BY BESTENIGAR KARA
The digital game and game technology ecosystem and entrepreneurship center StartGate aims to serve in ten countries in the short to medium term, according to Mustafa Cihat Durmus, CEO of StartGate. “We have started our journey with the goal to create three unicorns in five years. We aim to be the engine of the digital game and game technology industry, support Turkey to create 15 Turcorns and five decacorns in 2025, and make Istanbul among the top 20 entrepreneurship centers worldwide,” Durmus said in an exclusive interview with TR MONITOR.
Launched on June 21, 2023, StartGate Digital Game and Game Technology Entrepreneurship Centre primarily aims to make Turkey the first country to come to mind when the subject is the digital gaming industry and gather all industry stakeholders under a single roof. “We consider that the fact that these stakeholders are continuously in touch with each other and feed each other will significantly contribute to the industry,” Durmus noted.
StartGate provides support to entrepreneurs beyond place and equipment to develop games. Within this frame, the StartGate ecosystem incorporates subsidiaries that feed the industry from different branches and are fed by them. AcademyGate, which focuses on training in the industry, is among them. It provides training for game studios eligible to enter StartGate and entrepreneurs willing to develop in this area. Those attending these trainings receive the e-Government-approved certificate as part of the university collaboration. However, StartGate’s training is not just limited to entrepreneurs. Investor training is among the topics of its training. AcademyGate also focuses on overcoming the bias regarding the digital game and gaming technology industry. “We have started our work on the game awareness training programs as playing games has an important role in communication, foreign language learning, strategic thinking, socialization, and intercultural interaction.”
IdeaGate is another subsidiary of StartGate that supports game studios for their advertising and media works. It gathers entrepreneurs, advertising and media agencies, advertiser brands, and gaming industry investors under a single roof. Thus, a game studio can find technical needs, game launch and promotion, and marketing support in all processes from pre-incubation to fundraising stages. Moreover, the selected studios can participate in national and international events and gaming fairs through IdeaGate. On the other hand, advertising agencies can convene with game studios through it for operations, such as advertising and marketing works in mobile, personal computer (PC), video and console games, gamification, digital code distribution, and loyalty companies to offer their brands. Investors can safely invest in game studios after the information in the IdeaGate ecosystem transforms into correct data.
TalentUpGate was established with the vision of discovering talents in the industry and gathering them with the correct companies. Candidates can more deeply understand and develop their talents with the TalentID system, an application specific to the industry. With talent maps prepared for companies, the TalentID system determines the most suitable candidates in line with companies’ needs and facilitates positioning the suitable candidates. TalentUpGate gathers the most talented gaming industry professionals with employers to maximize the candidates’ potential in its system and help them raise TalentID scores.
The Association of Digital Game Entrepreneurs, a nonprofit organization of StartGate, organizes global events and social responsibility projects, prepares reports, and conducts research to promote the industry’s growth.
TO BE A BRIDGE IN THE GAMING INDUSTRY
StartGate was established to popularize Turkish games worldwide, reveal the interest of the youth in the sector, create a competitive environment to develop the industry with Turkey’s young population and transform Turkish gaming companies and studios into global brands.
Since its foundation, it has been operating with a global vision and structuring. “Our primary goal in our branding journey is to support Turkey economically and be the first brand to come to mind of the target audience,” Durmus said. Moreover, it aims to be an investment, talent, and know-how bridge in the gaming industry with its ecosystem. StartGate plans to serve in ten countries in the short to medium term. Within this frame, locations that support the digital game and game technology industry in terms of investment and information are in the StartGate Global Map. San Francisco, London, Paris, the Netherlands, Riyadh, Singapore, and Shanghai are among them.
Touching on StartGate’s operations in 2023, Durmus stated that they gathered the U.S.-based Epic Games’ top executives and Crytek Founder Cevat Yerli with studios, game developers, investors, and venture capital funds and industry stakeholders on the sidelines of MeetUp events at StartGate Campus. It hosted Startup Teknoloji’s traditional entrepreneurship ecosystem meeting. Moreover, the U.S.-based Interactive Advertising Bureau’s (IAB) Gaming in Advertising event was held at StartGate. “The important figures from the advertising and digital game worlds met to discuss the potential impact of the collaboration between the two industries at this event,” Durmus noted. StartGate also hosted the game development event Magara Jam’23 on November 16-19. During the event, attended by 150 people physically and 5,350 people online, 405 games were developed. Magara Jam received over 270,000 traffic and more than 820,000 interactions.
Apart from these events, StartGate, open 24/7, provided support in many fields such as infrastructure, software, new-generation office opportunities, mentorship, law, marketing, media, and human resources. In October 2023, it started the DreamForge Pre-Incubation Program, which continued for eight weeks. “While we provided technical training, business coaching, and infrastructure support for game developers, we included other training needed by a successful entrepreneur in the program,” Durmus added. “We have started our journey to create three unicorns in five years, and we will continue to support our entrepreneurs for it.”
ENTERS 2024 WITH A GAME ALMANAC
StartGate will focus on all stakeholders, problems, awareness, and growth of the gaming industry this year, according to Durmus. The center will organize a gaming workshop in Q1 2024. “We plan a roadmap to offer solutions for the industry’s problems, strengthen the industry, and ensure that it will be a strategic industry in Turkey,” he said.
Moreover, StartGate has entered 2024 with a gaming almanac and dictionary. “We have recorded the global gaming industry daily in the almanac. As it is the first of its kind in Turkey, it will guide all stakeholders,” Durmus added. StartGate also plans to release a game professions guide, which will reveal the occupational map of the gaming industry. “To turn our weekly insights, which compile developments and changes in the gaming world, into more comprehensive reports is also on our agenda.”
StartGate Digital Game and Game Technology Entrepreneurship Centre, which started its journey last year in Istanbul to create three unicorns in five years, aims to be the engine of the digital game and game technology industry, support Turkey to create 15 Turcorns and five decacorns in 2025, expand overseas in the medium to short-term and make its headquarters city among the top 20 entrepreneurship centers worldwide.
Turkish mobile game market to hit USD 1.03bn volume
As StartGate CEO Mustafa Cihat Durmus says, mobile games took the lion’s share at USD 92bn in the global gaming industry, which reached a USD 185bn revenue in 2022, followed by console games at USD 52bn, and PC games at USD 40bn. The number of gamers surged by 6.3% to 3.38 billion worldwide in 2023, year-over-year, meaning that 40% of the global population plays games. The figure has reached 42 million as of 2022 in Turkey. It reveals that 50% of Turkey’s population, which nearly totals 85 million, plays games. “Considering that the number of mobile gamers was 30 million in 2018, the 4-year hike indicates the rapid growth of the gaming industry in Turkey. It also shows that our country’s game perception has changed,” Durmus said. The Turkish gaming industry’s export revenues amounted to nearly USD 1.5bn in 2021 when 1.8 billion games were downloaded in Turkey. Those playing mobile games account for 81% of users in Turkey. “The Turkish mobile game market, which currently has a USD 600m size, is estimated to annually grow by 6.86% to reach USD 1.03bn volume until 2027.”
Gaming and fintech startups hit an all-time fundraising record
The gaming industry takes a bigger slice of the Turkish startup economy each passing day, according to StartGate CEO Mustafa Cihat Durmus. Considering unicorns from Turkey and their overseas valuations, they positively contribute to the Turkish economy. “The U.S.-based gaming company Zynga acquired Turkey’s first unicorn Peak Games for USD 1.8bn which is among the best precedents of this development,” Durmus said. Gaming and fintech startups hit an all-time fundraising record in 2022 when 46 startups raised USD 1.06bn with crowdfunding, according to the 2022 Turkey Entrepreneurship Ecosystem Report. The investments in gaming startups rose from USD 265m to USD 362m in 2022. “These figures are estimated to hike sharply in the 2023 data to be released soon. Istanbul, which is among the digital game hubs in Turkey, ranked second after London with the highest investments in gaming startups in Europe in 2022,” Durmus noted. London topped with 60 transactions worth USD 705m, followed by Istanbul with 21 transactions worth USD 366m and Paris with 16 transactions worth USD 154m. “All these show the strong position of digital games in the Turkish economy and that Turkey is at the top of the global growth curve.”