Petr Litos - producing mobile phone games for the region, and further afield

Petr Litos

From his office in the Prague district of Zizkov, Petr Litos runs a company making mobile phone games for both the Czech and international markets. In fact, his firm Nostromo successfully exports mobile entertainment to the whole of central and eastern Europe, the former Soviet Union, Scandinavia and Turkey (and in some cases the whole world). When we met last week, I first asked Petr to name some of the big international franchises his 30-strong team have worked with.

Petr Litos
"Lord of the Rings - that was the first one and very good for our track record. Since then we have bought a couple of nice licenses - the newest one is Shrek the Third, which we have exclusively for the region of central and eastern Europe and Russian speaking countries. Garfield, that's our steady star, everyone likes Garfield. Mr Bean...we have worked with brands like James Bond.

"Plus we never wanted to be considered as a company that's buying the best of Hollywood, or the UK, but also as someone who is from this region and cares about this region. So we also have some very strong local or regional brands in our portfolio. They are Pat and Mat, the Czech originated animation, and another one is Nu pogodi from Russia."

How technologically difficult is what you do? And why aren't more people doing it? I think there aren't many firms in the Czech Republic doing what you do.

"One thing is the sector is not that big. The industry globally is a small industry which is developing, starting to be bigger and bigger, but you still only have a limited number of firms in each country, including in central and eastern Europe and the Czech Republic.

"The difficulties? It's definitely different from what you can do with servers, or client PC stations or something like that. Because nowadays a new game has to support more than 750 different mobile phones. It means we are doing about 120, 150 different versions of a game. Some of them are pretty similar, but some of them are very different.

"You have to handle problems like slow processors and the small amount of memory in handsets. Mostly in big IT development if you have slow processors you have big memory, or vice versa. With mobiles you don't have power, you don't have memory.

"And almost always you have some tricky bugs that the handset manufacturers implanted - of course, I don't think they wanted to, but they did, and we have to find some work-arounds. So it's very, very different, it's very fragmented nowadays."

What is the secret of doing well in your business? I think it's fair to say Nostromo is doing well - what's the secret of success?

"If only I knew that! Well, you definitely have to be fast. You have to focus very much. There are so many opportunities in mobile - it's a buzzword. Everyone here, like even big FMCGs [fast moving consumer goods] are starting to think about what they can do with mobile - how to use mobile to promote, I don't know, Coca Cola, whatever.

"There are those opportunities, but we need to do what we are doing, which is mobile entertainment including games. Not looking to the left, not looking to the right, doing what we do - that's it."

Tell us, or maybe even list please, what territories Nostromo operates in. And how does a company from the Czech Republic get into those territories? How has it happened for you?

"We very much position ourselves as someone who's really strong in central and eastern Europe. That was always our plan: we thought those emerging markets which were not that crowded at some point - they are much more crowded now, but three or four years ago it wasn't that bad...

"And we always treated this as our region as our territory. Nowadays we have headquarters here, we have a dedicated sales person in Warsaw, we have a dedicated person in Moscow, and we have a half-timer down in Croatia.

"We really cover central and eastern Europe, so everything east of Germany. Plus in some cases, like we have Garfield the Movie rights for the whole world, then of course we sell in Latin America, in Asia, in the US, which was very tough. We do that but the territory is central and eastern Europe."

Again, how hard have you found it to get into those markets?

"You really have to have a good portfolio. I wouldn't say it is easy then, but it helps you a lot. So the brands we have always had are something which opens the door. But then you have to perform. So opening the door is one thing, but then you have to have internal processes and things like, to meet the needs of your clients.

"Our major clients are carriers. Nowadays we work directly with 21 carriers within the territory. Each of them is different. Each of them has different expectations, different timing, and we have to find a way to orchestrate things internally, to be able to do things like launching Shrek simultaneously in 20 countries. We had to make it at the time of the premiere."

Is there anything about the Czech Republic that explains your success here? For instance, are there a lot of graduates in your area? Are there any reasons why Prague, why the Czech Republic?

"In the mobile sector what's very important is that the Czech Republic was always a very developed market, compared to countries in the Eastern Bloc. We very quickly reached 100 percent penetration of mobile devices.

"And Eurotel [now O2 Telefonica] especially was a carrier pioneering a lot of different technologies, from a global point of view. So that was a great testing ground. What works here we can, I wouldn't say very easily, but we can very nicely implement in places all around.

"So the Czech Republic is strategically good. It's also good from the point of view that I have never met a partner who was not willing to come to Prague, to have a meeting here, to have a beer here. Prague has a very good name. I believe it would be much worse inviting them to Warsaw or some other place.

"On the other hand, nowadays a lot of global companies, regional companies have their development teams in Prague, or they are building new development teams here. So there is such big demand for IT engineers, for programmers, etc, that we also are thinking about having another team somewhere else. Because it's very, very tough these days."