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In conversation with Utomik :: Netflix for games

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Every few years, a new model pops up in gaming. Motion control, Free to Play, Virtual Reality, Subscriptions etc.. Among these game streaming services have popped up from time to time. Gaikai, its successor PlayStation Now are some of the few services that offer video game streaming.

In all of this Utomik is the new kid on the block. A subscription based model that starts off at 5 Pounds a month, and offers a versatile library of games. All of which are available for you to play and enjoy as long you are a subscriber.

But what sets Utomik apart from the others? We set out to find out the answers. We were fortunate enough to get in touch with the team behind the service, and asked them to best explain the service.


So to start with, tell us how your vision of a subscriber-based game streaming came about? Give us a brief on when, how and why you decided to chart on this path?

 You’ve seen what happened to Gaikai and OnLive. Netflix and Spotify weren’t as big as they are now either, so people were still getting used to switching from buying physical things (dvds, albums) to digital streaming.

The idea started in 2008 already, but back then the market wasn’t really ready for it.

We did build the first version of our technology during that time and learned a lot from it. It’s also the time when we made our first contacts with big companies in the game industry, some of which are now a partner of Utomik.

Then there’s also the issue with internet speed not being what they are today. Lower bandwidth speed and the fact that games are a more interactive medium than music or video really hurt the promise of streaming back then.

Now that bandwidth is less of an issue in more and more countries, you see other companies trying their hand at gaming subscriptions again too. We just always knew that streaming a game via the cloud in the way Gaikai and OnLive used to do it wasn’t the best option for the best quality, so we’re trying a different approach. The response from users has been amazing so far, so I truly believe we’re on to something here. Something that sets us apart from our competitors.

Also tell us a bit about your team. How many people did you start off with? How many members do you have now? How do you see yourself expanding?

We started Utomik in 2014 and it got great feedback right from the bat. That shows that there was always a high demand for a subscription based gaming service. We started with 14 people and have grown to about 25 people at this moment.

Your service is different from other ones like Onlive and Gaikai, in so much as it downloads a chunk of game to the players’ hard drive and then lets you stream the rest, to ensure smooth performance. Give us a brief know-how (if possible) of the technical wizardry behind this.

I can’t go into too much detail about our technology unfortunately. It’s like a secret recipe at your favorite restaurant. If we say too much you run the risk of it being copied by everyone else ;). But yeah, on Utomik you download a small part of the game to ensure you can start playing as soon as possible, and the rest download while you play, so you’re never interrupted.

This is also a great thing for people with slower internet connections. You can still enjoy a wide variety of games, as it takes into account your connection speed. We like to pride ourselves on being able to deliver 100% original gameplay that way. And once you’ve played a game (since it stays on your hard drive until you delete it) you can insta-play the next time you start up Utomik!

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Unlike movies and music, gamers haven’t yet completely given up on buying physical discs. Part of the reason is because the downloads are MASSIVE in size and internet speed varies from country to country. Do you see this as a challenge to the service you provide?

We actually see this as an opportunity for Utomik! You won’t see massive file sizes on our platform! If the first download is relatively big compared to other games on Utomik you’ll see a notification on the game’s page, so you can either avoid those titles or do something else while it downloads the game. And like I said before, you only need to play a game once on our service to be able to insta-play it the next time around. Combine that with the fact that we consider the internet connection of our users, so each game is playable for everyone, no matter how slow or fast your internet connection is.

There’s also the matter of price. When you go to a store and buy a physical game you pay between €40 and €60 euro here in The Netherlands. Sometimes even older titles are still quite pricey, and they can’t keep older games taking up shelf space for too long as new releases keep pouring in. With us you just pay a small monthly fee and you’re able to enjoy as many games as you’d like for as long as you’d like! We offer quite an eclectic mix of titles in a wide variety of genres, so there’s plenty to enjoy for everyone.

There’s always going to be people that prefer physical discs and that’s totally fine.

I know the feeling of owning something physical can feel way nicer than having everything digital. It doesn’t mean that they can’t enjoy Utomik too ;).

In your still young library, I could see some classic titles like KOTOR and other high quality ones like FORCE UNLEASHED and DARKSIDERS. How does one go about acquiring those? What is your acquisition process?

Acquiring big name games like those is not an easy process. You have to remember we’re just a small start-up company. We’re not Sony or Electronic Arts. We travel around and meet with all the publishing companies. Many are excited about Utomik, and have already joined or are considering to. It’s a personal process where we talk with all the people involved, and listen to what they see as the future of gaming, and how subscription fits into that. Selling games per unit has been around since the stone age, so it takes time for big companies to change to something new.

A look at the various publishers who are partners with Utomik

But there’s nothing out there quite like Utomik. It shows by us already having signed over 50 publishers to the platform, with more on their way. We are being noticed by the big publishers and we have some big names coming up in the next couple of months, so keep an eye on Utomik. We’re here to stay and we’re growing fast!

How would you envision building a community around your service? And tell us how would it differ from say, STEAM?

Everybody that has tried Utomik is really positive about how it works. That helps in getting people excited about the service and be excited about it towards the outside world. Ultimately what you want as a company is having your customers act as your ambassadors. Word of mouth is still a very strong tool, even more so in this digital age. I have already seen some cool stuff around the internet from people that wanted to share their excitement about Utomik. Things like that make us very happy!

Without our users we wouldn’t exist in the first place. But we also value our partners a lot. And then I’m not just talking about the bigger publishers, but also every indie developer that has just a single game on Utomik. I feel like Steam (aka Valve) is losing their connection to developers. It’s not a very developer-friendly platform. They don’t have to be of course, since their foremost interest is the gamer, and almost every developer wants to release on Steam no matter what Valve does to the platform. At Utomik we like to form a good relationship with all parties involved and using everyone’s feedback to improve our platform. I feel that being friendly, supportive and open gets you a long way.

We also try to be as approachable as possible on all our social media. We have weekly Facebook live-streams where you can interact with us, hang out with other Utomik users or just viewers in general, while we play games that are playable on Utomik. We love talking to everybody! We also take input very seriously and address issues as soon as possible. If players want to see more games in a certain type of genre, we jump straight on it and try to get those titles on Utomik!

Are there any titles you feel extremely emotional about and dream of putting in your list? Something that you still feel nostalgic about from your earlier days as gamers?

My most favorite older game, Knights & Merchants, is already available on Utomik, so I’m covered. Spent countless days on building a nice little town in that game, just to watch the AI do their thing. The animations are just so much fun to watch in that game! Never really liked to do the battle part of the game, so even though I put over a hundred hours in it I never completed the game.

Sometimes a game just clicks on another level for you than the developers meant it to do, you know?

I would really looooove to see Enslaved: Odyssey to the West on Utomik though (call me Bandai Namco!! <3). It’s a highly under-appreciated gem. The dynamics between Monkey and Trip were very enjoyable, it’s a story I think about fondly on a regular basis. Besides that I’m personally a huge supporter of indie games and I have a big list of titles I’d love to have on Utomik. I feel emotionally invested in the indie scene and want to see any game showing quality or promise doing well. That’s also a thing we pay attention to at Utomik. Regardless of whether gamers pick up on a game when it releases, if we think it’s a great game, we’d love to have it on Utomik and support it.

Your service distinguishes itself from the pack by being extremely reasonable, regardless of any country its’ in. Is there any insight you can disclose about your approach to the business model? Anything you feel comfortable about disclosing?

The way we handle our technology makes it so we can offer Utomik at a lower price than any of our competitors. We believe we offer a great subscription service for an affordable price. If you’d offer your service for let’s say 15 dollar a month or more, that already puts up a barrier of entry. If you only play games for a few hours a week, or even a month, then you can’t get your value out of a service like that. You might as well wait for games to go on sale and buy them then! We know there’s a lot of gamers out there that don’t have as much free time anymore as they used to have. Or are even able to keep up with the avalanche of new releases that you see every day. Those are the people that like to play games, but don’t want to spend a fortune on it anymore. Then 6 dollar a month isn’t as much of an investment anymore. We try to keep it fun!

Any message you feel like conveying to gaming fans in India?

We’re happy to see the continuous growth of gaming in India! We hope that with Utomik we’re able to let more gamers enjoy their hobby, as we try to counter some of the troubles with our unique technology that some of you have with limited broadband data plans. Hopefully we can also welcome quality games made in India to our platform in the (near) future. Khush geming!

If you want to know more about Utomik, you can head over to their website, and look into their offerings in detail. Our team has been trying out Utomik for the past month, and we have had a great time with it. That review will be out soon, so stay tuned for that. In the meantime if you have any questions, or words of encouragement. The comment section is all yours.

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