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Shady contracts and big payday dreams are driving Turkey's booming hypercasual studios

Istanbul developers are a powerhouse in the hypercasual mobile market. But burnout and bad publishing deals are rampant.

Month after month, 2021 has been filled with stories about millions of dollars in investment pouring into Turkish game studios.

In July, you might recall that Zynga snapped up Peak Games to the tune of $1.85 billion while companies like Hungri Games and Dream Games have roped in millions of dollars to open new offices and support their explosively popular titles.

But what's making all these studios out of Istanbul so successful in the hypercasual market? According to an article in independent news outlet Rest of World, it's a mix of the Turkish software industry's development roots, economic instability, and a new set of shady contracts presented to young developers as their only ticket to the middle class.

In his report, Kaya Genç provides an excellent brief history of why Turkish developers got such a head start on making hypercasual games for mobile devices, but also shares some useful details about what kind of contracts developers face when trying to enter the market.

Genç was able to review one publishing contract offered to Turkish game development studios. The terms start of fair enough, stating that "The Parties agree that the CONSULTANT shall be paid 10% of the Net Profit generated by the COMPANY. The Fee that can be paid to the CONSULTANT for a game can be between 20.000,00.-USD and 100.000,00-USD."

Seems reasonable enough, but what follows is less favorable for developers. "In case Net Profit cannot be generated by the COMPANY or the Net Profit is below the amount of 200.000,00-EUR, the CONSULTANT will not receive any payment," the contract read. "In case prototypes of ideas shared by the CONSULTANT are prepared and tested, if (i) the CPI shall be below USD 0.30, or (ii) day one retention value shall exceed 30%, the CONSULTANT shall be paid TRY 1,000 (one thousand Turkish Liras)."

The net result is that unless a developer's game brings in large amount of players or revenue, they barely see any money. One thousand Turkish Liras is only about the equivalent of $116. Developers are left trying to churn out a game idea almost every week, hoping they can find the one that meets the demands of their contracts.

Genç says there are other warning signs that Turkey's gaming boom might be building up to a bust. Though pay is high and working conditions are better at companies like Peak Games, smaller developers regularly churn through high school and college graduates, allegedly stringing them along with low pay and brutal hours.

There's a lot more under the hood of Turkey's game development success—including a (fascinating) connection to popular pastimes like backgammon, chess, and okey. You can read more in Genç’s full report.

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