The Curious Story Of 'Kingdom Rush' And The Studio Behind It: How 3 Latino Hustlers Sold 30M Video Game Copies

By Juan Lomanto

In little more than a decade, Ironhide, the Latin American video game studio behind "Clash of the Olympians," "Kingdom Rush" and "Iron Marines," has sold more than 30 million copies to become one of the largest in the region.

As the company looks to continue to expand internationally, Benzinga Gaming spoke with the Ironhide team in the context of the Level UY 2022 event in Uruguay, the studio's home country.

Consistency Is The Key To Success

Ironhide has been making video games since 2010. In just 12 years, the studio has managed to launch nine video games, a record that not many teams in the world can show off.

Gabriel Artus, head of PMO at Ironhide, did not witness those first steps of the three founding partners, but he has been walking around the office and its computers for nine years now. Therefore, he is a great witness to the evolution of the team and the transformation of the market over time.

We were the first to be successful with our own project. Before this, only work-for-hire (for other clients) was done in Uruguay. Ironhide may have inspired more people to pursue their own projects," said the person in charge of defining Ironhide's work processes.

And of course, the path of the new generations is something that Gabriel knows very closely since, in addition to being the vice president of his country's developers association (CAVI), he is in charge of the National Video Game Contest, an initiative that has been rewarding the best projects in development for the last 15 years.

"This year alone we had 10 new teams working on new titles. This gives us a parameter of how the industry is progressing, both in the quantity and quality of its output," said Ironhide's PMO.

See also: Video Game Market Sees Another Unexpected Entry As TikTok Follows Netflix's Steps: What Are The Chinese Giant's First Moves?

This number may sound small for many countries in the main gaming markets, but it is not so when we take into account that Uruguay has 3.4 million residents. 

Adaptation As A Survival Method

Now, what's going on in today's Ironhide?

During these 12 years, the studio became well known for only making premium videogames, without falling into free-to-play practices, unlike most developers who publish in the mobile market. But recently, with one of its four projects under development, the landscape changed.

“Until now we were an exception. We'd make a game for two years, playtest it with a small group for a couple of months before release, and hit the market. Only after that, we reviewed metrics and balanced what was necessary and possible. However, in September we did a soft lunch for our new game, Junkworld,” explained Gabriel Artus.

The new RTS video game was a turning point in the history of the studio since, although it maintains the genre that characterizes the studio's work, this time it turns to the free-to-play model. The process seemed natural due to curret market trends, but the decision did not go down well with the studio's lifelong fans.

“The reviews were appalling. We had never released a game that had less than 4.7 stars in the stores, and the truth is that we were not used to it," confessed Paula Bentancur, Ironhide's head of marketing since 2018.

Although, she added, “Today the market takes you down that path; we cannot go against the market. But we're currently working hard on polishing Junkworld to make it as close to an Ironhide product as possible."

Of course, the move seems risky, but according to the current numbers of the mobile market, it would have been riskier not to modify its premium model and lose ground to similar-but-free options.

The safest bet for a new IP like Junkworld is to make it free because if you come out with a new title and it's not free, it might not get downloaded at all. If it were one of our usual sagas, the strategy would surely have been different - as well demonstrated by 'Iron Marines Invasion,' also released recently,” said the studio's marketing manager.

Who Said It Was Easy?

Devoting yourself to making video games is really difficult, especially in the mobile world, where metrics and algorithms are as, or more, relevant than television ratings. And, while anyone would tend to think that, stemming from Latin America would make things even more complicated, Ironhide's PMO believes just the opposite.

"Within all our problems, as a region, we have an advantage, and that is that costs are much lower while we continue to sell our stuff in U.S. dollars,” said Artus, confirming that, in some ways, being a video game developer in Latin America allows people to afford a lifestyle that's superior to that of the average population.

Ironhide has just over 65 employees right now and is working on four titles simultaneously. Interestingly, its most loyal fan market continues to be the United States, the country where the studio triumphed with "Clash of the Olympians" when it was simply a game on the now-unused Adobe Flash multimedia software platform.

Ironhide has also been very successful in European countries such as Germany, as well as in South Korea and China. And, although its greatest commercial success is in the mobile world, the studio has published some of its works on Steam since 2014, and more recently on Nintendo (OTC: NTDOY) Switch.

All of this has made Ironhide one of the most important studios in all of Latin America.

Stay tuned to Benzinga Gaming for more news on Ironhide and other video game developers.

Photos: Monaliza0024 via Shutterstock + Wikipedia.

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Posted In: GamingLatin AmericaTop StoriesExclusivesMarketsInterviewGeneralEl PlanteoeSportsGabriel ArtusIronhide Game StudioLevel UY 2022Paula Bentancur
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