Startup of the Week: RAWG
There is no doubt that Lithuanian Startups are one of most successful startups due to the favorable ecosystem. For example, startup RAWG has recently become the largest games database in the world.
Today we are talking with RAWG Tatjana Gladkova, the CEO of RAWG and the editor-in-chief Serge Ulankin, about challenges and expectations of the product.
How does RAWG work, what is the main goal?
Serge: RAWG is easy to use. You just need to sign up, then you can connect your gaming profiles—for now, we support integration with Steam, Xbox Live, and PSN—and your digital library is all set up. You can also add games on other platforms manually. RAWG is the largest games database in the world already, so you can find anything, from retro games on Atari consoles to current games on Nintendo or mobile devices.
However, what you can do on RAWG now is just the bottom of the iceberg. The tip of it—and our endgame—is to build a place to discover new favorite games and decide whether you should buy that new title everybody is speaking about or invest your time in some hidden gems or old classics.
Serge: In terms of geography, we target the Western market for the most part, Europe and Americas. The Asian markets are always a challenge, and we hope to find the right partner for it in the future. Today, an average gamer has no specific gender, age, or lifestyle. With over two billion people in the world playing, it’s safe to say that it is the second biggest community in the world—right after the community of air-breathers.
When exactly did you launch, what were the main challenges before launching?
Tatjana: November, 2016, is when the development started. In May, 2017, RAWG launched open tests of its alpha version. On February, 2018, we announced the public beta. As a Lithuanian startup, we naturally sought for local partners—both mentors and investors. Unfortunately, every fund or company we approached declined to help us for one reason or another. Usually, we were told that our business specifics were closely related to games and entertainment industries, and locals had no expertise in that field. Even if they liked our project and understood what we were going to do, they backed away at the last moment, because they did not feel confident working with us. After approaching numerous companies—with one company that actually specialized in games—we had no choice but to give up the idea and start seeking this expertise elsewhere.
What are main challenges while working on this product and how are you overcoming them?
Tatjana: One of the main challenges for us, surprisingly, was banks. We had our account in one of the Nordic banks, in the past three months, the situation changed for the worse. We had to explain literally every transaction we made. We were asked documents that only our investors or partners possesed. To make the procedure for the bank easier and faster, we even arranged a direct contact with the bank and our investors, because the bank demanded papers we couldn’t provide because of the NDA, and the timing was impossible. Finally, they declined to work with us without explaining the reason. Probably because they didn’t really want these papers, they just needed a reason to stop working with us. For now, we are settled with the local bank, but they are few in the Baltics and leave much to be desired.
What are your competitors and competitive advantages?
Serge: When RAWG first started in April 2017 only 20 thousand games were in the database. Now, we’re the largest database, for comparison, MobyGames and IGDB have 174 thousand and 185 thousand, respectively. But those companies have different use-cases. MobyGames is an encyclopedia for games industry players, journalists often use it to check for mistakes in their articles. IGDB is a game community with a social side, but on the deeper level, they are probably most renowned for their API that provides analytics for marketers and game developers.
We are focused on gamers themselves and try to tackle the problem of having everything in one place and discovering new games. As physical games sales grow obsolete, gamers need a digital shelf—a place to track hundreds of games they have. Because sometimes there’s a problem that you don’t even remember what you have. As a result, I bought two copies of Tyranny, The Witcher 1 and 2, Deus Ex and more on several stores and platforms. Because there were sales, and I couldn’t remember that I had these games somewhere else! The digital shelf is what we already do, with discovery tools coming out in a couple of months.
Could you introduce your recent achievement in a global market?
Serge: The exciting news for us is that we have compiled the largest games database in the world. There are 248,382 titles already and this number is constantly growing. You can always check the counter yourself here → https://rawg.io/games
The biggest database is all good, but what about the most comprehensive, the most correct, the most interesting, simply put—the best? For organizing your digital shelf, the more titles there are, the better, but for building a discovery service we must provide the deepest knowledge we can, and for that, we launched editing tools for games, available for all rawgers. We hope to bring in not only games enthusiasts, but also players of the industry—developers and publishers are always interested to have control on the quality of the information about their games on the web. We have been getting numerous requests to fix this title, to change that release date, to put the links to the stores, and now games creators can do that themselves!
What about future plans?
Serge: The vision for us is clear, we strive to become the best discovery service for gamers on all platforms. We are working on a unique way to discover games just now, and you will get to see the results before the end of the year.
Thank you for the answers!