The state of the Serbian Gaming Industry 2023
At the end of April 2023, the Serbian Gaming Association (SGA) published an annual report, highlighting the progress and growth of the industry. Moreover, it shed light on trends and challenges, and offered expert opinions from different studios.
In an interview for WebMind, SGA executive manager Kristina Janković Obućina explains what has contributed the most to the growth of the industry from their point of view.
“Since 2018, when we started publishing the annual report, the Serbian gaming industry has been in stable growth of about 10% according to all statistics. On the one hand, this is due to the success of large companies that have managed to market their games globally and earn enough from them to expand teams and work on new games. On the other hand, this testifies to the enormous effort of small, indie teams that were devoted to their first games. Also, the interest in working in the gaming industry is increasing, so we have more and more employees in various positions,” she said.
These are the most important stats that have shaped the industry in 2022:
- 15 largest companies had 150 million euros in revenue;
- Estimated 140 companies, studios and indie teams;
- Approximately 2,500+ professionals in the industry;
- Women are 1/3 of all employees and 1/2 of all leaders;
- Mobile is the primary revenue source;
- There are 51 games published and 94 games in development;
- 81% of the games were self-published.
With this in mind, it’s possible to say what a typical Serbian game looks like:
It would be a self-published casual or action mobile F2P title with ads monetization, developed in around one year by a team of 10 people, using Unity.
Report, page 8
So, is this the formula for success?
It might as well be, considering that Serbian games have been downloaded and/or purchased more than 100 million times.
Jokes aside, the biggest markets for Serbian games are the US, Germany and the UK. On that note, it doesn’t come as a surprise that 90% of respondents confirmed 75%-100% of their revenue is generated outside of Serbia.
What else have we learned about financing from this report?
Well, for example, 95% of companies that took part in this survey said that they use at least one of the Government incentives.
Perhaps even more interesting, the average revenue per employee almost triples for gaming companies that manage to surpass the 40-employee threshold.
However, according to Kristina, the obstacles that have existed since the SGA started publishing the annual report are still present.
“We see the same obstacles every year that require a lot of systemic changes, and we are aware of how slow they’re happening. One of them is the lack of adequate staff, which should change in the future in the field of education. The number one problem is huge taxes, which prevent teams from opening LLCs and hiring people full-time. There is also double taxation with the US, complicated and expensive customs procedures, tax breaks that are not adapted to industry and complex bureaucratic procedures,” she said.
Youngsters entering the industry
The Serbian gaming industry is onboarding more and more youngsters into their teams, making it more accessible to gain knowledge and it’s needless to say they know how to make it seem fun.
More and more talented professionals are sought after. Combining education and internship opportunities with various initiatives aimed at helping them develop further is key to ensuring the scalability of some of the fastest-growing teams and companies.
Report, page 11
Namely, more than half (54%) of surveyed companies offer internships, with 44% of them being paid.
“As some sort of a rule, the gaming industry is very young, the average age of employees is 35. This initially creates a more inclusive atmosphere, teams that are agile and aware of the benefits of mixed teams. Especially considering that 4 out of 10 gamers today are women and girls,” explains Kristina.
Companies who do employ graduates said that this was their experience:
- 28% We were completely satisfied
- 28% They know the theory but lack practice
- 12% They lack both theory and practice
- 9% They expect high salaries
- 9% They’ve never worked on their own projects
- 9% They bring a fresh perspective
As Program Director Relja Bobić pointed out in the report, education is a crucial component of the gaming ecosystem in Serbia. Although he admits that the development is slow, mostly due to extensive administration, the generation gap, and the fast pace at which the industry is evolving, he also stated there had been relevant synergies between the industry and higher education institutions.
Consequently, this has resulted in the growing interest of young and future professionals.
Over the past three years we have witnessed the emergence of at least three new study programs, while more universities are expressing interest in including the gamedev-relevant courses in some of their existing study programs, or even starting entire new study programs.
Report, page 53
A huge contribution to this shift is the Gejmlab platform, an initiative that aims to teach the youth in Serbia about game development within one of the world’s most successful games – Fortnite.
This educational platform was created by the Nordeus Foundation in September 2022 and was made accessible to high schoolers to learn about gaming. In the first couple of months, it was used by more than 3,000 students nationwide, which again proves the point that youngsters in Serbia are interested in joining the industry at an even earlier age.
On that note, in another report regarding internet usage among children in Serbia, published by UNICEF, it’s said that children are starting to access the internet at an earlier age via their personalized devices. They are quick to learn that gaming is associated with in-app purchases and therefore monetization, and are very confident, according to respondents in UNICEF’s report, about their digital skills.
Having said this, it’s no wonder that children are aware they could turn their hobby and passion into a profession, and probably know a peer who has already managed to do so.
The gist of Gejmlab, however, was to teach them how to make their first games through the sandbox mode of Fortnite, with almost no prior technical knowledge.
“Not only can they master the tools and processes to successfully create their first games, but they can share them with players around the world for testing”, as stated in the SGA report.
And that’s probably one of the most important shifts in behavior that even the most skeptical among parents would approve of – children can now take an active role and use their imagination and logic to create immersive worlds, come up with new rules, express their unique aesthetics, and enjoy the process.
“The fact that more and more young people want to work in the industry is evidence that both them and their parents have realized that this is a serious industry that is extremely promising. What we have also managed to change is the opinion that only developers or artists can make games. Nowadays, there is a place for writers, composers, HRs, data scientists, managers, producers… And finally – we’re no longer using the terms ‘games’ but video games”, concludes Kristina.
Kristina Janković Obućina
As it turns out, relevant players who are already a part of this industry shared that they are feeling very optimistic about its future, and the statistics do align with this claim, considering that the industry has already grown significantly compared to the year before.