The mobile games industry in Lithuania

Whilst we may often give consideration to the ‘big’ markets like China, America and Europe, too often we neglect to talk about the relatively smaller but still potent areas of the industry.

The mobile games industry in Lithuania

The mobile games industry is by its very nature a global one. Smartphones and mobile devices are often more affordable and accessible to the average consumer than gaming PCs or even a mainline console. So whilst we often hear news of major markets such as China, it’s important to remember that there are more areas ripe for exploration, and that are innovating themselves.

One of these markets is Lithuania, a small European country on the coast of the Baltic sea in the north. A member of the European Union with a HDI (Human Development Index) value of 0.875 it boasts a growing tech industry and increasing international market attention. All of this naturally means that there will likely be developers cropping up or expanding into the area.

One of these developers is home-grown studio Estoty. Whom we spoke to regarding their personal approach and how they saw the potential of handheld gaming development in Lithuania. Estoty is no bright-eyed newcomer to the industry, but a savvy and creative developer already.

Commitment and motivation (Estoty)

According to Veslav Zapolski, founder and CEO of the Estoty Vilnius game-dev studio, the motivation of the game developers themselves is a key factor in determining whether a mobile game is going to be a hit.

“We’ve had a few examples where the determination of the developers is especially high while creating the game” says V. Zapolski. “That significantly contributes to the likelihood that the game is going to be a success”. According to the Estoty founder, the diversity of ideas involved is also a major factor in a game’s success, but motivation is the thing that makes a game authentic and drives its developers to achieve the highest quality.

Come to Lithuania

As with many countries seeking to boost their economy and bring in industries to diversify it, Lithuania is beginning to open up its tech sector and is seeing new arrivals from abroad. One of these is Belka games, which recently opened a studio in Lithuania itself. We asked one of their employees about what made the Baltic region so appealing for developers.

“We’re working in Lithuania specifically because of the great partnership with the local government, and the special programme from Invest Lithuania. They’re really invested in the game’s development. They have special programmes for us. And we’re super-excited to be here, and to participate in this programme.”

We also spoke to Project Manager at the Lithuanian Game Developers Association, Ricardas Jascemskas, and asked him to identify a little more about the unique nature of the Lithuanian mobile game industry.

“So, yeah. Let’s say all the bigger business is connected to mobile, actually. And then all the smaller— but at the same time, all the smaller studios, all the solo developers or indie developers, are practical-focused on PC first, because it’s very hard to get into mobile as a small studio.”

Eastern Europe has often been well-known for its small PC game companies, with many cult classics such as S.T.A.L.K.E.R. by GSC Game World in Ukraine releasing from the region. The fact that mobile is largely the realm of larger companies in Lithuania is also interesting, as it’s a flip of the perceived arrangement in the Americas and in Western-Europe, where smaller studios typically take on mobile game projects due to lacking the resources to develop for larger projects.

Ricardas told us that one of Lithuania’s targets was to further promote the country and bring in developer talent, both domestically and from abroad, to the games industry.

“One of the biggest targets and topics would be this talent management, to somehow help to solve this talent situation; that it wouldn’t be so problematic for everyone. One way is to go through universities to see how we can help, and bring more talent from there, and find more opportunities to promote the country and the opportunities internationally, and bring more talent here.”

He did note that one of the key challenges was reluctant investment domestically. As previously stated, although foreign studios such as Belka are investing heavily in Lithuania, there is little direct support, and scepticism from traditional investors in the country.

“But there’s money flying around. It feels, in general, like the western investors are trying to find out more about the region, and try to find more companies and more creative people and studios to invest in. Because it’s not so saturated, still. And let’s say, in Lithuania, we’ll have the first fund specifically dedicated to games. I don’t think we have, in the Baltic region, any funds specifically for game development. There is a big lack of that, a big demand, in that sense. So I think that will – how do I say it? – influx.”

Lithuania may find itself now in a prime position, as developing markets which begin to show promise can often lead to attracting more investment. Whether the mobile game industry remains the top sector for studios is yet to be seen, but the potential for Lithuania to become a hub of handheld gaming is very much there.

This article was written in collaboration with DevGAMM.

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.