History of the Russian game industry
Soviet slot machines
Just like in the West, in the USSR the pioneers of video games were arcade machines. In 1971, the Ministry of Culture turned to Western experience and organized an exhibition "Attraction-71" - they brought foreign samples from America, Japan, and some from Europe. Most of them were arcade machines from the companies like Sega, Midway, and Electra Games, but even despite the considerable cost of one batch, the exhibition was a huge success. The organizers bought the exhibits, instructed the factories to sort out the device and develop their analogs. Further events developed as in a typical American novel, where events are associated with the Soviets and seasoned with a pinch of ubiquitous "military-industrialism," but the fact remains that the Soviet analogs were developed by military plants, as most others had neither resources nor specialists.
Museum of Soviet arcade machines
Around 1971-1975, a large all-Union association called "SoyuzAttraction" appeared, which was involved in servicing, distributing, and creating a plan to produce automata for factories. The most popular games were "Sea Battle," "Hockey," "Basketball," "Football," "Sniper," "Magistral," and the most popular was "Sea Battle," which could be found almost anywhere. In addition, there was a version without a coin acceptor, whose launch was made by pressing a button. Such was considered a simulator, located on a military submarine and served as entertainment for submariners.

All in all, the line of Soviet slot machines had more than 100 kinds. The most popular locations were cinemas, special arcade halls, the VDNH [1], stores, and pioneer camps. The Soviet-made automats were more complicated, which was not necessary for any reason, but they were assembled at military plants, which made them very expensive to produce. It cost up to half of its value and could be compared with the price of a car. The factories were not profitable from mass production, and it was much cheaper to make one expensive machine than ten cheap ones. Because of this, unfortunately, most of these machines have not survived to this day.

In Soviet times, people had a rather ambivalent attitude toward arcade machines. They could be divided into two categories: most considered them to be something interesting, but some equated them with gambling. Nevertheless, there were quite a few players, both among children and teenagers, as well as among the adult audience. To be fair, fears about gambling were not entirely unfounded - abroad, most of the machines produced were "one-armed bandits" with a gambling component, while in the USSR, the prize was a prize game or a symbolic souvenir. In addition, the Ministry of Culture promoted the idea that arcade machines should develop players' fine motor skills, reaction speed, and attention. That's why we produced all kinds of machines, from those that developed memory and reaction speed to those that could challenge practical and theoretical knowledge[2].

"SoyuzAttraction" existed until the late 1980s, and most of the documents were destroyed or not preserved, so, nowadays, very little is known about the structure of the boards and, in general, about the design of machines. In addition, all production at military factories was classified. Nevertheless, in Moscow and St. Petersburg, you can still touch them. In the "Museum of Soviet Arcade Machines," the owners restore old slot machines, collecting them from all over the country and making working versions of them.

The story of our arcade machines is more of an interesting fact, but our video game market with its advent is still a long way off from becoming a mass market. Even the Tetris story is a case that is rather out of the picture. The formation of a semblance of a consumer market begins rather in the 90s. By 1991, Russia and the CIS countries were producing dozens of home computers similar to the ZX Spectrum. The problem of piracy was the most acute at that time: almost 90% of the games on PC and consoles were pirated. Licensed games and software were still not in demand, and boxed versions were imported piece by piece by the few companies that were retailing overseas. Game development was in its infancy, and development teams could be counted on the fingers of one hand. This is a time when the state's economy was collapsing, and nothing forebodes for the development of the game industry.
Perestroika (1989)
The year is 1990. That's when "Perestroika" appears, the first Russian game since "Tetris" to gain worldwide popularity. It was created by Nikita Skripkin, who later became the co-founder of the first Russian game company Nikita. In 1991, 1C was created, and Gamos released 7 Colors and Color Lines a year later on the market. The latter was a forerunner of the now popular match 3 or "three-in-a-row" genre, which is now comfortably settled on mobile platforms. Color Lines ran on MS-DOS and, having become widespread, was then often found on school and office computers. Another popular game of the time was Field of Miracles: Capital Show, made by Vadim Bashurov in just one week in 1993. The game was based on the famous TV show, which was broadcast by the central channel of Russia. Like in the original show, the host was Leonid Yakubovich, with the participants Karlsson, Winnie the Pooh, Piglet, and other characters of the Soviet cartoons: they spun a drum and answered Leonid Arkadyevich's questions against a background of textures from Wolfenstein 3D. But the year 1992 was a turning point - sales of the unofficial NES clone, which was forever remembered by many of our generations as... Dendy.
Thank you, Dendy, for a happy childhood
The gaming industry, which was aimed at the mass market in our country, began with Dendy - this brand has accustomed people of that time to spend money on such products. Computers then were not yet widespread to enter every home and were more common in workplaces and offices. If we talk specifically about the industry of computer games, it all started when a critical mass of users has accumulated and came to understand that people are willing to pay. The console, whose scale of distribution was able to conquer the entire country and make it the most coveted gift at the time, was launched by Viktor Savyuk, who was at the helm of the campaign to popularize video games in Russia and bring one of the most popular brands in our gaming industry to market.
In 1992, we still didn't have an industry itself, and we didn't have any experts in it. No one knew the standards of consoles, the names of games, or Nintendo and Sega, which tussled with each other somewhere far away in the West. No one even understood the word "video games" properly... Then Savyuk found out that video game systems were very popular around the globe, even though he had never seen a console in person. One thing was obvious: if they were popular in the world, they could also be sold in Russia. Steepler's [3] shareholders generally liked the idea, and Savyuk, as head of the video games department, started work with only a chair and a laptop.

In the history of Dendy's formation, Victor himself singles out three landmark moments:
  • Stage 1 - the market launch in December 1992.
  • Stage 2 - release of a Dendy Junior version in June 1993.
  • Stage 3 - distribution agreement with the Chinese company Subor in 1995
Using a 1,000-page Yellow Pages catalog, Savyuk hand-picked phone numbers and factory addresses using the control word "videogames." It was not a coincidence that he chose Taiwan - in the early 90's they were already making quality electronics there, unlike China. However, Dendy would later move its production to mainland China, but it would happen in 1995, and meanwhile, Savyuk started calling the factories from Yellow Pages and sending them faxes.

The first factory in Taiwan, with which Victor managed to negotiate acceptable terms, was called TXC. A big plus was that Steepler had an established financial infrastructure, logistics, and its own advertising department. But most of the work, in modern parlance, Savyuk outsourced. This is how the commercials were made, for which the band Neschastny Sluchai recorded the famous song "Dendy - Everybody Plays!" Sales of the first consoles from the batch amounted to 10 thousand pieces, but demand was not stable initially, as about 2-3 thousand consoles per month were sold. After moving to a separate office, by the end of 1993, there were already about eighty people in the team.
Victor Savyuk, creator of the Dendy brand
The sales situation was exacerbated by the fact that Dendy itself was quite expensive and consisted of several circuit boards, whereas analogs based on a single integrated circuit had already appeared on the market. In the spring of 1993, Russian companies were already actively selling consoles: they bought them in China, and although the quality was terrible, they were much cheaper than the Steepler' Dendy. The business was slowly drifting out of the company's hands, and then Savyuk decided to release another one under the name of Dendy Junior and to rename the old one Dendy Classic. The new version was functionally the same as the previous one but was cheaper and better designed - its design was already made in Moscow. However, the main goal of Dendy Junior release was to create a profitable offer for dealers - its sales model was rethought and the result lived up to expectations: after the announcement of Dendy Junior release, most market vendors preferred to sign dealer agreements with Dendy and stopped importing consoles from China. Thus began the creation of a dealer network of the brand, through which sales of consoles grew to 80-100 thousand a month, and shipments had to be delivered by airplanes to keep up with the growing demand.

The launch of the Dendy Junior was able to increase sales of the Classic version. Sales reached 100 thousand consoles, 80% of which were Dendy Junior, 20% of which were Classic, and the team, at the time, celebrated the success of the first million dollars in revenue. The structure of the dealer network also changes - now it begins to work on the principle of one dealer per region, with the company's own stores in Moscow was only six. Dendy repeatedly experimented with its model range. During its existence, the company managed to release several types of 8-bit consoles: Dendy Classic, Dendy Classic 2, Dendy Junior, Dendy Junior II, Dendy Junior IIP, Dendy Junior IVP, Subor SB-225, and in the range of stores later became no rarity and 16-bit consoles SNES, Sega Mega Drive, Panasonic 3DO and Game Boy.
The Dendy cartridges had a sticker with the brand and a phone number for advice.
At the end of 1993, the company's revenues reach $17 million, in 1994 - $75 million (and already overtaking half of all Steepler's revenues), and in 1995 - $100 million. In the summer of 1993, the magazine "Video-Uss Dendy" began to be published - a sort of our equivalent of Nintendo Power: articles about games, tips on a playthrough, and attempts to get feedback from the players. Later the magazine was renamed "Dendy - The Great Dragon" and became a cult among gamers in Russia. This, by the way, is also an important point because many descendants of it would later work in game journalism, and with this magazine, it almost began. In 1994, starts the program "Dendy - New Reality" with the host Sergei Suponev on the channel "2x2", which would later be transferred to the main channel of the country ORT and would enjoy phenomenal popularity. Another project, which was sponsored by Steepler and from which many people can still get a kick of nostalgia, was the "Ot Vinta!" program. There Boris Repetur and Anton Zaitsev, better known to their viewers as Bonus and Gamover, talked about computer games.

After the reorganization of the company in 1994, the team grew to 150 people, and Savyuk receives a request from Nintendo of America to meet in Seattle with Minoru Arakawa and the chairman of the board, Howard Lincoln. Nintendo of America promised that they would not make any claims about the counterfeit trade and sent an official invitation. After two days of negotiations in Seattle, the Dendy team managed to achieve the status of the SNES exclusive distributor in Russia and the CIS. The contract also stated that Nintendo had no complaints about Dendy and no obstacles to the further sale of the company's products, but Nintendo would not be itself if it did not include another clause in this contract - on top of that, Dendy can not sell consoles from Sega, a rival company to Nintendo.
Sega Mega Drive 2
SNES failed to conquer the Russian market in the same way as Dendy did - the Nintendo scheme implied that the new console would be sold at a purchase price, and the main profit would come from the sale of cartridges. And it turned out that the cartridges were just too expensive for Russia. In addition, the console was in short supply in the world, and Nintendo could not provide an uninterrupted supply to Russia. When the consoles once again ran out of stock, Savyuk demanded that the clause prohibiting trade in competitors' products be canceled, and Nintendo agreed to do so until the supply situation was evened out again. After that, Dendy immediately began selling consoles from Sega, though it was impossible to get in touch with Sega. In Russia, Dendy still registered the trademark "Sega Mega Drive" to avoid claims from SEGA, and began selling both original consoles and Mega Drive clones. Thus, in 1995, the Russian market began to grow up and move away from 8-bit technology: a significant market share began to take Sega clones. As you can see, they appeared in Russia much later than in the rest of the world.

With the formation of the game industry on the market, on the one hand, consumer interest in new technology emerged, and on the other hand, millions of Russian players became interested in Western manufacturers. With the world premiere of the Sony PlayStation, the world game market began to change, but for Russia, this was especially important: unlike Nintendo and Sega, Sony had distribution and dealer networks in Russia, so they could shape the market themselves. In addition, Sony had an official representative office in Moscow, so it was no longer possible to work with their console "the old-fashioned way." Although the market may have started to go away from 8-bit in '96, it was still the main market in terms of revenues, and even more so according to the number of sold consoles. Therefore, Dendy enters into an exclusive rights agreement with the Chinese company Subor to sell consoles in Russia and the CIS.

China managed to achieve a high-quality bar by those standards - they began to take over the market, knocking down prices, and this became a real threat to business. During negotiations with Subor's management in Moscow, it became clear to Savyuk that Subor was first and foremost a factory interested in the growth of production. They were offered to give up the rights to sell consoles in Russia in exchange for the fact that all Dendy consoles would be manufactured by them. One agreement managed to remove a dangerous competitor from the market and significantly reduce the cost of production, so by the end of 1995, Dendy was back in control of the market.

The brand problems came along with the bankruptcy of Steepler - in 1996, the banks with the company's accounts went bankrupt, and all Dendy's money began to go to pay off the debts of the holding company. Until the very end of Steepler, Dendy managed to keep almost 75% of the market, and then managed to supply their own stores for a while, and held out until 1998, when the crisis finally put a period to one of the first Russian game companies. Nevertheless, throughout its existence, the consumer loyalty index to Dendy was about 80%, and the number of consoles sold through the Dendy network alone amounted to over 6 million copies.
Formation of the local market
Parallel to the advent of Dendy, the PC game market began to grow at an ever-increasing rate. However, given the severe economic downturn before the arrival of jewel cases, pirated products took over the consumer market en masse. More or less large companies, which were engaged in game development at the time, practically did not exist, and Western games were sold in large box editions and cost exorbitant money. Pirated software was in widespread use, both in corporate offices and in enterprises. Despite attempts by Western developers to protect their products, almost any protection was bypassed or cracked, and illegal copies instantly filled the local market.
The market with pirated products in the 90s.
Unlike Dendy, the company Buka decided to deal only with the originals and started with the official distribution of Sega Mega Drive and the games that were released for it, later it dealt with the 3DO console and since in the West it lost popularity rather quickly, in Russia this console was able to sell very cheaply. Buka had a contract with Panasonic, so it was a logical decision to engage in the distribution of 3DO. As soon as PlayStation appeared on the market, the company began to deal with its distribution, too.

From 1995 the development direction finally began to develop as well. The first popular published games of the company were Vangers from Kaliningrad studio K-D LAB, released in 1998, which is still probably one of the strangest games released in our industry. With the level of surrealism, which occurs in it, can be compared only Neverhood, and the first part of the Allods series from Nival of the same year is more like a game of old-school Warcraft universe, which Blizzard released before the third part. The very first Buka project was the game "Russian roulette," in the development of which was invested about 100 thousand dollars, and the game itself did students from the Moscow Engineering Physics Institute. The "Truckers" (known abroad as Hard Truck) became quite popular - when the license was sold in the U.S., Buka still received advances and royalties for a long time, which, by the way, is not the most standard situation for a publishing company at that time.
Vangers (1998) is still considered one of the most unusual games ever created on the expanse of the Russian game industry.
In general, the publishers' business was as follows: the company had a pool of producers, where each of them had 2-3 projects. Periodically, they met with the marketing department and discussed what products could be released. After that, for each project they were looking for a team of developers - this is the first option, which accounted for 30-40% of all games. In most cases, the team would show their demo or design document. Sometimes it was some idea or a small technical realization[4]. It could also be that an experienced team came in with just an idea - the publisher's credibility at the time could be established even after one high-quality project. Then the work was divided into stages[5], and payment was made as the stages were completed. It was simple-"pass the level, get the reward"-and the budget was much more convenient to calculate that way!
An example of the cover from Fargus, as well as the liberties that the company allowed in the localization of the games. Translated verbatim as "Assholes vs. Traffic Police 1+2".
Unlike Buka, the famous Fargus began its journey as a company that dealt exclusively with pirated copies, albeit with a very high-quality approach to localization. From 1996 to presumably 2005, Fargus was one of the largest publishers of pirated discs in Russia, separated from the originally pirated company Akella. Later, Akella itself became involved only in legal publishing activities, as well as financing the development of games. After the contract with French Ubisoft, Akella published many games, including all Prince of Persia and Assassin's Creed series till 2012, Painkiller, Sacred, Farenheit, Test Drive Unlimited, Left 4 Dead, Worms Blast, Final Fantasy XI, and many others - during all its existence Akella has published about 800 games but, besides that, it founded its own internal development department. This department, in cooperation with 1C, developed the famous Corsairs series - an RPG based on the 17th-century naval battles, a kind of original answer to Sid Meier[6].
Corsairs: Curse of the Distant Seas aka Sea Dogs (2000)
In 2000, the game was released as Corsairs: The Curse of the Distant Seas. The publisher on the local market was the company 1C, while Akella acted as the developer. According to the magazine Forbes, in the West game (known as Sea Dogs) sold 200 000 thousand copies, which was an unprecedented event for our gaming industry. After the release of "Corsairs" comes the so-called "golden era" of the Russian game development industry, during which up to 2008, began to create large-scale projects, many of which are still remembered today.

By the time 2002, when the majority of the game was ready, Bethesda began negotiating with Disney to publish the game under the license of the Pirates of the Caribbean: The Curse of the Black Pearl movie, which was to be released on the big screens. All Akella had to do was to rewrite the storyline, and a game based on the Hollywood film franchise promised not only high foreign sales and a launch on Xbox but also the title of the first Russian company to receive such an order. Even though the new game bet on the story component and the format of the "sandbox" has been greatly curtailed (especially compared with the first game), in the West, the game sold 1.5 million copies, and in Russia, it was sold 400,000 copies. And since without prior agreement with Bethesda and Disney, the title of the game could not be changed - for the release on the Russian market, Akella and 1C came up with an even more extravagant move, packing "Pirates of the Caribbean" in a box with the name "Corsairs 2".
Corsairs 3 (2006)
As for the fate of the series - no one at Akella even thought to stop. At first, the company planned to release an expanded director's version of Pirates of the Caribbean. They wanted to return the original content to it but quickly abandoned such an idea - the rights to the international brand of "Pirates" belonged to Disney, and such attempts had an implausible chance to end up in an international courtroom. By that time, a large part of the team that had worked on the previous parts of the project had almost completely fallen apart, and the assets had to be created from scratch, so several outsourced teams were working on the game. When it became obvious that the result did not look like a finished product, Akella urgently formed a team "Corsairs" from several former employees who worked on "The Adventures of Captain Blade"[7] project and the previous parts of the game.

At the end of 2005, 1C decides that the game should be published as soon as possible. As a result of the pursuit of deadlines, the game hit the shelves with version number 0.99 in the main menu, and, despite the high ratings from the gaming media, Corsairs 3 was found to have numerous bugs that not only interfered with the game but even made it difficult to launch. After the third part of Corsairs, Akella released several more add-ons, which involved mod developers from among the fans, planning to release the fourth part, but, in 2012 they received numerous collection lawsuits of multimillion-dollar debts. The release of Postal III, which was made by the internal Akella team Trashmasters, did not help either.
Postal III (2011)
An attempt to reanimate the series will happen only in 2017 with a crowdfunding attempt from Black Sun Game Publishing, which will eventually spawn a series of rather strange legal proceedings with the co-founder of Akella, Dmitry Arkhipov. In 2021 the developers from the original BlackMark Studio, who worked on the add-on "To Each His Own," announced "Legendary Edition", which is due to be released by the end of the year and include all the DLC for the original game, technical patches and improvements created for 10 years, an updated engine, a full epilogue, new missions and expanding the dialogue system, the ability to build your colony, rebalancing the difficulty, economy, and some innovations.

In general, the fate of Akella is unenviable, but the prerequisites that led to it later become a little clearer, but for this, we need to take a step back again. As of 1997, a chipped PlayStation with a huge library of games appears and instantly conquers the market. Before the arrival of the PlayStation, this niche was occupied by the Sega Mega Drive, whose cartridges were still successfully counterfeited and sold at numerous flea markets and stalls. In the case of the PlayStation spread even further - the cost per disc ranged from 50 to 80 rubles, and old games were willingly exchanged by sellers for new ones with an extra charge of 20 rubles.

In the same year, the first computer club "Orks" appeared, where players gathered for online battles in Quake and Duke Nukem, but, with the development of the Internet, computer clubs began to close as quickly as they appeared, and the fight against piracy gradually began to gain momentum - the RASPA[8] appeared, which included some local developers, publishers, and distributors, but the demonstrative destruction of individual stores and disks by excavators did not change the situation globally.
Parkan: The Empire Chronicles (1997)
And while the market is trying to fight the pirates, developers continue to work on games - Gamos studio is releasing the famous quest based on the popular cartoon "Pilot Brothers: On the Track of Striped Elephant," and Nikita is releasing Parkan[9], which is ahead of its time - the game combined such genres as space simulator, quest, strategy, and 3D action, in addition, it was implemented random world generation. If you think about it, such statements are ambitious even nowadays, more than twenty years later. In Parkan II, the developers developed the ideas of the first part even further - it came out almost eight years after the release of the first part (not counting "Parkan: Iron Strategy" and "Parkan: Iron Strategy. Part 2," which didn't look much like the first installment) a flight from one planet to another could take a day of real-time and there were over 500 star systems in the game.

If Parkan's ambitions seem exorbitant, the 1C together with Snowball Studious tried to make "the killer of Diablo" by intending to release a series of projects with the general universe "The Chronicle of Times" - an alternative history of Earth with an admixture of fantasy and a focus on the XII century Kievan Rus'. This is how the game Konung: Legends of the North - an ambitious successor to the large-scale "Vseslav the Sorcerer," which never came out because of the crisis in 1998. There were RPG with elements of RTS and Adventure and full-fledged quests, and the villages, located in the locations, could be subjugated and regularly receive tribute, engaged in their development and micromanagement, to collect a squad and manage a dozen characters on one map. Moreover, the game had multiplayer, where players were divided into factions of Slavs, Vikings, or Byzantines and playing for one of the parties.
Konung: Legends of the North (1999)
In 2003 the second part of the franchise Konung 2 was released. It continued the storyline of the first one and was more similar to the original Fallout parts than to Diablo, changed some mechanics and got a lot of items and quests, but the first part was inferior, so in 2005 the company released a sequel "Konung. Continuation of the Legend". The game returned modified locations from the first part, closed the plot holes, and added several mechanics that significantly simplified the squad management, as well as the passage of quests, tied to the reputation.

The last part of the series Konung 3: Ties of the Dynasty was released in 2009, went completely to 3D, and continued the plot of the second part several hundred years later. Sergey Klimov's studio wanted to go the way of "Dream Game" but failed to release "Vseslav" - the longest game construction from domestic development dragged on for years when the studio was able to diversify resources, in passing engaged in the translation and revision of third-party projects. The game is then frozen, and then restarted, but, in the end, many developments formed the Konung series, which, if not becoming a domestic The Witcher, but it is interesting to show folklore and mythology close to the Slavic setting.
Transition to a budget distribution model
In addition to the beginning of the Konung game series, in 1998, the country also began a crisis - the dollar exchange rate has risen sharply, and licensed products began to be sold at exorbitant prices. Before the advent of jewel cases, the standard price of games for Russia ranged from $25 to $40. The concept of cases was invented by Igor Ustinov from Buka before the crisis and was worked out specifically for the quest Red Comrades Save the Galaxy. It was planned that the game would be released on three discs - pirate pricing in the perception of our consumers by that time was well entrenched in conjunction with the number of physical media. Ustinov believed that if the game was released with pirate pricing, it would be able to go to the appropriate channels and bring in an impressive profit. The company did not have access to such channels at that time, and it was impossible to do this with boxed games. Thanks to the new model, it was possible to reduce prices, and Buka was the first official company to use it. In the same year, for Sony, it was announced that it was necessary to set local prices, but the company was not able to agree - they decided that in this case, they would have to drop prices in other countries. Then Buka decided to focus on the distribution of console games as well. Until 1998, the pirate market share was almost 99%, but with the implementation of the jewel-model, the legal market grew to 20-25%. Gradually, the pirate market will begin to shrink, and by 2017 the share of legal copies will be about 50%. However, before this indicator is reached, our industry will experience more than one shake-up.
Heroes of Might and Magic III (1999)
In 1999, the first circulation of the Heroes of Might & Magic 3 game sold 70 thousand copies in Russia, while 10-15 thousand have already been considered an achievement by the standards of the market at that time. By the beginning of the 2000-s, the copy protection system called StarForce had appeared, and now those who had managed to catch it had started to play Vietnam flashbacks with helicopters. The problem was that it was based on checking the integrity of the game's distribution and this occasionally caused various problems. First, the game only ran if the original disc was in the drive, and second, any, even a small scratch could lead to a read error in the system and, as a result, the game could not be started. Either way, it allowed at least to protect new products from instant copying on release day and immediate availability of pirated copies on the shelves. Since the 2000s, a huge number of large-scale projects have been announced, which tried to equal the Western analogs but are designed for most of the PC audience. As in Russia and the CIS countries, families were buying a computer "for work or study," then it turned out that on the PC-games grew a large part of both players and developers. In this, our path is somewhat similar to that of South Korea because even today the majority of fans of big AAA titles still prefer PC to consoles. Twenty years ago this was much more pronounced, and the popular Dendy, Mega Drive, and Sony PlayStation consoles were seen by people as "yet another +1" device for gaming.

Another problem was that despite the impressive flow of investment in domestic projects, the quality was still not up to the Western level. On the console side, the undisputed leader was the PlayStation 2, which appeared on the market in 2000. A large library, localization by companies of their exclusive games, as well as the ability to chip to work with pirated discs again allowed the console from Sony to spread en masse on the Russian market. In addition, the console had huge credibility among the audience, already familiar with its first version, as well as the virtual absence of any competition. Despite less experience and modest opportunities in comparison with Western companies, local companies created projects, among which there were real gems, which were able to find success throughout the world. One such project was "IL-2 Sturmovik," which revolutionized the flight simulation genre and for a long time had one of the most accurate physical models of aircraft. In the same year Russia, oddly enough, became the first country in the world to recognize eSports as an official sport[10].
Space Rangers (2002)
In 2002 the game Space Rangers was released, which is still considered to be a unique project. The developers from Elemental Games combined such genres as RPG, arcade, text quest, and turn-based strategy, giving players an incredible sense of freedom in a vast universe of the XXXI century with different races and planets, advanced concept of trade, militant space pirates, the opportunity to join their ranks and, of course, the enemy, threatening the entire Interstellar Coalition. The main feature of the game is the feeling that the world and events around the player happen regardless of most of his actions. A lot of it is randomly generated - other rangers trading and fighting each other, improving equipment, etc. A similar concept will later try to implement the Ukrainian studio GSC Game World, developing the "simulation of life" in S.T.A.L.K.E.R., but it happens much later.

Throughout the process of creating the game, the developers drew ideas from both film and literature with a similar space setting; sources of inspiration include the Babylon 5 show, from which ideas for races were taken, and classic episodes of the Star Wars saga, and Kin-dza-dza, as well as works by science-fiction writers, among them: Robert Sheckley, Orson Scott Card, Isaac Asimov, and Harry Harrison. After almost three years of development, the game was published by 1C, receiving many positive reviews and signs of distinction in the gaming press, including the title of "Game of the Year" according to portal AG.ru.
Space Rangers 2: Dominators (2004)
"Space Rangers 2: Dominators" was released a year later and expanded the list of genres that the first part included, adding to it the definitions of "real-time strategy" and "Action" - for example, in 3D fights on the planet surface you could take any robot under your control and on its behalf already conduct a further battle with dominators - the new threat of the Space Rangers world. Graphics became even nicer, the number of space stations was increased, new functions were added, spaceships got new slots, and the galaxy map was enlarged by three more sectors. The game was highly praised by both the Russian and Western press, so the game later received several add-ons. The "Space Rangers 2: Dominators. Reboot," developed by Elemental Games, CHK-Games, and Katauri Interactive, was released in 2007 and contained the first and additional parts of the series, as well as a Fan Art section compiled from minigames, wallpapers, screensavers, and other fan-generated content.

Many improvements were also added, both in terms of graphics and enhanced in-game features, which were worked on by fans of the game from the official forum. The last game of the series, not counting branches for cell phones, can be considered Space Rangers HD: A War Apart, the release of which took place in 2017 - it combined many developments of previous parts with some add-ons, and in fact, it can be safely called the maximum quintessence of the experience of the series.

Turn-based tactical RPGs are also beginning to gain momentum, including such games as "Paradise Cracked" and "COPS 2170: The Power of Law" from MiST Land - the first of them was released in the same year as the first part of Space Rangers, and the second in 2004. A large number of quests, non-linear passing, coupled with a huge number of character traits, weapons, and upgrading implants give a wide range of tactics for combat and make the games quite hardcore. This fact did not prevent them from finding their audience, especially since both were in the cyberpunk setting and belonged to the same universe. Multiplayer browser games began to gain popularity, the iconic one being Fight Club, launched by Lucius Group Ltd.
Blitzkrieg (2003)
In 2003 appeared such games as the RTS Blitzkrieg and TRPG Silent Storm from Nival, now in the alternative history setting of World War II, and Alien Shooter from Sigma Team, where players were invited to shoot crowds of various alien enemies. In the same year, the first game developers conference is held, which is called Russian Game Developers' Conference[11], and Nikita Online releases the first Russian MMO game Sphere. In 2004, GSC Game World together with Ubisoft releases a real-time strategy "Alexander", and 1C publishes Perimeter from developers KD-LAB, whose events are a prequel to the previously mentioned Vangers from the same company - its interesting feature was the need to create a completely smooth landscape by terraforming in real-time for the subsequent development of the base.

In the same year, 1C released the game, which remains one of the best representatives of Action/RTS in the World War II setting to this day. Men of War, developed by Best Way, combined several genres at once - simulation, arcade, and RPG putting the tactical component: a thorough reconnaissance of the area and competent planning of battle strategy. It was based on a powerful physics engine that was able to deliver total destructibility with the ability to use even random objects as shelter, and the damage system was detailed. Realism also perfectly complemented the picture - for example, the distance greatly affects the accuracy and killing power of weapons, fuel, ammunition, and ammunition is limited, the soldiers are tired and can take with a strictly limited number of items and a lot of other mechanics and innovative ideas which made the game perceived as AAA blockbuster, ready to stand in line with Western analogs. In addition, a famous Russian science-fiction writer Alexander Zorich took part in the work on the script of the game. The second part of the series was published in 2006 and acquired an improved engine - the game graphics and physics have changed for the better, the balance of forces has changed, as well as the ability to select allied units and combine them into a single unit. As a result, the series of games got a lot of add-ons and additions, and the last game of the series Men of War II: Arena was released in 2020.
Pathologic (2005)
By 2005, experiments with the possibility of making games with the so-called "big world" begin. Russobit-M publishes "our answer" to Far Cry - Xenus: Boiling Point (aka Boiling Point: Road to Hell) from developers from Deep Shadows, where such genres as FPS, RPG, and Racing are combined, and the game itself has overrated system requirements at the time of release. Colombia's open world, although it gives you control of vehicles, the illusion of freedom, and a non-linear story, is sparse on details, coupled with a pack of bugs of varying degrees of criticality. The second part, which came out three years later with all the innovations did little to remedy the situation, and if Deep Shadows' attempt to make an open-world FPS in 2005 failed to some extent, an entirely different situation was with Pathologic, developed by Ice-Pick Lodge studio. The game was so different from the usual standards accepted in the game development industry that it was able to gain credibility for the company for many years to come and gain such audience loyalty. This fact subsequently allowed the company to successfully release HD Remake, raising the necessary amount of money with a crowdfunding campaign on Kickstarter, and continue working on the release of a new, fully updated, and reimagined part of the game.

Games based on movie franchises have also begun to gain momentum, but for the most part, such projects have been designed to raise money quickly from players who will buy the game because of the cover or title from a popular movie. "We don't spoil tastes. We put out products that are completely in line with those tastes. The Trash & Cash methodology in action." This is a quote from the article "Akella - Shadow Fight: Made with special cynicism," published by game designer Alexander Lashin and project manager, producer, and game designer Andrei Belkin on the Daily Telefrag website on January 12, 2006. Generally speaking, most of these games were like Shadow Fight, which took four months of work by Akella's internal team of 20 people to develop, rather than like Nival's Night Watch, where the developers sought to expand on the film's ideas and bring in interesting non-standard mechanics to the game. Nevertheless, on the day of the Shadow Fight release on December 5, which was held on the same day as the movie premiere, the game sold 30 thousand copies, and later - all 80 thousand, and this despite the controversial reviews both in the press and players on the forum.
You Are Empty (2006)
Since 2006 casual games have been increasingly discussed: Nevosoft started expanding westward with Mysteryville and other Hidden Object games. IT Territory launches Territory, a multiplayer browser game, which is the heir to and influenced by Fight Club. In the same year as Territory, "Legend: Legacy of the Dragons" was released and became very popular from 2007 to 2011. It was published not only in Russia but also in the UK, Germany, China and gained a total of over 8 million players worldwide, well, in the meantime, Russia hosts the first "IgroMir" - a festival dedicated to video games, which is today the largest in Russia. On the market of big PC games, You Are Empty from 1C - joint development of Ukrainian studios Mandel ArtPlains and Digital Spray Studios in the setting of an alternative USSR '50s with an unusual atmosphere and unique levels, although somewhat outdated at the time of release, and Nival releases Heroes of Might and Magic V - it was later recognized as one of the best parts of the series.

Geleos produces Lada Racing Club, in which initially was invested half a million dollars, of which 120 thousand dollars went to marketing. At first, the co-developer company ArtyShock was supposed to be responsible for the software part, using its own engine, but, after critical problems with the software part, Geleos was forced to terminate the contract with the company and urgently three months before the release to transfer the game to a new Dagor Engine 2.5, provided by Gaijin Entertainment. At that time they were just releasing a game called "Adrenalin. Extreme Show," based on which the LRC was recreated.

Based on the results of a survey among players, it was decided that the game would use mostly hip-hop tracks: the main theme of "Capsule of Speed" was written by the band Kasta, and the band's music video used a pre-rendered images based on the game graphics. Concern AvtoVAZ gave an exclusive license to use domestic car brands, ranging from "Kopeyka" to racing karts of LADA Revolution class; were also signed agreements with the manufacturers of various body kits for tuning. From the very beginning, the game was aimed at the home market - it was constantly covered in the press, the permanent attempts to satisfy all the wishes of the players only gained the audience interest, and, long before its release, the game was dubbed "the NFS killer." The players were expecting to see a detailed recreation of Moscow, where street racing with the participation of Russian tuned cars was taking place, and at the RGDC-2005 LRC was named "the most anticipated game of the year."
Lada Racing Club (2006)
On the day of release, the company Noviy Disk shipped 160 thousand copies. Six months after its release, LADA Racing Club continued to sell an average of 10 thousand copies a month, and as of December, sales exceeded 300 thousand. Despite the announcement that the game could be returned or exchanged for other games from the publisher, scathing press articles, and inflated expectations of players, only 70 discs were returned, and this despite the fact that the game was released on four discs, from the last of which an unnecessary file was installed, without which the game worked exactly the same.
Industry in the Dark (?)
Thanks to the post of Peter Prokhorenko on The Daily Telefrag (now DTF), this expression quickly became popular and entered into use in 2007 among developers and company employees, becoming a metaphor for describing the state of the industry. The expression accurately described the rating in the press of the latest domestic projects, the publishers' approach to the long-term projects, their inability to compete with the Western studios, and the lack of development culture in general (except for a few large companies). It is possible to conclude how close the situation was to the one described by Prokhorenko, based on the facts announced earlier.

Firstly, the incident with the games "Age of Pirates: Caribbean Tales" and LRC, released with a short interval of time, greatly undermined the credibility of the games of domestic development. Further events only exacerbated the situation in the market but, there were a few memorable projects as well: Death to Spies, Paragraph 78, X-Blades, Galactic Assault: Prisoner of Power and TimeShift, which was developed by Saber and published by the very Sierra, founded by the Williams couple. Its development began in 2003 with a small demo, confirming the feasibility of an idea that the team had created after their first game, the Will Rock shooter. A year later, Atari offered to publish the game for PC and Xbox, and, after another eight months of development, they decided to go to the next generation console - Xbox 360, because the graphics part of the game was already very high quality. A year later, during the next financial difficulties of Atari, Sierra bought the project, and in September 2006, publishers decided to prolong the project for another year. By that time, Microsoft certification had been passed twice, and only seven bugs were to be fixed. Nevertheless, the new deadline shift opened up an opportunity for the team to achieve an even higher bar of quality, as well as to prepare the game for release on the PlayStation 3.
TimeShift (2007)
The game created "that exact" rain effect, which was first implemented in this very game, and, as a result, caused genuine admiration in the gaming press: stopping time, in TimeShift, you can discern every drop, which is frozen in the air with distortion and refraction of light. In the end, it took 92 people on a full-time basis and more than 50 outsourced specialists to develop such an AAA project. It was developed over four years and was released by SoftClub in 2007 on three platforms: PC, Xbox 360, and PS3.

Perhaps the cherry on the cake is S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl, GSC Game World's legendary long-running work. The game was based on the novel "Roadside Picnic" written by the Strugatsky brothers in 1971, and the inspiration came from the feature film "Stalker" by director Andrei Tarkovsky, who dedicated his film to the Chernobyl disaster, which occurred on April 26, 1986, at a nuclear power plant named after Vladimir Lenin. In addition to the above-mentioned sources, the game concept was significantly influenced by such computer games with free non-linear gameplay, as the second and third parts of The Elder Scrolls series - Daggerfall and Morrowind, Half-Life, System Shock, and Deus Ex.

The game promised an incredible number of features, such as an advanced artificial intelligence system A-Life, which could live its own life without the player - it was assumed that the other stalkers themselves could perform quests, interact with each other, mutants migrate in packs and so on, besides the world was supposed to be generally seamless, moving through which occurred without a feeling of any additional loadings. To recreate the authentic environment, the developers traveled to the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone to collect photographic material from real buildings and facilities. Thousands of photos and many hours of video later became the primary materials for the artists, and much of it was used to create textures in the game[12].
S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl (2007)
S. T. A. L. K. E. R. is defined by the developers as a Survival FPS with RPG elements, where players have to perform various tasks, constantly being in the hostile environment of the half-destroyed world of Pripyat, and it is, in general, close to the truth. You could say that this is such a Fallout with a local flavor, mutants, anomalies, abandoned research institutes, and the ruined nuclear power plant. The original idea of A-Life failed to realize, but some of its parts still worked. The project, which was developed almost seven years, finally came out, had a huge number of bugs, but it is a game that still has phenomenal popularity and an incredible number of fans, as well as all kinds of modifications. Its sales were about a million copies only in Russia and the CIS, the total number of sales for all time has exceeded 4 million copies, and, after the first part, there were two more - "Clean Sky" and "Call of Pripyat", where some mechanics GSC has been able to bring to life.

Under the aegis of the series came out a separate series of books, which can be counted almost a hundred - it began to be released simultaneously with the release of the game and sold over six million copies. You can say that this is a kind of Daria Dontsova's detectives of the post-apocalyptic world. It is possible to tell a separate story about S.T.A.L.K.E.R., and do it for at least several hours - its direct legacy - the descendants of the company, which became 4A Games and released the popular Metro series, which, in turn, was based on the famous book series in Russia and the CIS - "Metro 2033" by Dmitry Glukhovsky. Selling millions of copies, the "Dream Game" even with all its shortcomings, unrealized ideas, and huge (by the standards of game development) terms of development has become a living example of what a huge project can issue a team of developers from the Russian game industry. As of E3 2021, a gameplay trailer is rolling around, and the company is promising to release part two in 2022. So far, over the past fourteen years, three parts of the game have managed to break fifteen million copies.

By the way, since we are talking about the TimeShift release on consoles, it makes sense to mention this market, wherein 2007, too, did not go without changes. While in 2005 the audience rejoiced at the new console generation represented by Sony's PlayStation 3, Nintendo's Wii, in 2007 the undisputed leader on the Russian market was the Xbox 360 console from Microsoft, which took away the title of "people's console" from Sony[13]. As in the previous two generations, in Russia, the pirate market decided everything again, providing the opportunity to hack the console at the start of its sales. Unlicensed discs again flooded the market, and they cost comparatively less, unlike games for PlayStation, which for a long time could not be hacked.
PlayStation Portable (in Russia since 2005)
However, the end of the 2000s was also the dawn of PlayStation in Russia. During this period, the pirate flag was flying briskly over the Russian market. A large amount of content was "pirated," which was evident in both the PS2 and the PSP. Probably, in many ways, the "yet another device" was due to the pirate market, which was gradually "civilizing." This applies to any platform, any device - people began to consume more premium content. On the one hand - piracy, of course, brought losses, but, in the long term, allowing a multifold increase in the loyal player base. According to Sergei Klisho, general manager of PlayStation in Russia, PSP was so well remembered by players that even people, who were not particularly knowledgeable about the game industry, called all PlayStation products "PSP" for a very long time. This still slips in occasionally and just goes to show that it's the name of the product that many people have referred to as the main name of the console.

In the 2020s, everyone already has gadgets - mobile phones are capable of running video, music and act as a kind of "media combine." The PSP was just their predecessor - a gadget that ran games and had functionality for watching movies. With the advent of the PlayStation Vita, it was already possible to fully use the Internet browser and play games remotely from the home version of the console. PSP sold the largest number of copies in Russia, even when there were home consoles PS2 and PS3 simultaneously on the market with it. Considering the sales of all three consoles, which satisfied the demand of several audience segments at once, it became clear that the console market is a very prominent part of the gaming industry. However, this is from the mass-market side. What about development?
Farewell to the Golden Age
The year 2008 was a turning point for the game industry - there is an economic crisis, which will strongly affect it. Nevertheless, it was time for the release of The Void by Ice-Pick Lodge, "Operation Bagration" by Wargaming, as well as Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason by Action Forms. The latter was released by 1C and was a survival horror with cutting-edge graphics for the time. An earlier version of the engine was used by the same team for their previous project, the shooter Vivisector: Beast Within, published by the same 1C three years earlier. Another cult game of 2008 was the King's Bounty: The Legend game by Katauri Interactive, which won such awards as Best Game, Best Game Design, Best Graphic, Best Role-Playing Game, and Best Adventure Game. Originally the game was called Battlelord, but in March 2007, 1C managed to acquire the rights to the trademark "King's Bounty," a turn-based fantasy setting role-playing strategy game, released by Van Kaneghem's New World Computing in 1990. As a result, many add-ons have been released to the series, and games based on it will still be released on various platforms until 2021, where King's Bounty II is one of the most anticipated big games from the Russian game developing.
King's Bounty II (2021)
Despite some successes, a huge problem for our industry was the fact, that the best-selling games were not domestic, but foreign. Therefore, the initial cost and royalties were formed in USD. There followed a huge number of broken deals, attempts to bargain, and as a result - a lot of projects that never saw the light of day. The second reason is that people simply have less money. If previously a person bought five discs a month, now - one. This led to the fact that a lot of good but passable games have lost a lot of money in sales. AAA titles people continued to buy, very cheap games also, but games of average quality dropped dramatically. The policy of the publishers also contributed. If a developer came to a publisher with a low-quality, but finished, game, it cost the publisher nothing to release 3-4 thousand copies without upfront fees and with very little investment (mostly in logistics and warehouses). The publisher was guaranteed to recoup them and even expand the portfolio of released projects. Moreover, before 2008, any game that was more or less adequate, sold a guaranteed circulation, so virtually no one made a masterpiece internal projects, like, for example, Men of War by Best Way. There is another thing to consider here - the publisher sells games not to people, but retailers and their partners. That's why this circulation could easily be a couple of thousand copies: the partner can't give them back to you. Whether these copies would be bought by the end consumer is a separate question. Sometimes there were "package" offers, for example, if a partner wanted to sell a AAA game for the first day of sales, he would buy other games from the same publisher along with that game.
Cryostasis: Sleep of Reason (2008)
Gradually all publishers stopped financing game development because they stopped making even minimal profit. Russian developers either fell short of the quality required or did not meet the deadlines in which the project would have paid off. The crisis of 2008 brought a lot of troubles to the Russian industry, but it also forced companies to look for new niches and options for development. By this point, Steam was selling games from third-party developers through digital distribution and the service itself had managed to acquire a system of achievements and internal functionality, which greatly simplified the communication between the players.

The development of the digital distribution, coupled with the 2008 crisis, forced publishers to shut down lots of projects that were in development at the time; the opportunities for developers to interact with end-users in many regions immediately hit hard on the publishing companies and sales of physical copies. Incidentally, the localization for the Russian market was done by Buka because the company had worked with Valve since 2005, doing the localization of Half-Life and Counter-Strike 1.6. In addition, Buka was involved in the distribution of their games. Since pricing in Russia has already been formed by the "jewel" scheme, Valve also began to put local prices in Steam, otherwise, the digital distribution would not make any sense.

And yet, the "Golden Era" of the Russian game industry fell in the period from the early 2000s to the crisis of 2008. During this period, appeared many legendary projects that still inspire Russian developers. Publishing companies periodically invested in the development of AAA titles but still focused on short-term investments: thus, not the highest-quality projects appeared, which, however, did not prevent them from making super-profits at the time of release. This policy led to the results and consequences that have caught up with the industry in 2008. This is not to say that from that point on, the industry was gone. It... Rather, it changed its vector - some large developer companies were able to refocus, mastering new approaches to promotion and marketing, making a big bet on attracting traffic and working with the audience. Many companies are developing browser games, as well as games for social networks and mobile platforms. In addition, with the advent of digital distribution through Steam and its analogs, the indie segment began to develop, which included many independent developers and small teams working on small projects.
Steam (2003)
The digital distribution platform turned out to be an excellent distribution channel: easy search, user feedback, elementary installation of the game. In addition, the service supports a lot of social mechanics, in-game achievements, exchange, and sale of items, the ability to communicate and interact with friends, run broadcasts, which makes it a kind of analog of a full-fledged social network for gamers. The system itself installs games, uninstalls, puts add-ons and version updates - in fact, for the end-user it becomes a click of a single button.

Thus comes a turning point for our industry, and the "Golden Age", which many still remember, is coming to an end. That doesn't mean it's ending. It's transitioning into a new paradigm that will prevail until today's realities in 2021. "Big games" continued to come out during this time, too - games like World of Tanks from Belarus-based Wargaming or War Thunder from Gaijin Entertainment, like Escape from Tarkov from Battlestate Games, came out with an immediate focus on a wide online audience.
Escape from Tarkov (2017)
If the crisis had happened in 2011 or 2012, the large Russian development would have continued because, by that time, Steam had already gained momentum, having finally formed as a distribution channel to the end-user. The year 2008 was a turning point for our industry - Steam had not yet had time to get its legitimate development, and the Russian market had already begun to decline. Now Buka is also creating games for consoles, but they are still small projects. Speaking about the interaction between developers and publishers now... Earlier, in 95% of cases, developers went to publishers and looked for funding, but now there are many more projects that can be developed without third-party funding. At the market began to appear new players or those who have had time to adapt to the new realities.

2010 saw the official launch of Allods Online by Nival Online, which won the nominations "Best Online Game" at the GDC 2008 and "Best Game" at the GDC 2009; the first part of Cut the Rope by ZeptoLab, which became a worldwide mobile hit; and the launch of World of Tanks by Wargaming - the game that brought millions of players, incredible success and worldwide recognition to the company. April 12, 2012, was the release of the online shooter Warface, which was developed by three studios of Crytek: the Ukrainian branch of Crytek Kiev, a South Korean branch of Crytek Seoul, the main German studio Crytek Frankfurt and was published in Russia by Mail.Ru Group. The shooter racked up more than two million registrations in two months.

Nevosoft launched a business conference for game developers - White Nights, which now, like DevGAMM, is held several times a year (including outside of Russia) and has already completely managed to replace RGDC.
War Thunder (2012)
In 2013 ZeptoLab released two more parts of its flagship series of games for mobile platforms Cut the Rope: Time Travel and Cut the Rope 2 - and, once again, they hit the top of the world charts. Gaijin Entertainment is releasing the successor to the "IL-2" - War Thunder aircraft simulator, which as of 2021 has more than 30 million players and more than 1,700 existed or existing units of combat equipment.

Now, all projects developed in Russia are focused on the world market, and localization into English is a priority from the beginning of development. It is not uncommon for a game to be released only in English if budgets are limited. A lot of projects now use Free-to-Play monetization and the buy-to-play model is used either by companies that develop games for the console market (although this is not a story about Russian development, except for indie games, which are the latest generation of consoles willingly take in their ranks), or indie developers, whose capabilities do not allow to build long-term operation of online projects and compete with the marketing of large companies, but can act in a scheme of lower costs for a single-time sales to the end-user.

Examples of such projects created in recent years in Russia include such games as Party Hard (2015), Skyhill (2015), Punch Club (2016), Beholder (2016) and its second part in 2018, Sumoman (2017), Hello Neighbor (2017), Life is Feudal (2018), and games from individual developers like Light (2012), Train 2013 (2013) and 35MM (2016) by Sergei Noskov and Far-Out (2017) by Alexander Sergeyev. 2017's Escape From Tarkov by Battlestate Games studio (although, once again, here is the case where developers are mostly focused on the online component), a story-driven multiplayer online shooter with an emphasis on realism, physical model, and ballistics; ATOM RPG by AtomTeam, a post-apocalyptic RPG often compared to the Wasteland and Fallout series; and Pathfinder: Kingmaker by Owlcat Games, at the time an internal Mail.ru Group studio.
Pathfinder: Kingmaker (2018)
It is noteworthy that the creation of the game involved Chris Avellon, who once worked with such projects as the already mentioned Fallout and Planescape: Torment, Icewind Dale II, Star Wars: Knights of the Old Republic II - The Sith Lords, Neverwinter Nights 2 and Torment: Tides Of Numenera. In turn, the developers from Owlcat Games had time to work on the creation of Allods 2: Lord of Souls, Cursed Lands, Etherlords, Silent Storm, Heroes of Might and Magic V, Allods Online, and Skyforge - an epic action MMORPG in the techno-fantasy setting, where player characters are immortal gods who can create their own cult and fight against alien invaders.

In many ways Pathfinder: Kingmaker is a classic RPG inspired by Baldur's Gate, the first two parts of Fallout and Arcanum - in addition to the classic for the genre ability to explore the vast expanses of numerous locations and branches of the character development, players also create and develop their own kingdom. Thanks to a crowdfunding platform, the game raised over 900 thousand dollars in the end, with the efforts of over 18 thousand contributors, was released in 2018 on Steam, and in 2021 the next part - Pathfinder: Wrath of the Righteous - was released.

The vector of Russian game development has changed more than once. One of the reasons for the death of "big" Russian development in the future was, in some ways, a peculiar approach, relevant to most businesses in the country. It did not cost much to print a disk - the cost was twenty rubles, so the margin, even from a blatantly bad project was still high. Of the major publishers, once in full control of the local market, only a handful were able to stay afloat. With the advent of Steam and digital distribution, the need for such publishers became much lower.
Atomic Heart (not released yet)
Today Noviy Disk is no longer engaged in the game business - the company is focused on the literature, films, and educational programs distribution. As of 2017, SoftClub and Buka remained on the market. The only way to stay in the new time market is to try to occupy new niches. Buka, for example, is trying to enter mobile platforms and, despite the fact that, together with SoftClub, the two companies are now part of the same holding company, 1C, they are still competitors.

Those AAAs that aren't made with a sharpened online focus are there too, but often made by small and often indie teams like the aforementioned Ice-Peak lodge, Soviet Games, Lazy Bear, Odd Meter, or Black Caviar Games. The exceptions can be counted on one hand - at the beginning of the 21st year, there are literally a few big games that have either been released with varying success or are in development - King's Bounty 2 from 1C and Atomic Heart from Mundfish, in which Tencent and Gaijin Entertainment invested in 2021. After all, maybe, GSC will not go back to the long development and still release the second part of S.T.A.L.K.E.R. at least next year.