Turkey has become a productive hub for games studios with companies like Gram Games and Peak Games. And now Instabul-based Recontact wants to put the place further on the map as the producer of cinematic mobile games — which Recontact calls its “cinematographic” style.
I sat down recently with Simay Dinc, cofounder and producer at Recontact, at the Devcom game developer event in Cologne, Germany. We talked about the growth of game companies in Turkey, the rise of female game developers there, and the success of Recontact’s titular franchise.
Dinc and her brother Eray formed the company in 2015. As former filmmakers, they decided to make a video-based mystery game, Recontact: Istanbul, about a cybercriminal group’s exploits. And now they are launching Recontact: London. That game will come out on mobile devices in November.
The title stars actor Ross Mullan, who was a White Walker in the world-famous Game of Thrones series, and he also played roles in Doctor Who and Clash of Titans. With Recontact: London, players will solve video puzzles and solve hidden object mysteries with CCTV cameras. It also uses augmented reality technology to bring a new perspective to investigation scenes.
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Eray Dinc directed the new game, Simay Dinc is the producer, and Can Aksoy is head of the development team. Here’s an edited transcript of our interview.
Simay Dinc: My first job was as an intern at Universal Studios, when I was at university. I was a tour guide and customer relations. It was my job to say, “Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to Universal Studios.” Every day, about 10 times, reading off that script. [laughs]
I was studying business administration, but I focused very much on art and technology. I had a chance to travel all around the world, to more than 30 countries. Six or seven years ago, when I was in New York, I got to visit the Museum of Modern Art, and they’d just opened up an exhibition for games, showing games as if they were art pieces. I came back to Turkey and I told my brother, “Okay, now it’s official. Games are art now. We need to do this.” That really affected me.
Last year, with Women in Games, we organized an exhibition at a museum at Istanbul. Women from all over Turkey brought their art pieces. I really believe in this. Games are part of the art and culture of the 21st century. They have an amazing power. We need to use that power in a good way. Turkey gives us the chance to be really effective, with 30 million gamers.
Five years ago we started in the gaming industry. We’d like to make a beautiful blend of the cinema and mobile games. My brother was a film director, and he was a crazy gamer. Our first launch was Recontact: Istanbul. Apple chose it as the best mobile game coming out of Turkey, and they launched us in 110 countries. We were featured globally. After that we decided to go bigger and produce a sequel, Eyes of Sky. It starred one of Turkey’s most famous actors. We got some amazing feedback from gamers all around the world. Two years ago we won an award from the Los Angeles New Media Film Festival.
Now we’re excited to work on Recontact: London. Recontact is a cybersecurity team that can invade security cameras across the world. A couple of days ago we launched the first teaser for Recontact: London. We’re working with actors from Game of Thrones, among others, and using real locations. We were able to film in places like the British Museum, and other locations all over London. It’s like interactive mobile cinema, like a playable art piece.
We’re going to launch the game in November in London. We’re super excited about that.
GamesBeat: Is it like an augmented reality game?
Dinc: Some of our puzzles are AR games. We also have some elements that are location-based around London. It’s like having multiple games inside one larger game. We have six major puzzles altogether.
GamesBeat: Are you looking around for ghosts in London, then?
Dinc: There’s a section in one puzzle that’s like that. The other five are different puzzles.
GamesBeat: How popular has the series been so far?
Dinc: Our first Recontact game, Recontact: Istanbul, was chosen as Turkey’s best mobile game by Apple. We had an amazing response from gamers in China and Russia. We reached a global audience and had more than one million downloads for our first two games. We started with just three people, and now we’re eight. With outsourcing it comes to about 30 people. We have a film production team with about 15 outsourced people in London and a game production team with about 10 outsourced people in Turkey. It’s taken one and a half years to make this one game.
GamesBeat: Is it free-to-play?
Dinc: Our first game was premium, and after that we decided to turn to freemium. We have a new style of in-app purchases. Also, because it’s like the cinema, we can do product placement.
GamesBeat: Is it pretty non-linear, the way the story unfolds? Are there branches in the story?
Dinc: In our story there are many different threads, but it leads to one ending. You can reach the ending by playing the puzzles differently.
GamesBeat: I’ve written about a couple of other Turkish game companies. Who are the biggest companies there right now?
Dinc: PeakGames and Gram Games.
GamesBeat: Yeah, I’ve written about them.
Dinc: Mehmet Ecevit, the CEO of Gram Games, is a friend of mine. They sold their company to Zynga for $250 million last year. PeakGames, their CEO Sidar Sahin is another friend. They’ve just reached $1.4 billion in revenue. The Turkish game industry is booming. We have 30 million gamers and 14 million people spending money in games. There’s a huge opportunity. People have a lot of support if they want to produce their own games.