The color orange might be an unusual choice when selecting an office motif. At the headquarters of tinyBuild — the independent game developer-turned-publisher based in Bellevue — the color orange is fully embraced. TinyBuild visitors are greeted by a receptionist who sports long, orange-dyed hair; is seated behind a sleek, bright orange desk; and invites guests to sit on a comfy, orange couch.
The company’s obsession with orange was sparked five years ago at Penny Arcade Expo (PAX) East, a popular gaming festival held annually in Boston. The company was lucky to land a large booth at the event, but found it was sandwiched between more popular and well-known publishers Blizzard and Ubisoft. TinyBuild needed to stand out in order to attract a crowd. The solution? A trip to the nearest Costco to purchase bright orange accessories to wrap the booth with.
“We bought towels, duct tape, sheets — everything,” CEO Alex Nichiporchik recalled during an interview conducted on orange-cushioned sofas arranged on a second-floor patio outside his office, and beneath a big orange umbrella. “We started decorating our booths with a lot of beanbags, and people really liked that.”
The plan was successful, and tinyBuild decided to stick with orange indefinitely. According to Nichiporchik, he requested to paint the office building’s exterior orange, but he was turned down by the City of Bellevue for fear that the bright orange color would distract drivers along Bellevue Way.
TinyBuild’s first game, No Time To Explain, included a prominent character clad in an orange shirt, and featured fun themes, such as time travel, big jetpack guns, and giant enemy crabs. Originally developed by Tom Brien, the small, Flash-based game received backing from Nichiporchik and tinyBuild to develop it further. After raising $26,000 via Kickstarter, No Time To Explain was launched in 2013 and proved to be popular, according to Nichiporchik.
“It exploded,” he explained. “Suddenly, we have a business that’s making money. Suddenly, it makes sense for all of us to … go all in.”
Later that year, Nichiporchik attended the annual gaming industry conference Casual Connect (since rebranded as GameDaily Connect), and came across DoubleDutch Games’ SpeedRunners — a fast-paced game where multiple players race each other in a side-scrolling, two-dimensional environment.
Much like No Time To Explain, tinyBuild and DoubleDutch Games partnered to further develop the game — Nichiporchik helped with marketing, while Brien worked on the game’s visual aspects. Luke Burtis, a Casual Connect veteran, helped showcase and distribute SpeedRunners, which proved to be another hit for tinyBuild.
“Other developers started pitching games to us,” Nichiporchik explained. “We’re like, ‘OK. Well, I guess now we’re a publisher.’ That just kind of happened organically.”
Today, tinyBuild utilizes its experience helping other indie developers publish its games by offering services such as advising, distribution, hiring, marketing, merchandising, and porting games to major gaming platforms.
And with a fresh injection of $15 million in private investment secured earlier this year, tinyBuild is looking to expand its portfolio of more than 40 video game titles.
Still, tinyBuild started small, in a Bothell garage owned by Burtis. The company relocated several times before it settled into its current office in Bellevue. Nichiporchik chose to headquarter tinyBuild’s local office, which employs 10 people, on the Eastside because of the Eastside’s close proximity to Microsoft, Nintendo, Valve, and other notable gaming companies.
The office in Bellevue handles tinyBuild’s publishing and business operations, while a second office, located in Hilversum, Netherlands, houses most of the company’s engineers. According to Nichiporchik, the competition for engineering talent — as well as salaries and cost-of-living expenses — is stiff in the Puget Sound region.
Nichiporchik is looking to open a second European office in his hometown of Riga, Latvia, later this year, thereby blending his experience working in Europe with tinyBuild’s proximity to the Eastside’s gaming industry in order to help indie game developers build successful franchises.
What’s next for tinyBuild? In August, during a press conference leading up to PAX West in Seattle, tinyBuild announced it will add a slew of new games to its portfolio of published titles, including Black Skylands, Not For Broadcast, Once Upon a Time in Roswell, Secret Neighbor, and RAWMEN.
One upcoming title dear to Nichiporchik is We’re Five Games’ Totally Reliable Delivery Service. The game’s inspiration partially came from Nichiporchik, who noticed security cameras installed at his Bellevue home often recorded delivery people throwing packages onto his porch with little care.
In Totally Reliable Delivery Service, players control an in-game mechanical character’s left and right arms individually to raise and grapple items. When an item is picked up, the character’s weight shifts, causing it to stumble around easily. This makes controlling characters difficult, resulting in funny outcomes. The team decided to implement these mechanics into a game where players try to deliver packages in a goofy way.
The Totally Reliable title could be a franchise starter for tinyBuild.
“We want to make it so that Totally Reliable Delivery Service is the first (game),” Nichiporchik explained. “Then, Totally Reliable ‘Something Else.’ We’re exploring a few concepts in that direction, and based on the same technology.”