Tracing the milestones of Indonesia's earliest gaming startup success – the indie developers behind Infectonator
A decade ago, the idea that a popular video game could come out of Indonesia was unfathomable. For the longest time, gamers all over the country had played video games by big-budget developers from Japan and the West. Few imagined anyone local could ever match the level of creativity, polish and fun that these foreign game companies offered.
It was around this time that two college graduates from Indonesia quietly released a free-to-play Adobe Flash game to websites like Kongregate and Armor Games. The game would become incredibly popular over the years, while the team behind it grew into a full-fledged game development and publishing company. That game is called Infectonator and the company, Toge Productions.
Dorm room pandemic
Toge Productions, whose name in Indonesian means “bean sprout,” began life when then college students Kris Antoni and Sudarmin Then decided to create Flash games together. Flash was popular at the time, with thousands of creators making animated cartoons and games on websites like Newgrounds and Armor Games. Creators could earn money through several ways, such as getting a share of ad revenue from the website or creating in-game purchases.
The first Infectonator game was released in December 2009, with a Christmas-themed variation launching within the same month. In the game, the player clicks the screen to infect a few humans in the screen with a zombie virus. The zombies would then chase the other humans to try and infect them, creating a chaotic cascade in retro-style pixel graphics.
Infectonator went on to go viral in February 2010, with the release of the World Dominator version. This version had more levels and zombies with special powers that the player could release. According to a 2012 interview with Kris (now Toge’s CEO), this version had accumulated over 120 million plays across various websites.
In the years after the World Dominator, Toge produced more Flash games, including the strategy game Necronator and more sequels to Infectonator. They also began experimenting with selling premium content in their Flash games, creating a new source of revenue. However, Flash-based web applications and games eventually became less popular. HTML5 began to replace Flash, being lighter and more secure.
Life after Flash
Fortunately for the Toge team, they, too, had moved on. As early as 2013, they began developing Infectonator: Survivors, a sequel in which players control humans trying to survive in a randomized zombie apocalypse. The game was eventually released in 2016 on Steam, the world’s biggest video PC gaming platform and marketplace.
Toge’s growth did not stop there. In 2017, the company announced its seed funding from Discovery Nusantara Capital, after years of staying bootstrapped. In the same year, Toge began its life as a game publisher. In January, a month before announcing the Discovery funding, it announced its investment in game studio Mojiken; in August, it published the cat-themed platforming game MagiCat.
The following year, it provided funding to Game Changer Studios and published one of their games, the horror-themed simulator My Lovely Daughter. It also saw MagiCat released on the Nintendo Switch console, along with Mojiken’s Ultra Space Battle Brawl. In addition, A Raven Monologue, which is an interactive story developed by Mojiken and released for free, received an “Overwhelmingly Positive” rating on Steam.
Grow new saplings
Today Toge has expanded to a team of 14, from just two students initially, handling both game development and publishing. It stands alongside other prominent Indonesian developers and publishers like Digital Happiness, which produced the DreadOut horror games (which is getting a movie adaptation), and Touchten, which specializes in mobile games.
Toge and these companies have benefited from recent trends in the video game industry. For one, game development has become more accessible, thanks to video game engines (the framework in which games are built and played) becoming more affordable, or even available for free. Also, with online marketplaces like Steam and itch.io, developers can market and distribute their games quickly.
Indie game projects, in turn, have become more ambitious, with developers pursuing unique artistic directions and game design concepts. Consumers are also increasingly open to playing indie games in a market saturated by expensive yet sometimes derivative big-budget productions.
Toge’s latest game, Coffee Talk, retains the team’s trademark pixel-art style but takes a relaxed, narrative-focused direction as the player assumes the role of a barista. Interestingly, it was Mohammad Fahmi, the company’s marketing and PR manager, who came up with the game concept during a company-wide game jam. Indeed, Toge has come a long way since its days as a mere sprout but it has not forgotten its indie roots.
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