Marika and Klaus Schmitt from upjers. Photo: Harald Hesse
Online Games From Bamberg
The game developer and publisher Upjers has been one of the big players in the Bavarian gaming industry for years. More than 100 million registered users worldwide play their browser and mobile games. The Bamberg-based company does not show off its success, and there is a reason for this.
Klaus and Marika Schmitt had never dreamed of such a big success seventeen years ago when they sat in their living room in Memmelsdorf, Upper Franconia, and programmed their first games. Just like that. Just for fun. They worked for a few game fans in a small community in which they were known under the name nasenprinz funworxs and produced browser games like kapitalism, Rumble Race and Kapiland. They created a dynamic, which is reflected in the further development of the company. At the beginning, as their business with online games started to grow, the Schmitts rented two rooms in a backyard, hired their first part-time staff, experimented, and developed diligently.
The company was officially founded in the summer of 2006. "In February 2008, we made our first relatively big breakthrough with Wurzelimperium in Germany, Eastern Europe, and a little bit in the Netherlands too," says Klaus Schmitt.
Wurzelimperium Has Major Success
The garden simulation game was very successful. In January 2009, Upjers moved into new, larger premises - only twelve months later the office space had to be doubled. The managing director admits: "We have grown so quickly that we have hardly been able to keep up. The need for personnel grew steadily. At that time there was no need to ask for a certain browser game to be developped next because every game was a success. All you had to do was to be fast enough and to deliver." The Schmitts worked hard and developed hits like My Free Farm and My Free Zoo.
»Zoo 2 Animal Park« and »Wurzelimperium«
Mobile Games Market
It was clear to every market player that this gold-rush atmosphere would not last forever. New technologies and platforms emerged. The world, including games, became more mobile, and the whole business became increasingly difficult. The pace was very fast but during this time, Upjers‘ strategic skills were demonstrated by the fact that the company tried to position itself as broadly as possible from early on. "The great dynamism in the market leads to a high pressure to adapt. This is why we are constantly trying out new things in order to identify and serve any business areas at an early stage. Of course, the necessary reorientation involves a considerable effort," explains Marika Schmitt.
Browser Games and Apps
Their games can be purchased on key platforms like Google Play store, Apple Store, and Amazon Store. "It was not easy to gain a foothold in the mobile market. We made a big effort and spent quite a big amount of money for this purpose," says Klaus Schmitt. But in the end this payed off: While the sales of browser games are declining, sales on mobile platforms are rising. Klaus Schmitt: "We now have mobile games that generate just as much revenue as browser games. Mobile currently accounts for thirty to forty percent of our sales. We started at two to three percent." Among Upjers‘ mobile games are also some well-known former browser games, such as My Free Zoo and My Free Farm. Today the company works with around thirty browser games and over twenty app games.
A Life Before and After the Company
In order to cope with such a workload, a motivated team of employees is needed. But can experts from the games sector really be lured to the town of Bamberg? Although the northern Franconian metropolis has a beautiful historic old town, it is still different than hotspots like Munich. Marika Schmitt smiles and says: "If you want to live and work in a big city, Bamberg is of course not the place to be. But our city and the region are very attractive. Bamberg's beautiful old town is a UNESCO World Heritage Site. Thanks to the university we have a lot of students, many bars and pubs. You can live here for a relatively low price - even a little house on the outskirts is affordable." Her husband adds: "We reject the start-up mentality of living with and within the company. We take great care to ensure that the work-life balance of our employees is guaranteed. The working hours are extremely flexible, and everyone can organize their day as they wish. We don't actually work overtime or crunch times."
The upjers office. Photo: upjers
Recruiting at Upjers is no different than at other game companies. They receive applications from all over Germany. The proximity to the universities of Bayreuth, Nuremberg, or Erlangen helps to get young talents on board. The company trains its own IT specialists. Business as usual, so to speak. It all works according to plan and the Schmitts don‘t show off their success. In the end it is a question of mentality – very Franconian!