PlayWay S.A. is one of many strangest corporations in Poland’s booming video games business—and likewise one of the profitable. The corporate has constructed an expansive catalog of unusually mundane video games, largely first-person simulators that permit gamers dwell out vocational fantasies, reminiscent of working in an auto store, renovating homes, or managing a fuel station. Whereas the corporate’s video games don’t look like apparent hits, they regularly land at or close to the highest of Steam’s world bestseller checklist—in September, for instance, Fuel Station Simulator debuted within the No. 2 spot.
PlayWay’s capability to create hits from such curious topics has made it much more well-liked with traders, who’ve pushed its market capitalization as much as $751 million (2.94 billion PLN). This makes PlayWay the thirteenth-largest firm on the Warsaw Inventory Alternate, and the third-largest video games firm—trailing solely CD Projekt Crimson, builders of The Witcher collection and Cyberpunk 2077, and Ten Sq. Video games, the cellular large behind Let’s Fish and Fishing Conflict. PlayWay presents shareholders a return on funding proportion that’s 50 p.c higher than Fb’s and Alphabet’s, and across the identical as Apple’s. And it regularly schedules substantial dividend payouts, together with a just lately introduced distribution of roughly $3 per share.
Whereas different giant video games publishers have handled rising manufacturing prices and new competitors from the cellular market by slicing their launch schedules to a minimal of blockbusters and legacy IP, PlayWay has repeatedly expanded its output. During the last 12 months, the corporate launched 28 new titles, and it has greater than 100 new titles in growth. There’s a first-person president simulator, a wedding ceremony planner simulator, an animal shelter simulator, a drug seller simulator, a cooking simulator, a truck constructing simulator, a crime scene inspector simulator, a gold mining simulator, a soccer referee simulator, a paleontologist simulator, an post-mortem simulator, a moon colony simulator, a 911 operator simulator, a pope simulator, and even a Jesus simulator. There are such a lot of video games within the works, even Krzyysztof Kostowski, PlayWay’s founder and CEO, has bother protecting monitor. “It’s from us?” he requested after I talked about Dolphin Coach VR throughout a go to to one of many firm’s workplaces in Warsaw this summer season.
To make this high-volume strategy to publishing work, PlayWay depends on an enormous community of exterior growth studios, lots of that are staffed by only a handful of individuals working remotely. One studio, Baked Video games, is at the moment creating three video games with PlayWay from its headquarters in a small home on a residential avenue in Czeladź, an hour exterior of Krakow. PlayWay is at the moment partnered with 120 such studios in Poland—greater than 1 / 4 of the 440 whole in Poland in the present day. This strategy has helped PlayWay keep its personal comparatively small dimension—by triple-A writer requirements—with simply 40 full-time workers, largely QA testers and a few finance and advertising and marketing executives. For comparability, CD Projekt Crimson employs greater than 900 individuals, and EA has over 9,800 workers.
In lieu of lavish advertising and marketing campaigns, PlayWay makes use of free demos and stand-alone prologues to advertise upcoming titles, hoping to construct phrase of mouth by giving freely free samples of a bigger recreation idea that may turn into a whole product at some later date. (During the last 12 months, 12 of the corporate’s 28 releases have been free prologues or demos.) The corporate feeds off its previous successes by repeatedly swapping new titles into the really helpful slots on the Steam retailer web page for its largest hits to draw gamers to its latest releases. PlayWay makes use of viewers suggestions from these free demos and prologues, particularly the variety of gamers who add titles to their Steam wishlist, to resolve which video games ought to get extra funding for promotion and post-release content material.
Some gamers have criticized PlayWay as a sort of pyramid scheme for the consideration economic system, manipulating gamers with an infinite array of latest titles that will by no means develop past tough sketches, clunky collections of environments, gadgets, and job lists. On Polish gaming boards, it’s typically derided as a “trailer firm” as a substitute of a recreation writer, yet another fascinated about producing advertising and marketing materials than completed video games. Kostowski disputes this description, insisting that the corporate will launch each recreation it publicizes. And whereas there could also be manufacturing delays, he says the corporate is all the time as clear as doable about schedule adjustments by means of updates to developer blogs and bulletins on every recreation’s Steam web page.