Have you heard of Ary and The Secret of Seasons? In this epic adventure game for PS4, Xbox One, Switch and PC, you follow the young girl Ary on her mission to restore the seasons in the world of Valdi. The award-winning game was designed by the former Start it @KBC startup eXiin, in collaboration with development studio Fishing Cactus and the international game publisher Modus Games.
Working day and night
Sebastian Le Touze founded eXiin in Brussels, back in 2015: “I actually started working on video games years earlier, around 2010. Designing games was something I had taught myself. Back then, it wasn’t a field of study like it is now. I was able to live off it, but it became too difficult to do it on my own. After working in marketing agencies for a few years to earn some extra cash, I decided to create eXiin.”
“I guess everyone knew I would someday start my own company”, Seb tells. “It’s always been something I’ve wanted to do. During the first six months, I still had another job, but I soon switched to working on eXiin full-time. Those two part-time jobs, felt more or less like two full-time jobs, to be honest. I was working day and night, but I guess that’s just a part of who I am. My work-life balance isn’t balanced at all, I’m always working in my laptop, wherever I go.”
Now, eXiin is a full stack video game company, currently consisting of a team of seven people. “In order to grow, we had to have a product ready”, Seb says. “But it takes a long time to get a game fully developed, especially when you’re a small startup.”
Day to day support from Start it @KBC
“Being a part of Start it was a good step forward”, Seb says. “It helped us to grow day by day.. The Start it community is not only a fun group to be a part of, it’s also a place where you can get advice, refresh opinions and learn from other people’s views.”
“But with only ten big companies, the video game industry is rather small here in Belgium. We needed more international contacts to be profitable”, he continues. “Our partner Fishing Cactus played a big role in that, they provided us with a lot of help and expertise.”
No funding, no future
“The support of a big publisher is crucial in the world of gaming”, says Seb. “Designing a video game is a complicated process, even more complex than making a movie. You need experts in many different domains, you could compare it to making an animation movie, but with a duration of 10 or 20 hours.”
Finding extra budget was definitely the hardest part of growing. “Here in Belgium, it’s extremely difficult to get public funding in this industry. It’s hard in Flanders and Wallonia, but it’s even harder when you’re based in Brussels like us. We had some help but no financial support, we were about to give up. Luckily, that’s when the American deal came along.”
In December 2017, eXiin managed to sign a deal with American game publisher Modus Games. “Closing that deal was an immense decision”, Seb says. “We really needed extra capital, it helped us to stay alive. The extra money enabled us grow as a company and as a team. We can now focus on being profitable and continue to grow.
Have things changed at eXiin, now that the startup is working with a big publisher? They sure have, says Seb: “I stay in close contact with Modus Games. We have a weekly call, I present everything that we do and they follow us on a strategic level. With their investment also came a lot of guidance. They want to make sure that their money is being well spent.”
2019 will be a big year for eXiin. “We have a new game coming out in Q4”, Seb explains, “that will have a huge impact on the company. If it’s a success, more financial support will follow and we’ll be able to grow even more.”
“My advice to young startups is pretty cliché, but it’s something that can’t be stressed enough: look at your business as a marathon, a long run. If you only have a short-term vision, you’ll be the first to give up.”
“Especially in video games, short term success is almost impossible. Many people think they can design video games, but it’s a team result of many different sectors working together. In total, there are about sixteen people working on one project, from external music composers to sound engineers. It’s important to stay solid, then things will happen at the right moment. Timing is the crucial factor, you have to be in a good market at the right time.”