Borys Musielak

Dec 8, 2020

6 min read

Mapping the Polish Game Industry

Poland is the seventh largest producer of games in Europe and 23rd worldwide. Two days before the release of Cyberpunk 2077 we’re bringing you the ultimate map of the game ecosystem in Poland.

The Map of Polish Gaming Ecosystem 2020 was mapped in collaboration between SMOK Ventures and Inovo VC. The map is licensed under Creative Commons Attribution 4.0

Can you see something weird on the map? Let us know!

We’re working to fix any inconsistencies on the map here (https://docs.google.com/document/d/1_31WI98XLiMKYTbrm0wHuJbYslgiHPfLuVCtLvuz84s/edit) and will update the map once every few days so please ping me at borys@smok.vc if you see an error that’s not listed in the Google Doc. Thank you for helping us making the map better!

How to read the map?

  • Unicorns are companies (public or private) worth more than 1B PLN (~250M USD).
  • Wolves are companies (public or private) worth more than 100M PLN (~25M USD)
  • Rising stars are companies (mostly private) worth less than 100M PLN (~25M USD) but growing significantly and with a potential to join the Wolf club soon.
  • Startups are companies that are not game development studios but still operate in the gaming industry either by providing tools and services for gamers, esports organizations or the game dev companies.
  • In Venture Capital we’ve listed the VC funds which have gaming or esports as one of their investment theses and have invested in at least one company in that category.
  • The business angels listed are those who have at least one investment in gaming / esports and agreed to be listed in the map.
  • Publishers listed are known to operate in Poland and have published at least one Polish game.
  • Esports lists professional teams and streaming organizations, conferences, leagues and venues.

Video Games: Great Fun = Serious Profit

It is no secret that the video game industry has been on a tear the last few years growing from a niche market for young people into an immense and dynamic sector. According to data published by the International Federation of the Phonographic Industry (IFPI), the video game sector has been outperforming the music and film industries revenue-wise. In 2018 the video game industry generated revenues of $137.9 billion, compared to $19.1 billion generated by the music industry. This trend has been further reinforced by the COVID-19 pandemic.

“Poland is a top player in gaming. Polish publicly-traded gaming companies are worth over €12bn. Poland is uniquely positioned to create critically acclaimed games like The Witcher and The War is Mine. We have a developer base of 400k, the biggest in CEE, and access to world-class creative talent. As of 2019, Poland is the seventh biggest exporter of games in the EU, but we expect to further strenghten our position in the coming years. “ says Tomasz Swieboda, Partner at Inovo VC

Poland is a top player in gaming

Europe played a key role in the development of the video game market, led by Poland and its 440+ game development studios covering the entire spectrum of gaming. The diversity of Polish-developed games span from indies such as “This War of Mine” developed by 11Bit Studios, mobile social casino games created by Huuuge Games to massive AAA productions like “The Witcher” and “Cyberpunk” by CD Projekt Red or “Dying Light 2” currently being developed by Techland, to name a few.

It’s easy for people to miss the country of origin of the game, but odds are quite high it’s from Poland! According to data published by PolskiGamedev.pl portal Polish developers release around 200 games for PC’s and Consoles, 35 VR titles and around 100 mobile games every year. Keep in mind that the 100 mobile games mentioned are coming from the top phone game developers as keeping track of every polish mobile game would be too difficult. According to the Game industry of Poland 2020 report PKO BP bank,96% of the Polish game industry revenue came from exports. That’s nearly $556 million making Poland the seventh largest exporter of games in the EU!

Previous version of this article mentioned that according to the PKO BP bank (PDF), Poland is the fourth largest exporter of games in the world. However, we verified the source and deemed in not reliable, thus updating the article.

What makes Poland so good at gaming?

There are three key reasons which enable gaming to thrive in Poland: Poland’s Education System, National Gaming Pride and the Warsaw Stock Exchange.

1: Strong fundamentals

Polish Pupils rank 10th in the world in math and reading comprehension according to the latest OECD global education test of 15 year-olds. The purpose of this test is to assess how well countries are preparing their students for the future. The high proficiency in mathematics at a young age leads to more highly skilled programmers.

The education process doesn’t stop there. According to the Polish Agency for Enterprise Development (PAED), Polish universities are currently offering 60 degree courses related to game development and more than half of those courses hone robust programming skills. This surge in game-related courses is a strong indicator of an increasing interest in game programming among young people in Poland.

The passion of the Polish youth doesn’t come solely from programmers but also from the sheer number of gamers. According to Newzoo, there are around 16 million gamers in Poland alone, making the Polish consumer market worth around $596 million. Furthermore, Poland has one of the most inclusive gaming communities with 47% of all Polish gamers being females. Let’s keep in mind that the population of Poland is 37.97 million (2019), which means that 42% of all people in Poland are gamers! With gaming having such a high penetration amongst the Polish people, it’s no surprise there is an aspect of national pride involved in Polish gaming.

2: Gaming as a Source of National Pride

The Polish Games Association, one of the largest and well-known game developers in Poland that works alongside representatives of the Polish government, states that, “the local game development industry has become a source of national pride.” As a matter of fact, video games were declared one of Poland’s National Intelligent Specialization resulting in many government aid programs with the objective of further improving Poland’s global competitiveness. More specifically, the Polish government managed to muster PLN 300 million via an EU-funded program designed to help finance new gaming projects.

Another demonstration of how deeply gaming is ingrained in Polish culture is the inclusion of “This War of Mine”, a wartime survival simulation into the education ministry’s official reading list for schools in Poland. According to Mateusz Morawiecki, the Polish Prime Minister, this is the first time a video game has been included in a national education program.

3: Warsaw Stock Exchange (WSE) and the Special Gaming Index

Another key reason for Poland’s lead in the European Gaming sector is the Warsaw Stock Exchange (WSE), which takes games so seriously that they created an index exclusively for gaming companies called WIG.Games. There are currently 43 gaming studios listed on the WSE, out of which 12 are on the main trading floor while 31 are on the New Connect Market.

The New Connect Market is an opportunity for young high tech companies in sectors such as electronic media, biotechnology and so on to get the funding needed to become one of Poland’s biggest companies. Offering more liberal obligations and information requirements lead to a low cost of entry, making financing more accessible to young promising video game companies.

Giving young gaming companies the option to issue shares, especially now can accelerate further growth in the Polish gaming industry. Currently investors are looking to capitalize on Poland’s growing gaming market which is just coming off a 32% increase in revenue between the years of 2018–19. Moreover, this growth is not likely to stop due to the COVID pandemic encouraging more people to give gaming a try.

According to Piotr Borowski (a member of the management board of the WSE), “Gaming companies have been in favour of the Polish market. Inspired by the success of large gaming companies, investors are keen to invest in smaller gaming companies which are now going public on the capital market.”

About the Map

Whether you are an investor looking to capitalize on the Polish gaming market or someone who wants to turn their gaming vision into reality, it can be hard to do that without the right connections.

This research has been prepared as a joint effort of two venture capital funds: SMOK Ventures and Inovo Venture Partners. And we’re here to help.

SMOK Ventures is a US/Polish VC fund investing between $50k and $1 million in early stage startups in Poland with a focus on gaming and software. The fund invested in three gamedev studios in 2020: Exit Plan Games, Nibble Games and a yet unannounced international gaming project. Contact: smok@smok.vc

Inovo Venture Partners backs early-stage, post-traction startups and helps them grow 100x through a robust network and operational support. Inovo invests between €0.5–2M in startups from Poland and the region. One of the gaming investments of the fund was ECC Games, which successfully IPOed on the Warsaw Stock Exchange. Contact: pitch@inovo.vc

Also read: 12 Deals in 12 Months. Year One of SMOK Ventures in Review