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Poland’s video game sector powers up

Poland has emerged as a thriving and successful hub for video game development in Europe, but developers are facing a shortage of fresh talent.

The country is home to hundreds of studios of varying sizes and it is a significant market for video games. It's the eighth largest market in Europe and is expected to generate $408 million in revenue in 2015, according to research by Newzoo, while an article by VentureBeat claimed the sector also employs an estimated 2,000 game developers.

The largest studio in Poland is CD Project, which develops and distributes games worldwide. The company has a market cap of $690 million and is best known for creating "The Witcher" series of video games. The third game in the series came out in May, selling over 6 million copies worldwide.


A developer at Polish video game developer 11 Bit Studios
Wojtek Radwanski | AFP | Getty Images
A developer at Polish video game developer 11 Bit Studios

Another notable studio is Techland, which was founded in 1991 and whose games include recent titles such as "Dead Island" and "Dying Light". However, the company thinks the Polish government hasn't fully recognised how successful its video games sector has been.

"The Polish government, and the EU as a whole, should recognize the power of this industry and give it its due support. We create products that are global and can be distributed at the click of a button," Techland COO Pawel Zawodny told CNBC in a statement.

"Our numbers all speak for themselves – we have 260 employees across 4 cities and Techland's last two major successful games sold over 20 million copies combined. 'Dying Light', our latest release, reached over six million players since it launched in January 2015."

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Europe's video games sector as a whole has been growing strongly for years. "Minecraft", the creative sandbox game, was made in Sweden, while some of the main developers of "Grand Theft Auto V", which became the fastest-selling video games of all time after making $1 billion in three days, are British.

"The games industry is the fastest growing content sector throughout Europe, with consumer spending at more than €20 billion ($22.8 billion) in 2015, out of a global market of €68 billion," Dr Jo Twist, CEO of Ukie, the U.K. Interactive Entertainment trade body, explained to CNBC in a statement. "Studies show that the European games market is expected to grow in double-digit figures until 2017, so the sector really is thriving."

There are two key factors to the success of Poland's video games sector. Firstly, it has a strong education system.

"The biggest advantage to game devs in Poland as a whole is just how developed and accessible our education system is," explained Zawodny. "Higher education is highly subsidized and programs focusing on science, medicine and maths are extremely developed here.

"So we have an abundant talent pool of young people to pick from to help shape into game devs. These individuals are highly knowledgeable in their related fields and are often fluent in multiple languages."

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Secondly, Polish people have developed a culture of hard work and perseverance that Zawodny describes as "blind invincibility".

"No matter what comes our way, we try to persevere. We'll often try things (for better or for worse) simply because we believe that if anyone can do it, we can," he explained. "For instance, quite a few external parties told us we're going in way above our heads when we proposed what 'Dying Light' would be and that we would build it all. So we had our doubts, but we never let it stop us.

Pawel Miechowski from 11 Bit Studios
Wojtek Radwanski | AFP | Getty Images
Pawel Miechowski from 11 Bit Studios

Pawel Miechowski, senior writer for 11 bit studios, another game developer, backed up Zawodny's point.

"Maybe the success has something to do with the Polish mentality, because we're very stubborn in proving that impossible is eventually possible ('it's impossible to do?! Watch me!') and I know this sounds funny, but we perceive ourselves that way," he told CNBC in an email.

However, both Miechowski and Zawodny were concerned about a lack of potential employees from around Europe -- in spite of the advantages of Poland's education system. Miechowski emphasised the importance of the industry collaborating with universities and technical colleges in order to make sure people are trained for the future.

"Currently, the Polish gaming industry is very well developed, the companies sell games globally, and are well recognized - this is the advantage. But there are disadvantages as well, mostly lack of potential employees," he explained. "We need more people, and it's not just a question of Poland, but a global one. The games industry is very specific so even the best educated talents still need to learn when starting professional careers."

Follow Luke on Twitter: @LukeWGraham