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Sergey Orlovskiy: Cyprus’ game development community is flourishing

The CEO of Helio Games, the developer behind hit games including 'Westland Survival' and 'Mutiny: Pirate Survival' believes that, despite higher costs and infrastructural pressures, the Cyprus’ game development community has flourished significantly in recent years, highlighting its emerging status as a dynamic hub in the industry.

Speaking to GOLD magazine as part of a cover story featuring 18 of the top gaming developers based in Cyprus, he also reveals more about what Helio Games chose Cyprus, when it became the first gaming company in Limassol in 2017.

How did the focus on mobile gaming, particularly in the survival RPG genre, come to define your game development strategy?

At Helio Games, we recognise that focus is critical in the tech industry. We chose mobile gaming because it’s the largest gaming segment, and found survival RPGs both enjoyable to play and engaging to develop. This focus isn’t just for the present; we plan to dedicate the next decade or more to refining every aspect of this genre.

Walk us through your most successful titles. And what would you say makes a successful mobile game?

Our flagship success at Helio Games is Westland Survival, the second largest survival game globally. Set in a Wild West environment, it particularly resonates with US audiences. A decade ago, the success of a game was based primarily on its intrinsic qualities – engaging gameplay, an immersive storyline and intuitive controls. However, in today’s highly saturated market, a major portion of a game’s success relies on sophisticated analytics and targeted marketing strategies.

Over the past five years, the games market has witnessed substantial growth, reaching US$187.7 billion in 2023 and projected to hit US$212.4 billion by 2026, with mobile gaming taking the lion’s share. What major factors have fuelled the industry’s growth, particularly in mobile gaming?

Actually, this year marks the first market decline after decades of growth, primarily due to the COVID-19 hangover. However, I anticipate a resurgence starting next year. Mobile gaming’s dominance, meanwhile, stems from the widespread availability of smartphones and a vast user base.

How have data privacy rules, such as the EU’s GDPR and Apple’s Identifier for Advertisers, impacted your operations, and how have you adjusted to them?

These changes have significantly impacted us, particularly since our focus is on mid-core to hard-core games that rely heavily on precise targeting. The loss of IDFA was a major blow. In response, we’ve developed advanced techniques to operate within the constraints of Apple’s SKAdNetwork.

In recent years, several mobile game companies have relocated to Cyprus. What factors have driven this migration?

Helio Games was the first gaming company in Limassol, founded in 2017. The reasons for our choice, and presumably for others, include favourable business and tax conditions, an enjoyable climate, the welcoming Cypriot attitude and reasonable living costs. In recent years, despite higher costs and infrastructural pressures, the country’s game development community has flourished significantly, highlighting its emerging status as a dynamic hub in the industry.

What specific changes – in terms of policy, infrastructure development or any other area – do you believe are essential to bolster Cyprus’ growth as a hub for the industry?

Recent changes in legislation – such as reduced income tax for international companies’ employees and changes in immigration and naturalisation policies – have already been of great help. On top of that, I would suggest that Cyprus should enhance its educational and healthcare infrastructure to match the standards of top tech centres and improve housing affordability for employees. Additionally, digitising government services would greatly contribute to the ease of doing business.

(This interview first appeared in the January edition of GOLD magazine. Click here to view it.)

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