We recently chatted with Mikayel Khachatryan and Vahe Kocharyan, the cofounders of Pluxon, an up-and-coming game development startup based in Armenia. The team in about to launch their first title, Wizzard Race, inspired by their love of unique mobile gameplay and fantasy themes.
Below Kocharyan shares his experience starting the company, finding great talent and managing an international team to build a solid game. We had the opportunity to demo the game at our Yerevan launch, and it’s fairly addictive. Stay tuned as they launch Wizzard Race in the coming weeks!
What inspired you to create Pluxon?
I grew up playing video games and had always dreamed of making my own games. I became a software developer at a very young age and later specialized in app development. My experience as a developer coupled with the introduction of mobile games made the dream of making video games more real. Being inspired by Harry Potter and Quidditch in particular, I came up with the idea of making a wizard contest/racing game and started looking for the right people to start the company.
When did you start developing Pluxon?
After partnering with my old college friend Hayk Gasparyan who was working for Gameloft in Barcelona at the time, I started looking for seed investment. In August of 2013, after just a couple of months, we were able to find an Angel investor. That is when Mike, who was living in the US at the time, joined the team to become the head of business strategy and help form the company and register it in the States. As a result, the company got registered in September of 2013 and the fun game development part was set to begin.
Describe how you built your team.
The team building process at Pluxon was very inspiring and organic. We went from a team of 2 to 10 fully committed people in just 6 months, with a small budget.
After the company was founded, Mher (Mike’s college friend) was invited by the team to lead the marketing campaign at Pluxon to promote Wizzard Race. He immediately clicked with the team and brought Annie on board to do the social media and PR. We then had an art competition for talented game artists where we had a lot of submissions and chose the works of Simone whom we had not known before. We loved his art, he loved our project, and he immediately joined the team. Then, we were fortunate enough to run into Pouya (3D design at Pluxon) at a coffee shop. From then on, it went from strength to strength and we were able to hire 2 animators, a 3D designer, a graphic artist, a scriptwriter and so on.
Currently, our team includes over 10 people from 5 countries who came together to make this a success. There is no real secret to how we were able to do it. Enthusiasm is what drove us and made people want to be a part of Pluxon.
What makes your startup unique compared to others in the gaming space?
The thing that really differentiates us from the majority of the teams out there, is that we do not follow trends. Many startups and even established firms choose to clone existing games, styles and themes in the hope to capitalize on the existing trends. We at Pluxon prefer games over trends.
In addition, a lot of firms either make games for casual or hardcore gamers. We like to combine both and deliver games that are suitable to both audiences. Our debut game Wizzard Race offers three modes, one of which is more of a casual game and the other two are for more hardcore gamers. We also like to make sure that our games make the most of existing hardware to give gamers a more engaging experience.
Where are you based and what markets are you targeting?
We are a US company with the core team currently based in Armenia and about four people working internationally in different countries. We like to think of ourselves as an international team that is very flexible and is not tied to one location. Our potential users will be people from between 14-33 years of age (or what we call the Harry Potter generation). In terms of game preferences, we target gamers who are into racing but are not necessarily into cars.
Explain the gameplay of your latest title.
Wizzard Race takes you to the world of Magic and endless adrenaline. It is a full 3D game. The game starts with you choosing your wizard from 6 completely unique characters. The game features 3 modes Circuit, Timestamp, Massacre. Circuit mode is played by using swipe gestures to avoid obstacles and to collect gold coins, similar to Temple Run and Subway Surfers. Timestamp is a more traditional racing mode and Massacre is where you race and battle against reckless wizards who use magic spells to stop you from winning.
After you earn and collect enough gold, you can enter the wizard shop where you can acquire over 20 defensive and offensive magic skills, new broomsticks, wondersticks (wands), and more.
Besides funding, what is Pluxon looking for from possible partners?
We are looking to get the word out about Wizzard Race as we are convinced that it has the potential of becoming one of the premier mobile games of 2014. Thus, we are doing our best to reach out to the gaming community and journalists in particular who will be interested in previewing/reviewing Wizzard Race.
In addition, we would really like more people to know about us and our project. We feel like we have an interesting story to tell. This will also help us to get more recognition among the game development circles and hopefully be able to hire great talent in the future.
What benefits do you get by being based in Armenia? Do you source talent elsewhere?
First of all, it is a great country to live and work in. Having the presence of incredible history and art, Armenia is truly inspiring. In the technical aspect, Armenia may help teams such as Pluxon to both find interesting talent in game art and design, as well as network with possible partners both in the country and in the active diaspora. There is an evolving startup culture in Armenia which can help teams get introduced to the right people and help boost the growth and success of a project. Hopefully, this continues to expand in the future.
What's the next step for Pluxon? Do you have any new games coming out soon?
Certainly, we have different ideas for other games but we are currently focused on Wizzard Race. We have positioned it to be an epic game and all of our energy and time is currently dedicated to finishing, launching, and continuously updating the game. After we start seeing some revenue or funding, we will start developing other game ideas for which we already have concept art created.
What is one piece of advice you would give to aspiring entrepreneurs in Armenia?
My one advice would be to try to find people of as many backgrounds and perspectives as possible. Just because, you are a gaming company, does not mean all of your employees have to be hardcore gamers or developers. Having people with different perspectives and backgrounds has helped Pluxon create a very unique and vibrant culture that anyone can become a part of.