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Eugene Nashilov: Cyprus could benefit from sustainable municipal programmes levelling-up infrastructure

Eugene Nashilov, CEO, Strikerz Inc. [UFL] describes Cyprus as a high-quality destination for game developers.

"I believe that Cyprus can become a strong IT hub both for global companies and startups if it remains on its current course," the CEO continues.

Nashilov was speaking to GOLD magazine as part of a cover story featuring 18 of the top gaming developers based in Cyprus, and also reveals more about the company’s next-gen football simulation title UFL, which counts football star Cristiano Ronaldo as one of its investors. More specifically, Ronaldo is part of a group of investors that has recently committed to investing more than $40 million into the development of the new title.

How did the focus on console games, particularly in the sports genre, come about?

First and foremost, both the team and the founding board are big fans of football. It was never a discussion of whether we should focus on football, basketball, hockey or tennis. From Day 1, we knew we wanted to produce a football gaming product. Secondly, we kind of foresaw the opportunity on consoles. The mobile market was getting overheated with rising acquisition costs, and though making a football simulation game is quite complex in its core sense, we started the R&D phase in 2017. When we got deeper into the subject (football licensing, animation & AI tech, business model, etc.) we found that the idea of making a game like that was an even bigger opportunity than we had thought.

Walk us through your title UFL and the reasons you expect it to be a success

UFL is a next-gen football simulation title. Our game is designed as an online league tournament where players create their custom clubs and compete versus each other in the league. We are partners with FIFPRO so all the football players in the game are real and represent themselves with their appearances and names. There’s a rich metagame around the mode with lots of content and feature updates, giving players a fun experience outside of the pitch. The game is free-to-play so there are no entry barriers and, besides that, we’re quite transparent in our communication with the audience. We address UFL’s gameplay as community-driven and user-centric and get a lot of positive feedback and data from the Alpha test that is going on right now. We feel confident in our venture and expect to release it quite soon.

HBO’s success with The Last of Us and collaborations between acclaimed filmmakers and game creators, like Jordan Peele and Hideo Kojima, suggest that gaming is on the way to becoming the dominant entertainment medium. What prospects do these developments open for game developers?

Quite a number, actually. As the entertainment business gets more and more entangled between platforms, genres, leisure & lifestyle, games become platforms that reach wide audiences. There are great opportunities for IP usage, programmatic ads, brand integrations and so much more. The gaming business is already bigger than the music and movie industries, so it really has become the most contemporary entertainment in households worldwide. A bright future awaits game creators, should this trend stay.

Given the growing popularity of e-sports and its evolution into a major sporting event, including an annual e-sports World Cup to be held in Saudi Arabia, what opportunities does this remarkable surge present for game developers?

E-sports is something that needs to be taken quite seriously. It’s a global trend but not every product is fit for it. E-sports modules can help both market the game and help retain the audience. For the game to be an e-sports-ready product it needs to be fairly competitive, cooperative and fun to broadcast, comment and watch on streaming platforms. UFL is set to pursue the e-sports perspective and wants to change how football sim games are watched and broadcasted, so stay tuned!

Your studio, among others developing console and PC games, has chosen to establish itself in Cyprus. What specific attributes make the island an appealing destination for you?

Cyprus is a high-quality destination for game developers. It offers great support for IT entrepreneurs and specialists: there are strong insurance and tax programmes available, which enable a safe and high-quality standard living, and local people are friendly and open. Also, the island provides fantastic weather conditions and a quality networking experience, whether you’re in gaming or some other field.

I believe that Cyprus can become a strong IT hub both for global companies and startups if it remains on its current course.

The recent decision by the House of Representatives to reduce the naturalisation period for C-level executives to four years reflects efforts to establish Cyprus as an IT and games hub. What other changes, policy or otherwise, do you believe would further support this goal?

The reduction of the naturalisation period is a great step forward. It brings with it a promise that businesses and entrepreneurs will stay long-term and will thus be more likely to invest more in the island and its future. It would also be beneficial for the island to become a part of the Schengen zone, so as to ease the travel process for those whose business needs encompass travelling and don’t have EU passports. Besides that,

I believe that sustainable municipal programmes designed to level-up infrastructure on the island would also be a great step as this could raise Cyprus’ popularity as a destination for long-term living for highly-educated IT specialists and their families. For sure, that will help the island to build a modern, multicultural and stable society.

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

Also read: Cristiano Ronaldo involved in $40m investment in Cyprus-based company

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