who was developing games. Immediately after this phrase, a proposal was received – to meet and talk on this topic. The day we met, DEFU Games was born.
At the time of the company’s creation, I was very good at games, but only as a player. Creating a game studio was a childhood dream, but I was sure it was complicated and expensive, so this idea was shelved. As soon as we worked the first month, I realized it was even more difficult than I thought. We learned everything from our mistakes, but the experience is colossal.
Why did you decide to develop your own games? What game/idea has inspired you?
Since childhood, I remember very vividly the moments when my father and I went to the store to buy new consoles. We have never had a ban on games at home, regardless of their age restrictions. I started playing with Jak and Dexter by Naughty Dog. This is a game that I still enjoy playing. And the decision to develop your own games was influenced by the fact that it is exciting and profitable! I believe in the mobile market!
Let’s talk about your studio; where are you located? What is the size of the studio? What is your focus now?
At the moment, our main office is located in Odessa. There are 17 people in DEFU Games now, including developers, artists, game designers, managers and many others. Currently, our primary focus is developing games for other studios, which allows us to grow and simultaneously develop a major title, which we will announce later.
Could you tell us about your projects?
Of the projects that have shown good results, there is the Squid Challenge. We made it for the web, showing itself very successful – 20 million+ players. And our first casual Love Camp project, which we are working on to improve the metrics! Most of the projects are under NDA, but I can say that there are both mid-core and casual games.
What are the results in 2022 for DEFU Games so far? What are the key milestones?
On June 8th, we celebrated our second birthday. We have strengthened our position over the past year and have grown to 17 team members. I am very happy about this since we had 5 people last year! As the number of people increased, so did the quality of our projects.
What essential news or events in 2022 would you highlight in a gaming market so far? And what were they last year?
In 2022, the loudest event is the war that Russia started on our territory. This affected not only the Ukrainian studios but also the entire CIS. The CIS gaming market is changing. Many companies have already closed, and further, their number will only increase. But we continue to hire people and grow. We believe only in Victory!
What 3 pieces of advice could you give to people who dream about developing their own game or opening a studio?
1. Determine your strengths. It will be challenging to succeed in everything, so nearby people who can cover your weaknesses will be needed to achieve maximum harmony. The partnership is one of the most important parts of the business!
2. Understand what exactly you want: just make a game for the soul so that you and your friends like to play it, or commercial products that will possibly make a profit. This will depend on how you work.
3. Take off your rose-coloured glasses in advance and multiply your planned opening expenses by at least 5 times. Don’t put your hopes on a product you like until it has been tested and proven profitable. From my own experience, I can say that it is not very easy, I often believed in the games we made, and after testing, they showed only a loss. But this was all due to a lack of competence at that time.
What are your top 5 favourite games?
1. Red Dead Redemption 2 – is the best narrative I’ve ever seen!
2. Call of Duty: Warzone – fan since childhood.
3. GTA 5 – commercial geniuses!
4. The Last of Us – I could not come to my senses for a couple of hours after passing.
5. Dota – a game played for generations.