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Hall of Fame: Vladimir Funtikov

Creative Mobile CEO on learning early
Hall of Fame: Vladimir Funtikov

At 23 years of age, Vladimir Funtikov co-founded Creative Mobile, a game development studio based in Tallinn, Estonia.

Thanks to the success of its Drag Racing franchise, it has since grown into one of the largest mobile gaming companies in Northern Europe.

In his role as CEO, Vladimir has been the thought leader and driving force behind the company's core products, helping Creative Mobile reach 200 million installs with its portfolio of first and thirdparty titles.

Pocket Gamer: What were your favourite games as a kid?

Vladimir Funtikov: Nearly every NES game - it was all new and exciting back then. Later Warcraft II, Sim City, Command & Conquer  and Duke Nukem 3D  became my favourites.

Duke Nukem 3D introduced me to level design after I accidentally discovered the SDK, and it became my hobby for four years.

When did you realise you wanted to make games as a career?

After I made my first game. Until then I didn't really believe it was going to happen.

For a kid making Counter-Strike  maps after school, a real job in this industry was only a dream. I was going to give up games and have a "normal" career, when suddenly life presented an opportunity and the dots connected.

What was your first role in the industry? How did that turn out?

I was in my second year studying computer science when a classmate suggested that I apply for a job with his employer. As it turned out, they were providing post-production services to mobile game publishers.

<em>Drag Racing</em>  was the game that built Creative Mobile
Drag Racing  was the game that built Creative Mobile

I got the job as a Java programmer and along with it an opportunity to work on mobile apps.

What do you consider your first significant success?

Switching to free-to-play with Basketball Shots 3D.

What looked like a dead duck became a 10-million-player title. If we hadn't figured that out we wouldn't last long enough to develop our breakthrough game.

When did the potential for mobile games become apparent to you?

When I got my hands on the first Android phone - the HTC Dream aka T-Mobile G1. I was fascinated by how easy it was to develop and publish, and what you could do with that hardware and OS.

The HTC G1 - an Android classic
The HTC G1 - an Android classic

I published a simple app and it started making some money. I coded my first 3D game in just two weeks, and it ran at 60 frames per second. Making cool stuff for a huge audience suddenly became possible.

What do you think is the most significant event in mobile gaming to-date?

Emergence of open application catalogs that made entry into the market much easier. The amount of work that went into getting a game into an operator-controlled store was insane.

The other thing is the touchscreen which paved the way for more complex mobile games.

To-date, what are you most proud of? Any regrets?

I'm most proud of building a profitable company in an environment where gaming wasn't seen as a real business. Going against the trend was difficult, but great people I was fortunate to work with made it happen.

No regrets - all mistakes are part of the learning process.

Which mobile games have you most enjoyed recently and why?

New Star Soccer  for its combination of short, simple mini-games with long-term progression and role-playing.

Hay Day  for keeping my girlfriend busy while I'm playing New Star Soccer.

What are your predictions for the new big development in mobile games?

Mobile devices becoming real game consoles. Tablets are already filling this role for some players, but bigger potential will be unlocked thanks to combination of more processing power, longer battery life, clever controls and ease of connecting handhelds to TVs.

In which area of the industry do you hope to make a difference in future?

Truly social games with more complex interactions between players.

Thanks to Vladimir for his time.

Starting out in simple monochrome in the days of Snake and WAP, the past decade has seen the mobile games industry kaleidoscope into a glorious, multi-billion dollar sector that's driving global innovation.

So it's high time we celebrate some of the people who helped make that journey possible - something is doing in its regular Mobile Gaming Hall of Fame feature.

You can read our previous Hall of Fame articles here.