Darkfall: A Norse startup saga transposed to Greece

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Darkfall is a MMORPG game that’s been  in the making for about a decade. It  was started  by  a  5-person strong Norwegian startup, Razorwax, that  was later acquired  by  Aventurine, a little known  Greek company with no other activities outside Darkfall.

Aventurine moved the Norwegian team to Greece to continue development, and hired more and attracted legions of beta testers.  According to a presentation Tasos Flabouras, Vice President of Aventurine, gave a few months back to an open coffee meeting, it currently employs 30 people, mostly developers.

Darkfall is a fantasy  game, much like World of Warcraft but with a few important differences: it is build around the concept of skill based advancement and focuses  on Player to Player (PvP) fighting with full looting. For this reason, it   appeals to a niche segment of players.

However, ‘niche’ is a deceiptive term for Darkfall: before the official launch of the European Server last February, it numbered 300,000 beta testers, according to Flabouras. And in no more than six months they launched another server for the all important  the North American market.

In the summer of 2008,  Audiovisual, a Greek media and entertainment group, struck an agreement with Aventurine for the Darkfall distribution rights for 50 countries, the  European ones included. The distribution rights for North America are still with Aventurine.

If Aventurine manages to convert the Darkfall  beta testers to paid players, a simple math shows that it will cash in,  from the game license fees, over $13 million.  The annual revenue stream from the monthly fees, for an equal number of users, will be north of  $50 million. These revenue estimations look  promising but they have to set off a decade of development costs plus a non trivial on going operations cost. Still, if we put these expectations in context, they eclipse the prospects of all other startups from Greece so far. But until Aventurine decides to show its cards, we won’t know if this 10 year startup saga can have a happy end. One thing is sure though: Darkfall has changed the startup landscape in Greece.

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