The video game industry in Ukraine is one of Europe's largest hubs, with nearly 200 companies involved in video games and game development. Despite the invasion, Ukraine's mature IT sector was able to post a 5.8% increase in earnings in 2022, and over 85% of tech firms resumed operations to pre-war levels by May 2022.
Before the 2022 Russian military attack, over 100 Fortune 500 companies outsourced jobs to Ukraine due to its highly skilled labor force, lower cost of doing business, and growing innovation-focused incubators that received government support. Major corporations such as Boeing, Ericsson, Google, Microsoft, and Samsung had established offices in Ukraine. In addition, local software engineers had emerged as digital leaders, creating globally recognized brands such as Grammarly and Gitlab.
Long before the COVID-19 pandemic hit, Ukraine's mature IT sector was ready for the guerilla lifestyle needed to thrive amid the ongoing tension with Russian forces. Game designers and creators were among the 7,000 tech staff who balanced their jobs with volunteer work. Some made apps to help the Armed Forces and Territorial Defense or helped fellow citizens suffering from the conflict by mapping evacuation routes.
Following the attack, over 70% of local IT employees relocated to safer regions within Ukraine and 16% moved abroad. Though 50,000 IT professionals transferred to other locations, mainly in Europe, at least 75% of tech companies retained most of their clients and contract volumes.
In the aftermath of the attack, local tech firms reached out to Western European nations and other countries for new partnerships, with gaming companies worldwide expressing their support for Ukraine. Despite the challenges, Ukraine's IT sector has demonstrated resilience, paving the way for a bright future in the global tech industry.
GSC Game World is a game development firm that transferred its headquarters to Prague, but more than 100 workers remain in Ukraine.
The studio's first major project was "Warcraft 2000," released in 1998. Its biggest hit, "Cossacks: European Wars (2001)," sold over 5 million copies worldwide. The historical real-time strategy game's success led to the development of "Cossacks 2: Napoleonic Wars" (2005) and "Cossacks 3" (2016.) The survival-horror first-person shooter video game "S.T.A.L.K.E.R.: Shadow of Chernobyl" further cemented GSC’s place in the game dev space. It won the 2007 Best Atmosphere award from GameSpot. A year later, GSC released its prequel, "Clear Sky," while its sequel, "Call of Pripyat," was released in 2010.
Ukrainian Founder: GSC's brisk sales made Sergiy Grigorovich, who established the company in 1995, one of Ukraine's youngest millionaires at 18. At the age of 12, he began renting computer games to his classmates, and then progressed to selling floppy disks at the radio market in Kyiv. His company, GSC, digitized paper manuals and encyclopedias in the mid-1990s when the internet was not yet available in Ukraine. Grygorovych then moved into creating games, borrowing ideas and improving other developers’ products.
Estimated annual revenue: $6 million (RocketReach), $53.8 million (Growjo)
Musemio is an extended reality (XR) solutions provider specializing in immersive learning games for children. Founded in 2018 by Ukrainian-born Olga Kravchenko and American Kaitlin Fritz, the two entrepreneurs with master’s degrees in the arts agreed that edutainment would make culture and art education accessible and fun for kids everywhere because the younger generation needed a new format for learning. The two, who met at a King's College Hackathon event, built a child-friendly educational tech game that parents can use to bring the museum experience to the comfort of their homes.
The games include teleporting to London's Clapham South Deep Level Air-Raid Shelter, Egyptian queen Cleopatra's home, the Cretaceous period when dinosaurs existed, and more.
The platform, available via App Store and Google Play Store, is geared toward children aged 7 to 12. They can use a smartphone or cardboard headset to enjoy the digital experience.
Ukrainian Founder: Olga Kravchenko grew up in Kyiv, Ukraine, and wanted to become an actress from a young age. She lied about her age to join a theater when she was 13 and later went to school in England at the age of 16, where she studied theater at Queen Mary University. With a background in visual arts and exhibition production, Olga's interest in immersive experiences and Virtual Reality (VR) helped her develop Musemio. Olga won Sky's Women in Tech Scholarship and received mentorship and financial support that allowed her to launch the app and release two physical products to bridge digital and physical learning. She was recognized by Forbes in their Art & Culture 30 under 30 list for 2021.
Estimated annual revenue: Below $5 million (Zoominfo)
DMarket is a platform that provides game developers, players, influencers, and brands with the opportunity to co-create video game content and make a profit while having fun in various gaming multiverses. Founded in 2017 by Vlad Panchenko and Tamara Slanova, the company is headquartered in Kyiv, Ukraine, with offices in Los Angeles and London. DMarket uses distributed ledger technology for secure transactions and machine learning algorithms and AI-based predictions for pricing. The platform enables secure buying, selling, and trading of in-game items, helping game developers attract more players, increase player lifetime value, and tap into the multi-billion-dollar skins economy. In 2023, Mythical Games acquired DMarket to launch Mythical Marketplace 2.0, which is built on the former's layer 1 Ethereum virtual machine blockchain. The move propels Mythical into second place among the world's digital assets processors.
Vlad Panchenko is the Founder and CEO of DMarket. Vlad is a 36-year-old entrepreneur, who has been involved in the digital games distribution, as well as in-game items trading since 2008. In 2016 he founded Skins.Cash, a global market for instant in-game skins sales, boasting over two million visitors per month. In 2015, Vlad founded Suntechsoft Corp Limited, which is the #1 private merchant of digital goods.
Tamara Slanova is an experienced international fintech CFO and co-founder of several successful companies in the gaming industry. She was born in Ukraine and grew up with a passion for reading and creating imaginary worlds. Tamara started her career in banking but soon co-founded several cash cows in the gaming industry, including skins.cash.
Oleksandr Kokhanovsky is the founder of NAVI, one of the most influential figures in Ukrainian esports, and the current President of the Ukrainian Professional Esports Association (UPEA). Kokhanovsky has also been involved in multiple gaming-related projects and is co-founder of DreamTeam, an infrastructure platform and payment gateway for esports, and DMarket.io.
Estimated annual revenue: $15 million (RocketReach), $24.6 million (Growjo)
Frogwares is the developer of the Sherlock Holmes adventure-mystery game series. Co-founder Wael Amr said the company chose the world-famous fictional detective to ride on the revived demand for investigation-style games, even before the 2009 Guy Ritchie-directed film and the 2010-2017 BBC TV drama series about the character came out. Frogwares won the Best Adventure Award at Gamercast's E3 2013 for "Sherlock Holmes: Crimes & Punishments."
Amr set up the company in Ireland in 2000 with his fellow French expatriate, Pascal Ensenat. The company name comes from "froggies," a term that Britons would call French people who ate frogs' legs as a delicacy. When the founders—who had moved to Ukraine—opened another office in Kyiv, the city became the development center.
Frogwares also developed the Lovecraftian-inspired detective-horror game, The Sinking City, and the free-to-play massively multi-player real-time strategy wargame World of Battles. The firm’s new horror-mystery offering, codenamed Palianytsia, is under construction.
Estimated annual revenue: $14 million (RocketReach), $19.6 million (Growjo)
Mobalytics is a gaming analytics platform designed for competitive gamers. The platform uses machine learning algorithms to analyze a player's performance and provide personalized recommendations for improving their gameplay. Mobalytics offers tools for League of Legends, Legends of Runeterra, and Valorant, including performance tracking, champion analysis, and personalized improvement plans. The platform also offers educational content, such as videos and articles, to help players learn and improve their skills. Mobalytics is a popular tool among esports professionals and casual gamers alike who are looking to improve their competitive play. Mobalytics' Gamer Performance Index is the assessment tool for the League of Championship Series, held in the US and Canada.
Esports enthusiast Bogdan Suchyk founded Mobalytics with Amine Issa and Nikolay Lobanov in 2016. In 2021, Esports content creators Tim "Nemesis" Lipovšek and Nick "LS" DeCesare became co-owners of the app, which earns money through subscriptions and ads that appear on the platform.
In 2022, Mobalytics spearheaded Gamers with Ukraine, an initiative that directed gamers to resources and programs to help those facing the Ukrainian crisis.
Mobalytics was founded on August 1, 2016 by Amine Issa, Bogdan Suchyk and Nikolay Lobanov.
Bogdan Suchyk is a founder of Mobalytics. He is an avid gamer and esports enthusiast, as well as a serial entrepreneur. He graduated with a Master's degree in industrial engineering and a Bachelor's degree in finances. Before starting Mobalytics, Bogdan started a couple of software companies, including Motify.me and mTips.co. He advises young entrepreneurs and believes in sharing his experience and knowledge to help others succeed.
Nikolay Lobanov is the CTO and co-founder of Mobalytics. Nikolay is an entrepreneur and engineer with a wealth of experience in delivering early-stage ideas to the market. He graduated from the National Technical University of Ukraine 'Kyiv Polytechnic Institute' and currently resides in Los Angeles, California.
Estimated annual revenue: $7.9 (Growjo), $3.8 (Kona Equity)
Aiming to create the best gaming memories by playing with friends, GameTree is a networking app that helps you find teammates who align with your preferences and personality. The social discovery platform uses AI to analyze your tastes and values to recommend curated hangouts of fellow gamers and game titles. Players can also use the app to schedule games, invite others to join their gaming sessions or send a message to others for an in-person board game get-together.
John Uke and Dana Sydorenko co-founded GameTree—which now has 500,000 users—through a crowdfunding project before its 2020 launch. The brand identifies itself as a public benefit corporation or an entity owned by its community of users. Beyond searching for friends, the free-to-use app also seeks to help gamers keep in touch across platforms.
Ukrainian Founder: Dana Sydorenko spent time as a military paramedic and created Ukraine’s best army supply company before co-founding GameTree with John Uke. Dana holds a Bachelor's degree in Criminal Justice/Law Enforcement Administration and is currently pursuing an MBA in Business Administration and Management at Kyiv School of Economics.
Esports Charts is a big data-mining and analytical service provider that generates statistics on real-time events, live tournaments, player/team performance, and spectator reactions. Esports Charts track viewership numbers and engagement metrics across various streaming platforms and social media channels. Their data is widely used by industry professionals, including esports organizations, broadcasters, advertisers, and investors, to evaluate the success and impact of esports events and make informed decisions.
Ukrainian Founder: Ivan Danishevsky, who heads the National Esports Federation of Ukraine, worked for a game publishing firm when he took on a new role at an Esport TV game show. Ivan is a well-known serial entrepreneur hailing from Ukraine, with over two decades of experience in business development, gaming, big data, IT, and machine learning. He discovered how event planners exaggerated game stats and achievements. This realization pushed him to set up Esports Charts as a transparent venue for accurate tournament figures.
Just like the Ukrainian IT sector, the country's video game developers are committed to staying busy with ongoing and incoming projects as long as power supply and internet access can sustain them. The 2022 IT Ukraine Association report shows that 93.4% of IT companies want to continue their investments in the nation. Studios are already looking forward to reopening and working from offices outside their homes. Also, 81.5% of IT workers or firms that have relocated abroad look forward to coming back.
Game developers will continue to make their presence known and voices heard in local and international events this year, as in 2022.
During the Global Game Jam from January 30 to February 5, 2023, 385 Ukrainian gamers joined from remote locations "hidden" by organizers and created 83 games. In February 2022, GDBay held Hyper Casual Game Jam from homes and bomb shelters. Meanwhile, Frogwares chief operating officer Nika Avayan and release manager Iryna Bilous flew to Cologne, Germany, and attended Gamescom, where they shared how the Ukrainian game dev workers are surviving.