Jens Begemann of Wooga

Category: Future heads

© Wooga

© Wooga

© Wooga

The video game industry has seen rapid change over the past couple of years: games are increasingly played on smartphones via Facebook rather than on consoles. Wooga was one of the companies that spearheaded this development. Founded in 2009, the Berlin-based company now employs more than 240 staff. Jens Begemann, founder and CEO of Wooga, reveals how popular video games are created, talks upcoming trends and explains why Berlin is the perfect location for Wooga.

Wooga is one of the flagship companies of the video game industry in Europe. Again and again you have managed to develop video games that generate turnover in the tens of millions. Every month more than 50 million people all over the world play games created by Wooga – what is your secret?

I think one of our key strengths is that we are always prepared to change. We regularly ask ourselves if what we do and how we do is still compatible with the current market environment. If it is not we are not afraid to make major changes. For example, when we started out in 2009 developing Facebook games we didn't know that only a few years later we would exclusively develop games for the mobile market. Throughout our company history there have been many changes and experiments, small and large ones, which have made us what we are today. 

Hamburg has successfully positioned itself as a video game city in Germany – nevertheless, you chose Berlin as the place to found and grow your company. What were the main reasons behind this decision?

The city's international population combined with the comparatively low cost of living and its cultural offerings are key factors for companies like Wooga. Our games are played all over the world. This makes it extremely important to have a diverse team in order to make sure that our products are developed in accordance with market needs. We employ staff from more than 40 nations all working under one roof here in Berlin. Berlin's excellent reputation makes it an easy job for us to convince talented individuals from all over the world to come to Berlin and work with us. 

According to your experience, how close are the ties between the Berlin-based video games industry and other sectors in the IT industry? How important is it to to have a constant exchange?

Being able to share thoughts with other Berlin-based founders was particularly important and valuable to me, especially during the early days of Wooga. The startup ecosystem in Berlin with its diversity and size is an excellent platform to enable this. Now that we've put Wooga on a solid footing I'm more than happy to share my experience, which is why we regularly invite founders to use our office spaces for meetings and networking events.

And how about the exchange with other creatives, for example from the film industry?

Games and films are very different. However, many of our employees came to Berlin because of its diverse creative scene, which is why there are many contacts between our employees and other creatives in Berlin and this on-going inspiration is important to Wooga.

In the past year, you secured the rights to develop the first Futurama mobile game, which is a great success. Has this pushed Wooga closer to the top of the video games industry?

The Futurama fan community is very passionate. The series ended in 2013 and since then fans have been waiting for a sequel. This was the reason why we focused our attention on developing the game in way that would reflect Futurama's unique style, for example by working in close cooperation with the original story and production team of the series. There are a lot of Futurama fans in the video games industry and we have received a great deal of praise for our adaptation and our attention to detail, which I'm very happy about.

Not only smartphones but social media and cloud technology, too, have drastically changed the video games market. You have even developed games for Apple Watch. Which new technologies will be a major influence on video games in the near future?

When it comes to console games virtual reality will be key as this technology opens up a whole new realm of possibilities for users to experience a game and interact with it. For casual mobile games, however, which are played several times a day in short sessions, either on the go or at home, smartwatches will be the go-to devices. So far we have developed two games for Apple Watch and we have integrated everything we have learned from Toby in terms of user needs and behaviour into Farm Time. I think, especially in the smartwach market, making the very small display convenient and intuitive to use is a top priority. This means that the same approach that works for smartphone apps doesn’t necessarily work for smartwatches. We kept this in mind while developing Farm Time and from what we have seen since the launch in April this approach seems to have paid off.

Before we wrap this up, let's go back to your company headquarters. Could you please complete following sentence: Berlin is...

... subject to constant change which makes it the perfect location for Wooga. 


Tanja Mühlhans

Leitung Kreativ- und Medienwirtschaft, Digitalwirtschaft, Projekt Zukunft