Why hit developer Nordcurrent is moving to publishing

The Vilnius based developer has pushed into publishing with mobile an increasing focus for the company

Why hit developer Nordcurrent is moving to publishing

Nordcurrent is a company with a long history in mobile, having developed games for the space such as Cooking Fever and Sniper Arena since 2010.

But now, the studio is leveraging their own experience to begin publishing games for others. Having established Nordcurrent Labs in 2021, they’re set to publish their first title under the label, Black Tower Basement’s Greedventory - a darker take on the pixel-art RPG genre. 

We got the chance to sit down and speak with indie games publishing team lead Andrius Mackevičius [left in our pic] and head of marketing Simonas Sturys [right] at Nordcurrent to find out more about why, with big successes on other platforms, Nordcurrent is now focusing more than ever on mobile. Nordcurrent recently released its first title under the publishing brand ‘Nordcurrent Labs’ to GOG and Steam, but you’re also looking to expand in the mobile space. Why is that?

Mackevičius: Nordcurrent began in 2002 as a video game developer for handhelds and consoles. After almost ten years, in 2011, we entered the mobile space, which has now become our primary focus. In 2021, we decided to return to our roots and leverage the experience we gained with all that time in the gaming industry to support indie developers in publishing their games. And so, the Nordcurrent Labs publishing label and a dedicated team were established.

We have already published a few games for PC and consoles, including titles like Red Daze and Ocean's Heart. However, Greedventory will be the first title officially published by the Nordcurrent Labs team. While mobile games account for over 95% of Nordcurrent's revenues and will continue to be our primary business, Nordcurrent Labs subsidiary will expand its reach into other platforms.

Are there any publishers or developers that have inspired you to look at potential new mobile games?

Mackevičius: All of our mobile games are developed within Nordcurrent studios. However, we continuously monitor the mobile games market and draw inspiration from a wide range of experiences and emerging trends that we observe.

What do you think defines ‘a Nordcurrent game', be it as a developer or a publisher? Like Greedventory, is a Nordcurrent Labs game very different from a Nordcurrent Games title?

Mackevičius: Nordcurrent and Nordcurrent Labs are separate businesses, as the PC/console space differs significantly from the mobile market. However, one aspect that unifies our approach across all our games is a focus on the quality of art and storytelling, which is crucial for a positive player experience.

You saw a 42% increase in revenue this year so far. What do you attribute that success to?

Sturys: Two main factors impacted our growth last year: the successful launches of new games and investments in further developing previously released games. In 2022, we released two titles that had been in development for a long time: the simulation game Happy Clinic and the detective game Murder By Choice. These games quickly became hits, attracting millions of players and generating substantial revenue.

Nordcurrent also intensified its efforts and investments in introducing new features and delivering additional content for its previously released games. Airplane Chefs and Pocket Styler which have garnered large audiences of loyal players since 2021. This allowed us to optimise user acquisition and concentrate on enhancing the game experience by introducing new features and providing more content, resulting in increased profitability. Lastly, our most successful game, Cooking Fever, continues to perform strongly after eight years.

How do you anticipate business and the day-to-day changing for Nordcurrent as a whole over the coming year?

Mackevičius: Nordcurrent Labs' goal for this year is to expand its reach to new platforms by porting our already-released titles and releasing high-quality new games throughout the rest of the year. Therefore, the day-to-day activities at Nordcurrent Labs won't change significantly, but our presence as a publisher will continue to expand.

What are the biggest challenges being faced by Nordcurrent, and how are you overcoming them?

Sturys: For mobile games, one of the biggest challenges lies in the changing patterns of user acquisition. Stricter policies regarding personal data protection have made targeting new players more difficult.

In the case of established mobile games like Cooking Fever, we need to increase our focus on branding and explore new channels, collaborations, and influencers. We aim to leverage our multi-million player base for newer games and to foster connections among games and communities.

Mackevičius: Different challenges arise at various stages of the publishing process. One constant challenge is discovering new and compelling games faster than the competition. Additionally, visibility becomes a challenge once a game is released due to the sheer volume of games hitting the market on PC and consoles every month. To overcome these hurdles, we rely on talented teams who deeply understand the market and know how to navigate each unique situation.

Our team members are passionate fans of the medium, ensuring that we remain attuned to the pulse of the industry and stay abreast of upcoming trends. This knowledge helps us tackle future challenges with greater ease.

Are there any particular games industry trends you're keeping up with and excited by?

Mackevičius: It's intriguing to observe significant changes in the PC and console industry as it gradually moves towards consolidation and mergers among major entities. It is also exciting to monitor emerging genre trends and witness how they reshape the industry and subsequently influence other platforms, such as mobile.

A recent notable example is Vampire Survivors, which not only established a new subgenre and inspired numerous similar games on PC and consoles but also had a similar impact on mobile, where developers now have a new genre to explore. However, only time will reveal whether this trend will have long-term staying power or be a brief phenomenon.

Staff Writer

Iwan is a Cardiff-based freelance writer, who joined the Pocket Gamer Biz site fresh-faced from University before moving to the editorial team in November of 2023.