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00:10 | Aug 16 | 2012

The Ushnitsky Brothers’ Star Games

All paths are open to talented people, no matter if it’s Silicon Valley or Yakutia.

Almost everyone in Yakutia knows about Sulus Games. It’s not surprising since its team has made its way and secured a foothold in the global industry. The hobby, the Ushnitsky brothers have been pursuing for over ten years, has resulted in a dozen computer games players all over the world enjoy. While you are reading this, someone somewhere is playing the games Sulus Games has created. Alexei and Afanasy Ushnitsky, the founders of the company, are telling about their long and winding road to success.

Coming from childhood
Alexei and Afanasy Ushnitsky tell, “It all started when we were kids. The Yakut climate with its short summers and long, freezing winters keeps a child at home most of the time for nine months. It makes computer games very popular.
Back in school we also enjoyed playing video game consoles and then computers. The Internet wasn’t as common as it is now so we turned to magazines for news on computer games and gaming industry in general. Gameland was our favorite magazine. That was where we once read an article about how computer games were made.
It was the turning point. We got interested in who makes games and how. Of course, we started to wish we could make a game ourselves. We bought some guides and took up homeschooling ourselves in computer programming. At the same time we came up with games, developed game design, but it all was just a hobby.”
After the Ushnitsky brothers graduated from high school, making computer games was still a hobby, the one they spent all their free time on. They went to college, working part-time at car washes or selling disks. When the brothers were hired as IT administrators by EPL Diamond, it marked another turning point. Meeting with its CEO Pyotr Fyodorov opened up new opportunities for the young men.
With their idea of making a computer game based on Olonkho, a Yakut epic tale, supported, the brothers along with two designers started making their first big game, Uolan Bootur. Initially targeted at the Yakut market, the game wasn’t very profitable, yet it helped the brothers gain considerable experience.

No money, plenty of ideas
Once the brothers firmly decided to practice only game development and analyzed the situation, they began making a new causal game. Their work resulted in Boxy-Goxy, a truly unique project of just 10MB.
“It’s something that we look back on as a tough time. We didn’t have any money, we didn’t know if our game would be popular. It was several months of hard work on sheer enthusiasm alone.
We finished making the game in fall. That very same night we started uploading it to the Internet. It took a whole hour for the 10MB to upload. While the game was uploading, we went outside. It was a quiet, dark night, we were dreaming, while our destiny was being sent to the vast spaces of the Internet kilobyte after kilobyte.
We believe that was exactly the moment our company came into being. Sulus means a star in Yakut. That night the sky was surprisingly full of stars and that is the story behind the company name. Of course, the company itself was officially registered later, in 2006.”
After the first game had been released, the young men got down to the next one. Although they kept doing their job, they still were not sure they had chosen the right way.
Everything took a pivotal turn when Jewelleria was released and became a huge hit in the casual game market. The first great success earned them big money for the first time. The company had moved to an office by that time. New employees were hired and Sulus Games picked up steam.
Burger Bustle, Xango Tango, the Strange Cases series – it was one hit after another.

All is in our hands
We got to see the working environment created in the company’s current office. As the Ushnitsky brothers pointed out, game and software development is a risky and delicate line of work, with purely business issues going hand in hand with creativity. That’s why the office provides everything to encourage creativity and freedom of expression. We wouldn’t even call it an office but a platform for creativity fitted with a kitchen, massage chairs, and a recreation room.
Alexei and Afanasy Ushnitsky tell, “Our team is, first of all, a group of young people who share the same idea. Our youngest employee is 19 and our oldest is only 30. The average age of the employees is 24-25 years old but they all are top-class professionals not just in Russia but internationally.”
Sulus Games has released over 10 games, which are still very popular all over the world. The games have been translated into 10 languages and released on optical media in over 20 countries. The company consolidated its success by porting the games to the iOS and Android mobile platforms.
As we were talking, the current situation in the IT sector in Yakutia was brought up, “On the whole, today a lot is being done to develop innovative technologies in Yakutia. It stands to reason since the severe climate of our region on its own encourages development of this particular field of activity. As we’ve said, young people here stay at home a lot because of long, cold winters – so it’s all in our hands. There are so many talented and gifted young people here. What they need is support; they need jobs, places where new technologies can be introduced.”
“As for jobs, we believe the situation is quite favorable. There are a lot of private businesses interested specifically in software. There is public procurement of various IT products. The Internet and software are the fields that provide IT Specialists scope for their abilities and they are taking advantage of these opportunities now.”
Every day about 100 computer games and 300 mobile games are released. It’s a highly competitive business and Sulus Games should not only survive in the tough market conditions, but from time to time launch games that become big hits.
The Ushnitsky brothers have proved that in the age of globalization and information technology distances no longer matter and all you need to succeed in the IT industry is talent and determination.
Alexei and Afanasy say, “The Internet has made everyone equal since it doesn’t have any borders. It’s the Internet that has made it possible not to depend on the world centers of IT technology so no matter where you are, in Silicon Valley or Yakutia, all paths are open to you.”

Nikolai TATARINOV