“If you have a dream, fight for it” – interview with @alexisbonte

In early 2009 I had the opportunity to interview some online game creators for BBGUniverse, one of my personal projects . One of the most interesting interviews was with Alexis Bonte, especially for his final message to game creators:

If you have a dream, fight for it in order to make it real. Maybe you don’t have the money, the time or the people of a big game developing studio, but the Internet is full of possibilities.
Now, social networks bring us a new world to explore. All you have to do is work and don’t give up.

While this fits perfectly for game creators, the sphere can be enlarged to all entrepreneurs. As this was one of the most important interviews I had done, I will reproduce it below because it was a part of my personal development.

Interview with Alexis Bonte

eRepublik is about changing the course of history in a huge virtual society. As a citizen in this New World of 63,500 you have the power to make a difference and fulfill your economic, political or military goals like never possible before.” This is what states on the game page. Erepublik became gold this autumn and it has over 60.000 thousands players after less than 2 years since it is online. We had the priviledge of an interview withAlexis Bonte , co-founder of Erepublik.

Q: Please introduce yourself. How did eRepublik change your life?
A: I began my professional career in the pharmaceutical industry with CPH Pharma. In Internet, I was part of the team that built lastminute.com, and I become Managing Director for the group in Italy.
After the sale of lastminute.com I became a business angel for different projects. Currently, I am the CEO of eRepublik.com, a company which I founded with George Lemnaru, and I am a board member at: SEII, CPH Pharma, Farmacia y Salud, Fitnesskit.com, Trilulilu.ro (where I am also the non-executive chairman), Tevin.ro as well as at Centrofarm.ro and GeneralCom both publicly listed at the Bucharest Stock Exchange. eRepublik changed my life in that Ihave very little time for other stuff but it is worth it.

Q: How would you describe the game?
A: eRepublik, is a mirror version of the real world where users follow their political, economic or military aspirations to change the course of history. In eRepublik citizens can live out their dreams, interact with friends and meet new ones as they navigate their new world.

Q: There are hundreds of browser games created by people from the entire world. Is eRepublik special? Why?
A: eRepublik is special because there is no artificial intelligence. Everything is based on human interaction.
eRepublik is built around the concept of a daily social experience and has an advantage over other strategy games, because it demands a very small fraction of users’ free time (about 15 minutes), while providing them a much deeper experience for that time than anything available at the moment.

Q: Who had the idea to create the game and how did the story of eRepublik begin?
A: The game was born, based on an idea from co Founder George Lemnaru, after a long conversation we had when we met in Bucharest about a year and a half ago. George’s idea was to develop and economic strategy game but we ended by adding tons of things!
I ended up buying shares in Tevin Solutions, the company George founded, and we created eRepublik Labs in order to develop the game.

Q: Creating a browser game requires a lot of involvement and there are good and bad things that happen.Could you describe a positive and then a negative experience you had in the game?

A: When you are not a big company, a big developer, is not easy to find the means to set a project in motion. You have to get money, people… But if you fight for it, there is always a way out, an option.
In the case of eRepublik, the initial investment for production of the beta version of eRepublik was €200,000. During 2008 an additional total of €550,000 was invested for the development of Version 1 by the French venture capital firm AGF Private Equity, as well as by several Business Angels with broad Internet experience.

Q: eRepublik is a game based on community. In several interviews you have declared that the community is the one that develops the game all the time. What relationship do you have with your players?
A: eRepublik has been developed by a team of 25 people in Spain and Romania. During its beta phase, we received a lot help from volunteers and received input from many active citizens who have provided their comments and ideas. For me, this feedback is essential because they, the citizens, are the ones who really know the game. For example, now that we have launched V1 (the public version), we have counted on the help of our community to find and solve bugs, add features, improve things that they didn’t like. Thus enhancing the players’ experience.

Q: What do you like the most of this relationship? Could you list some positive and some negative things from the experience with your players?
A: For example, the fact that users create the majority of the content also makes the world inside the game grow rapidly. There are thousands of companies employing real people and thousand of independent newspapers.
We have carried out meetings in Spain and in Romania with users, and it is very rewarding in terms of the feedback received from users regarding the different aspects of the game. You can exchange ideas, opinions… and it is very positive.
I can mention one thing which is not really bad but that shows the high level of implication our citizens have with the game. They are so involved that if they do not like something new they will chase you all around with messages and emails in order to prove their point!!!

Q: What means eRepublik now? (if you could tell some things from the present of the game)
A: Today, eRepublik has over 60.000 citizens all over the world. This means over 60,000 real people who enter the game at least once a day for an average of 15 minutes.

Q: Did the financial crisis affect eRepublik? Does it happen inside the world you have created?
A: The economy of eRepublik was affected during the transition to the V1. The creation of raw materials and their industries required some adaptation and created some level of confusion at the beginning, but players were up to the task and they overcame all the troubles. That and wars have reactivated eRepublik’s economy a great deal
Talking about real life, it is obvious that if people have no money, they can’t buy eRepublik gold, for example. But we have not noticed any ill effects of the crisis in eRepublik this is probably due to the fact that you don’t have to buy gold to do well and if you do it is quite a small spend.

Q: What plans do you have for the future of the game? (It would be interesting if you could provide a spotlight on the future development).
A: Now, we have finished the launch of the V1, so we have to improve things. We will continue developing new features and possibilities.

Q:You have over 60,000 players and you are still in beta. How much did you invest in the game and what advertising methods do you use? Do you have any sponsors?

A: Actually, we are not in beta, we launched the public version, or V1, of eRepublik back in October. And we don’t have any sponsor. Over 95% of the eRepublik world has been created by its citizens; its social based game play allows it to spread virally in terms of content and users, with almost no distribution and development costs. Our citizens are our best sponsors.

Q: Do you run any other project? If yes, Could you tell us a few words about them?
A: eRepublik is my only executive role I’m either an investor or board member in other projects. The main internet one would be trilulilu.ro the leading video, audio and images streaming community in Romania.

Q: Please speak to your players and possible future players. What would you like to tell them?
A: I would like to say that eRepublik is more than a multiplayer online game. eRepublik is a mirror of the real world: in the game, citizens can live out their dreams, interact with friends and meet new ones as they navigate their new world. We want to revolutionize the way strategy games are created, distributed and played by leveraging the power of communities and the Internet.
eRepublik is perfect for strategy games fans, videogame players, bloggers, members of online social networks and various online gaming communities, and also for Ex-videogame players who want something new, for people who have the money but do not have the time to play the online games currently available.

Q: Do you have any message for developers that would like to create browser games?
A: My message is: if you have a dream, fight for it in order to make it real. Maybe you don’t have the money, the time or the people of a big game developing studio, but the Internet is full of possibilities.
Now, social networks bring us a new world to explore. All you have to do is work and don’t give up.

Q: Would you like to add anything else?
A: Thanks for your interest in eRepublik

THe original article can be found on http://bbguniverse.com/2009/01/12/67/ .

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My name is George Olah and I am an entrepreneur and web developer. My favorite web domains are web development, online gaming, gamification and social shopping. If you need any work done in these fields please contact me!
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