A shot of Not For Broadcast, a TinyBuild game

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TinyBuild "War Room Meeting" Led To Crazy Plans To Extract Employees

April 1, 2022

By: Joseph Allen

 
 

TinyBuild has detailed some of the impressive ways in which it helped employees wishing to flee the Russia-Ukraine war. These measures include the CEO personally opening up the use of his house to staffers, as well as a "war room meeting" at which some drastic conclusions were seemingly drawn.

What do we know about the TinyBuild response to the Russia-Ukraine war?

Many studios have been directly or indirectly helping Ukrainian relief efforts in the Russia-Ukraine war. Whether it's bundles like Itch.io or Humble's offerings, or devs like Epic raising huge amounts of money for Ukraine, the industry has stepped up. However, it's probably fair to say that Washington-based publisher TinyBuild has effected one of the most unusual and impressive responses to the crisis so far. In an investor relations document detailing TinyBuild's performance for last year, the studio sets out its response to the Russia-Ukraine war, and there are some pretty astonishing things in there.

 

Hello Neighbor, a TinyBuild game
TinyBuild's many, many franchises include horror game Hello Neighbor, but it might want to turn its hand to spy games after its Russian war response.

In the document, TinyBuild CEO Alex Nichiporchik says the studio planned a "war room meeting" to plan logistics in the face of potential Russian invasion situations. That meeting resulted in several measures being taken. Firstly, the Hologryph team (a first-party TinyBuild development studio) set up a shelter in Lviv in western Ukraine, helping anyone fleeing the fighting. From that point, employees were able to cross the Polish border and take shelter in the Latvian or Dutch TinyBuild studio locations. Nichiporchik also says he's welcomed employees to his own home "in both locations", allowing staffers to stay at his house while TinyBuild's HR looks for more permanent housing solutions. Nichiporchik and his team began planning this operation weeks before the Russian invasion of Ukraine began, apparently. After beginning the operation, Nichiporchik also decided not to attend this year's GDC event, opting instead to focus on coordinating rescue efforts for his staff. 

Perhaps even more remarkably, TinyBuild says that it's also been helping Russian employees who feel reluctant to stay in their country. According to Nichiprochik, TinyBuild planned what he calls a "complex extraction operation" that helped to get employees out of Russia, even as flights were being canceled. A new TinyBuild location is being established "in the Balkans" for fleeing Russian employees, although this will probably be a temporary location, according to Nichiporchik. The studio needs to be in the Balkans because the Russian people are currently under EU sanctions prohibiting travel to any EU country from Russia, so the location needs to be somewhere outside the EU. Most Russians can't even get visas right now, which is what necessitated the "complex extraction operation". The more long-term plan is to create a third studio in Western Europe to which people can relocate. If TinyBuild needs inspiration for its next game, perhaps it could look to what appears to be its own James Bond-style spy operation. It's not a competition, of course, but this does rather throw the Pokemon Company's rather lackluster $200,000 donation into sharp relief.

 
 

How did TinyBuild games perform last year?

As well as these eye-opening insights into how TinyBuild responded to the Russia-Ukraine crisis, there are, of course, financial details in the investor document. After Potion Craft concocted 100,000 sales in just three days, TinyBuild says it then went on to reach more than 600,000 downloads, which is impressive. Not for Broadcast, a game about selectively showing certain elements of the news in order to please a mercurial dictator (hmm), has sold over 300,000 copies since it launched in Early Access in 2019. Rather remarkably, despite the Russia-Ukraine crisis and the relocations it prompted, TinyBuild staff were able to complete projects on time, too.

Potion Craft, a TinyBuild game
TinyBuild's Potion Craft has done pretty well in sales terms.

Looking forward to the future, TinyBuild says it's working on Hello Neighbor 2, as well as the upcoming Hello Neighbor animated series. After acquiring RPG publisher Versus Evil, TinyBuild now has two publishing labels, alongside acquired developers like Bad Pixel and Hello Neighbor developer Dynamic Pixels. TinyBuild acknowledges that the Russia-Ukraine war means the studio is taking an approach based on "caution and vigilance" for the near future; Nichiporchik says his studio is monitoring the Russia-Ukraine war closely, and that should things escalate further, the team has "further contingency plans in place". We've reached out to TinyBuild for clarification on a few things in this story, as well as to ask what these "contingency plans" are and what the extraction operation in Russia entailed.