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The Ukrainian game developers at Jarvi Games raised $3 million to fund their Vice Online open world multiplayer mobile game.
Jarvi Games is legally based in Cyprus, but its development team of 30 people is spread out between Lviv, Ukraine, and Warsaw, Poland. The company was based in Kharkiv, but the war with Russia forced the company to move to safer areas, said Dmitry Burnos, cofounder and chief product officer of Jarvi Games, in an interview with GamesBeat.
Vice Online debuted in open beta mode this summer in Turkey and Brazil and generated over eight
million downloads to date, some days being a No. 1 app in Brazil with 250,000 organic downloads per day and holding a 40,000 concurrent users at peak.
Play Ventures led the round, with participation from Velo Partners and The Games Fund. Burnos started the company in 2021 with seasoned developers Alexander Lysenko, Ihor Lysenko and Serhii Hrynenko.
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The founders are young and aspiring Ukrainian game developers who previously worked for Voodoo
and Lion Studios in the hypercasual games segment.
“We are delighted to support the talented team of Jarvi Games. Their ambition and dedication to
creating unique mobile gameplay experiences are very inspiring,” said Harri Manninen, founding partner at Play Ventures, in a statement. “We believe that Vice Online has the potential to become a global hit, and we are excited to partner with them to continue developing the studio into a global mobile gaming powerhouse.”
Last year Jarvi Games raised a $500,000 pre-seed round from The Games Fund.
“We are thrilled that prominent international investors have faith in our vision and are backing us,” said Alexander Lysenko, Jarvi Games CEO, in a statement. “We see a massive opportunity in the multiplayer games space, and we are committed to making bold and innovative moves. At Jarvi Games, we are bursting with fresh ideas, passion, and the determination to bring a new era of multiplayer experiences to the mobile gaming world.”
They’re also determined to make games and spread some happiness despite the war in Ukraine.
“We are all Ukrainians,” Burnos said. “But we had to relocate and now most of us are based in Warsaw.”
Burnos himself has stayed in Ukraine, as it’s not legal for men to leave the country while the war with Russia is going still raging. Previously, the founders worked on hypercasual games for companies like Voodoo, but they realized the niche for GTA Online style games was open, especially in the mobile gaming market. After all, Grand Theft Auto shipped in 2013 and the market has become hungry for games with upgraded tech.
“We left our jobs and decided to build this,” Burnos said.
As for fleeing Kharkiv, Burnos said it wasn’t necessarily as disruptive as it appears since many on the team worked remotely. And back then the team was smaller.
However, with Russia attacking infrastructure such as power plants with missiles, some areas are suffering electricity losses, Burnos said.
“The problem is getting worse,” Burnos said.
The Jarvi Games team is working on Vice Online, an open-world action game with an emergent narrative based on crime. The game was inspired by the GTA Online and community-run roleplay servers
experience and the aim is to take those ideas and run with them.
Vice Online offers an open-world sandbox-like experience where players can hang out with their friends without the pressure of competition. There are no strict gameplay rules. A total of 60 players can roam a city filled with a wide assortment of luxury cars, boats, aircrafts, various weapons to choose from.
The founders want Vice Online to be a place to make new friends and generate unique action-infused stories and experiences. They want the game to be naturally streamable and fun to watch, besides direct playing. The social core of the game is fueled by proximity-based voice chat, extensive avatar customization, and self-expression features.
“We’re really focused on social interaction mechanics, like communicating with others,” Burnos said. “You can do anything you want here. If you want to do role playing, you can do it. It’s like a sandbox experience.”
With this round of investments, Jarvi Games plans to dramatically improve visuals, gameplay, and the
amount of content in Vice Online and launch it globally by the end of 2023.
“We are happy to see that our early bet on Jarvi Games paid off,” Ilya Eremeev, cofounder and managing partner of The Games Fund, in a statement. “The new generation of game developers sees the opportunity and fearlessly conquers niches that big companies are afraid to try. The team achieved something that seemed impossible for even mature developers, leave alone 20-something first-time founders, especially considering the war struggle. That is the daring spirit and ambition we value and respect. It is so cool to see how the company has evolved from a garage startup of dreamers to a thriving international company, attracting top talent and building the future of entertainment.”
Burnos said he hopes the game can ship in the summer of 2023.
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