How I Turned a Video Game Hobby Into a $7 Million/Year Business

Hi I Turned a Video Game Hobby Into a $7 Million Per Year Business

Countless people around the world have wished they could turn their love of video games into a career. But Pavel Konstatinov is one of the few who took action and made it happen. In this interview, Pavel shares his story and how he was inspired by successful game developers that he admired.

Today, RetroStyle Games generates more than $7 million in annual revenue and employs more than 100 people. They’re currently working on their first game for PlayStation and Xbox, so big milestones are just around the corner.

Read on to see why Pavel encourages others to “embrace the journey with passion and resilience.”

👇 Key Takeaways

  • Reinvesting into the business has been key for continued growth.
  • Pavel was inspired to turn his hobby into a career by a story of other game creators.
  • Online communities, like forums, were key to RetroStyle Games’ early growth.
  • Social media and SEO have also been pivotal.

Overview

Business Name: RetroStyle Games
Website URL: https://retrostylegames.com/
Founder: Pavel Konstantinov
Business Location: Kyiv, Ukraine; Limassol, Cyprus
Year Started: 2010
Number of Employees/Contractors/Freelancers: 100+

How much revenue and profit does the business generate?

Last year, 2023, we ended with $7 million in revenue. The total profit amounted to 3 million dollars. 

That said, while I haven’t done cash out, almost ALL of the money is invested back into the company and its growth. 

Tell us about yourself and your business.

I started in game development because I love video games and wanted to make a difference in the industry. Inspired by successful game developers, I began my career over 15 years ago as a 3D artist. This experience led me to create RetroStyle Games, a studio that makes engaging and beautiful games. 

I (like many other entrepreneurs), didn’t realize I was building a business. For me, it was as if I was just doing what I loved to do. Now we are one of the largest game art outsourcing companies in Eastern Europe with more than 100 employees.

RetroStyle Games Website

How does your business make money?

RetroStyle Games makes money by offering specialized game art and development services. Our services include making 2D and 3D game art, creating environments, making game assets, and developing games from start to finish. 

We serve a variety of clients, from small indie developers to large game studios, mainly in the US, EU, and South Korea where the game industry is well developed. Our work ranges from contract-based tasks, where we focus on specific parts of a game, to full partnerships, where we handle the entire game development process. 

What was your inspiration for starting the business?

I was inspired to start RetroStyle Games because of my lifelong love for gaming and the desire to be more than just a player in the industry. The moment that really changed my perspective was reading an interview with the creators of “The Witcher,” who had taken a big risk to follow their dream. Their success story showed me that it’s possible to turn a love for gaming into a real, satisfying job. 

With my experience in 3D art and game design, I wanted to create a place where creative and technical people could work together to make games we’d enjoy playing. It was about turning a hobby into a career and making a significant contribution to the gaming world.

Pavel and team at the table
Photo courtesy of Pavel Konstatinov

How and when did you launch the business?

RetroStyle Games started over 15 years ago, beginning our path in the game development world. We started small with our first mobile game, “Mars Miner.” Although it wasn’t a big hit, it was important because it showed we could take a game from an idea to release. It proved we could make fun games. 

When Apple’s App Store came out (July 10, 2008), we saw a big opportunity and decided to focus on making mobile games, seeing it as a way to reach lots of people.

How much money did you invest to start the business?

We started out with a few thousand dollars of our savings. Starting RetroStyle Games didn’t require a lot of money. It began as a small project fueled by passion. We used our own savings to fund it, which meant we had to be very careful with how we spent our money. We focused on creating simple, basic versions of our products and used lean methods to develop our games. 

We put our earnings back into the company to help it grow and innovate. Our growth from a small team to a reputable name in the game development and art industry shows how well we used our limited initial funds to achieve lasting success.

How did you find your first few clients or customers?

We found our first clients by using online communities and word-of-mouth in the game industry. Early on, forums and game developer groups were crucial for sharing our work, talking about industry trends, and meeting potential clients. Being active on these platforms helped us not only to showcase our projects but also to build relationships and prove that we are a reliable and creative partner for realizing unique game ideas. 

We also knew having a strong online presence was important, so we created our website to showcase what we can do and be a way for people to reach us (even though our website looked disgusting at first, it really started to get results and people started finding us). 

Original website of RetroStyle Games
Original website of RetroStyle Games

Our first clients found us through these ways, drawn by our passion for game development and our focus on quality and innovation.

Tell us about your first year in business.

The first year of our business was a time of learning and slow growth. We faced the challenge of starting a new company in a competitive field. We had to improve our services and manage how to run a studio. We worked hard for our few clients, which meant working long hours and learning how to handle projects, meet client needs, and keep to deadlines. 

Despite the challenges, it was exciting to see our work come to life. Every project helped us get better at what we do and understand the market more. This first year built the foundation of our business, showing us how important it is to be resilient, focus on quality, and build good relationships with clients.

What strategies did you use to grow the business?

Do your job well and you’ll get noticed. Your first clients will tell their friends about you, and their friends’ friends will tell their friends about you. Word of mouth, which will always be true in business. We believe that providing top-notch art and game development services is key to growing our business. This commitment to excellence has helped us build a strong portfolio that draws in new clients. 

We’ve also focused on improving our online presence, knowing how important SEO and digital marketing are for reaching people worldwide. Our company has a Promo department (which deals with social media) and an SEO department (which deals with the website), and they are constantly competing with each other, which leads to interesting results. 

Networking at industry events, online forums, and on social media has been essential. We’ve broadened our services to meet more needs within the game development community, from small indie teams to big studios, offering complete solutions. Forming strategic partnerships and collaborations has also helped us grow, giving us the chance to work on many exciting projects.

Tell us about your team.

Our team is the core of RetroStyle Games, consisting of almost 100 hardworking people who love what they do. This includes game designers, 3D & 2D artists, Unity & Unreal developers, HR department and project managers. We’ve evolved from a small group of passionate people to a large company because of our team’s talent and effort. 

Everyone brings their own skills and creativity, sharing a love for gaming and a commitment to doing their best. We focus on open communication, working together, and always learning, which lets us take on tough projects and explore new possibilities in game development. The variety in our team’s skills and backgrounds makes our work better and is a big reason for our studio’s success and ability to adapt.

RetroStyle Games Team
Photo courtesy of Pavel Konstatinov

What are your future plans for the business?

Looking to the future, RetroStyle Games is ready for a time of strategic growth and new ideas. We plan to get even better at making both 2D and 3D games and to use new technologies and platforms to improve how people play games. We plan to DOUBLE our team by the end of this year, and we are actively hiring (if you are interested in gaming, feel free to email us)

We are currently developing our own game for PlayStation and Xbox. We have found a big publisher, and we have agreed to a sponsorship deal with them. We also plan to improve our marketing and sales strategies by using data analytics and AI to better understand the market, engage customers, and design user experiences. Our goal is to not just increase the size of RetroStyle Games but to improve our ability to create game experiences that appeal to players worldwide.

What was the turning point when you knew your business was successful?

The turning point for our business came with the success of our mobile game, “Spirit Run.” This game was not just a hit, but it also showed what our team could do. When “Spirit Run” became popular and got great feedback, we knew we had made it. 

This success was a big deal for us. It got us noticed by more clients and partners, and our work increased. This moment was when we moved from being a small startup to a known player in game development. Seeing our passion turn into a successful business was thrilling and pushed us to grow and innovate even more.

Photo courtesy of Pavel Konstatinov

What advice do you have for other entrepreneurs?

To other entrepreneurs, I advise embracing the journey with passion and resilience. Business is a long-term effort, and passion helps you overcome challenges. I loved the story of the owner of Starbucks: before he opened his first coffee shop, he went around to about 200 investors looking for money to realize his idea. And on his 201st attempt, he finally found it.

Don’t be afraid of failure; see it as a chance to learn. Be flexible in your strategies, build a strong team, and promote a culture of openness and innovation. Success depends on your team and shared values. Keep learning, as growth stops when you think you know it all.

What is your favorite quote?

My favorite quote, which has been a guiding principle for me and RetroStyle Games, is by Winston Churchill: “Success is not final, failure is not fatal: It is the courage to continue that counts.”

This quote encapsulates the essence of entrepreneurship and the mindset needed to navigate the complexities of building and growing a business. 

It reminds us that success should not lead to complacency, nor should failure lead to defeat. Instead, it’s the perseverance, the courage to face challenges head-on, and the continuous pursuit of excellence that truly define our journey and lead to lasting achievements.

If you had to start from scratch, where would you begin?

If I were to start from scratch, my starting point would be to identify a niche within the game development industry that aligns with my passions and where I can offer unique value.

As far as I’m aware, the game outsourcing market is now overcrowded with big players (this was not the case 10 years ago). On top of that, AI is also superimposed. So far it can’t completely replace artists, but I think it will be fixed in the short term.

The biggest beneficiaries of this will be the developers of subscription-based AI software, who will come up with unique solutions for creating 3D models. It’s necessary to identify what “pain” or what “human service” AI can replace. This would involve extensive market research to understand current trends, gaps in the market, and potential customer needs. 

Building a strong foundational knowledge in game design and development, possibly through formal education or self-taught methods, would be my next step. Networking would also play a crucial role in the early stages, connecting with other game developers, artists, and industry professionals to build a support system and potential partnerships. 

Lastly, I would focus on creating a minimum viable product (MVP) to validate my game concept with real users, using their feedback to iterate and improve the product. Starting with a clear focus, a willingness to learn, and an openness to feedback would be essential in navigating the early stages of launching a new game development venture.

Pavel speaking to a group
Photo courtesy of Pavel Konstatinov

What are some of your favorite books, blogs, podcasts, or YouTube channels?

Rich Dad Poor Dad by Robert Kiyosaki taught me about financial literacy and thinking differently about money. Yep, this book is pretty popular, but for some reason, people often forget the main point that it’s important to increase your income stream through assets, not liabilities.

Measure What Matters by John Doerr introduced me to Objectives and Key Results (OKRs), changing how we set and achieve goals. In our company, we VERY actively applying the management system described in this book.

Resources like Game Developer and ArtStation, podcasts like Game Dev Unchained,” and YouTube channels like Extra Credits have been crucial for staying informed and inspired, offering a mix of technical knowledge, industry trends, and creative insights.

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