Ubisoft Romania became famous because of Silent Hunter 3 and Peter Jackson's King Kong. Romanian developer Fun Labs made a name for itself with the Cabela games. Serious Sam's place of birth is in Croatia, Mafia is a Czech product ... I could go on and on with examples such as these to prove that Eastern Europe not only exists, but is also very active in the international gaming industry. But what does that give you, other than a few names and "Did you know?" trivia best suited for a quiz show? Yes, we code. We have proven that Eastern Europeans are able to create competitive products very much appreciated by any gamer. But knowing this, you still have no idea about the reality of the Eastern European gamer; you don't even know we exist, and I'd wage you never even thought about it.
It may come as a shock for you to find out that one of the biggest World of Warcraft guilds was established by Romanians, one of EVE Online's most notorious pirates is Romanian, and World Cyber Games first prizes have gone to Eastern European players. How did this happen? How is it possible for Eastern Europe to establish such a powerful name in gaming? And you didn't even know about it; you, who are the prime target of every game distributor and developer; you, who have access to the latest hardware and software technologies; you, who are rich and benefit from the power of freedom and information; you, the gamer every gaming magazine writes for.
The Americans dominate the videogame industry. Numerically speaking, this will be true for many years to come, due to the simple logic of economics. But what the Eastern Europeans lack in numbers is compensated with quality, passion and unity. We don't want to be the biggest, but we intend to be the best. The amazing success of online games uncovered our hunger for electronic entertainment, and surprisingly enough, it also showed we are no longer poor, nor closed minded, nor uninformed. In fact, what the American gamer should fear is our ambition and our enthusiasm; we offer fresh faces and our gaming market isn't glutted. We've stepped into a world where the American gamer is already bored. We've reached a point where we feel we have to make a statement: We're just as good as you.
And as surprising as it sounds, the turbulent shift from a communist nation to a capitalist one has given us numerous advantages in catching up to the rest of the world.
Advantage number one: piracy.
Until 1996, Romania was one of the so-called most favored nations due to our economic collapse under communism. Our new government lacked many of the regulatory laws required to balance a free market. More to the point, we didn't have a copyright law, so possessing and distributing pirated software, including games, wasn't a crime. Pirated games flooded into the market and is how games became popular in Romania.
Discovering games was like getting ice cream after a terrible flu. In a situation like that, I can never get enough goodies; I want more and more until I make myself sick again.
While copyright laws have been introduced, old habits die hard - we still have a very high piracy rate. Once you get your hand in the cookie jar, it's hard to stop, especially when you truly can't afford to buy many cookies. But still, 20,000 pirated Lineage 2 accounts say a lot about our interest in games.
But we're not all bad. Despite the huge amount of pirated copies, 1,300 copies of Lineage 2 were sold in Romania, and 300 people have preordered Guild Wars: Factions.
Advantage number two: ambition.
Let's talk about EVE Online. It's a game that requires an awful lot of time and patience, but tickles your ego in such a pleasant manner, you become obsessed in no time. It is also a game where it's very hard to become important. But Gavroche is an ambitious 23-year-old Romanian who wanted to show the world that all it takes to make a statement about his homeland's potential is passion and courage.