Imperia Online: How to make a game for 25 million people

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Imperia Online Ltd‘s Head of Marketing & Business Development, Mariela Pavlova, spoke with us about their hit game, Imperia Online, which has been one of the biggest browser games ever made in Bulgaria. Mariela discusses the company’s current projects as well as the outlook for the future of mobile and browser games.

Could you tell us about your studio? Where are you based and how many people are on the team?

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Imperia Online Ltd. is a Bulgarian game production company and publisher founded by Moni Dochev and Dobroslav Dimitrov. Based in Sofia, Bulgaria, the company originally focused primarily on browser-based games with the main title being Imperia Online, but later we started developing mobile games as well. As of January 2015 Imperia Online Ltd. has more than 160 employees. The company has 10 games in it’s portfolio with several more in development. Imperia Online Ltd. now develops games for web browsers, iOS, Android, Windows Phone, and social networks like Facebook and Odnoklassniki.

How was Imperia Online conceived?

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On August 23, 2005 the MMORTS Imperia Online went live. Detailed research and crafting of the gameplay, mechanics and programming for the company’s main product were done by the game’s and company’s founders Dobroslav Dimitrov – Gameplay Designer, and Moni Dochev – Freelance Developer. In 2011 Imperia Online’s World Cup tournament was held for the first time with the Bulgarian national team winning the first place. Next year the second World Cup was held, won again by the Bulgarians. In 2013 the third Imperia Online tournament was conducted and this time it was won by the Croatians. Later in 2013 the newest – and current – version of Imperia Online was launched – Version 6, called ‘The Great People’. Finally, last years World Cup was won by the Brazilians.

Were you planning to launch a browser-based game from the start? Did you ever consider making a client-based product? Do you want to publish the game on mobile platforms as well?

We started with the idea for a browser-based game, but now we plan to create a downloadable version. In 2013 Imperia Online kept spreading by getting released on iOS and in the largest Russian social network called Odnoklassniki. The next year ‘IO: The Great People’ was also launched for Android, Windows Phone, and Facebook; Microsoft chose Imperia Online for its ‘Featured’ section in Windows Store.

The game looks a lot like Age of Empires, The Settlers & other RTS games from the 90s. Could you tell us about your sources of inspiration?

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Imperia Online Gameplay

Imperia Online’s co-founders are huge fans of Age of Empires. The game inspired them to create a web-browser game with even more developed mechanics. The team is really proud of the fair economy system implemented; they successfully created it through the years, driven by the desire to give equal opportunity to win for both payers and free-2-play players. As of 2015 Imperia Online Ltd. has more than 25 million registered users in it’s main product – Imperia Online.

How do you work with the community and attract users?

As we are in the online industry, our teams try to follow the trends of online advertising. Imperia Online Ltd. invests a lot of effort into Google and Facebook advertising, as well as in other ad networks which can be key partners in specific local markets. Despite these marketing efforts, we also have in-house community managers who answer player’s questions every single day in the chat, forum, Facebook fan pages and emails. Imperia Online is popular in over 170 countries; therefore each community needs special assistance. We are proud of the individual and customized support delivered by the team. Imperia Online Ltd. also has a really nice blog where we keep the players posted on recent events and news.

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Build your empire in Imperia Online

How do you monetize your product?

Imperia Online is a free-2-play title with in-game purchases. Players must register at ImperiaOnline.org by providing an e-mail address and creating a username and password or by using and linking a social network account. After logging in, the player must follow a tutorial that guides them through various aspects of the game and provides rewards for successful completion. After the tutorial, missions start appearing for the player which guide them even further into the Province’s development. At the start of the game, the player can select a seven-day “beginner’s protection” period, during which they can’t be attacked. Resources are needed for developing Provinces and also for training units. Three of these resources – Wood, Iron and Stone – are produced by resource-generating buildings: Lumber Mill, Iron Mine and Stone Quarry. The resource output can be increased by upgrading the three structures so that new work vacancies are created. The fourth main resource is Gold. There are different packages available for sale which users can decide whether to purchase or not.

Who are your players and where are they from? How do you analyze your audience?

Players are mostly male between 18 and 45 years old. One of our researches showed that they normally have a university degree or secondary education. The most popular markets for us are Brazil and Russia.

We have lots of experience in the field of tracking and analytics as a software company, therefore we use in-house solutions and of course, for the mobile projects, the most popular platforms like Flurry, Appsflyer, etc.

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Imperia Online Gameplay

What does the future hold for browser-based games? Do you have any predictions?

The future of the game industry is mobile games. Imperia Online Ltd. realized this fact a long time ago and started developing mobile titles. We already have more than 10 applications launched and a lot more to come up in 2015. Browser games, of course, are not going to disappear. They just need to be cross-platform, ported for all devices and present in social networks to survive. Nowadays, users need to find their favorite game from all sources.

Tell us a little bit about your future plans.

We will develop games in two main fields: the first one, would be more serious genres for hard-core players, MMO and RPG games, and the second one would be more casual for everybody who enjoys playing games, even if they only have 5 minutes to play during a break.

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