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Dmitry Terekhin: We enjoy seeing the local gaming community grow and prosper

Nekki, the company behind games including the Shadow Fight series and Vector, has been in Cyprus since 2016 with Founder Dmitry Terekhin revealing he is pleased to see the local gaming community grow and prosper, with more companies arriving every year.

Among other actions, he also suggests Cyprus’ joining the Schengen Area and streamlining the naturalisation process would be pivotal to bolstering Cyprus’ growth as a hub for the gaming industry. He was speaking to GOLD magazine as part of a cover story featuring 18 of the top gaming developers based in Cyprus.

How did the focus on developing games for different platforms, particularly in the action and strategy genres, come to define your strategy?

Our origins go back 21 years to browser and social games. Our evolution into multiplatform experiences, including PC and consoles, reflects our commitment to a product-first strategy. Regardless of the platform, we prioritise the player experience and visual impact, aiming to impress and connect with our fans by triggering the ‘wow’ factor. Our slogan – ‘We create emotions worth sharing!’ – embodies our success, which is evident from the 95%+ organic traffic of our total of more than one billion mobile installs. Embracing the mobile trend in 2011 with the release of our first mobile game, Vector, positioned us as early adopters of this transformative gaming games industry shift.

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

Our standout titles, notably the Shadow Fight series and Vector, have successfully brought together our community through a shared enthusiasm for dynamic action, lifelike animation and a challenging mid-core+ gaming experience. To me, a successful game caters to a diverse player base, irrespective of its financial capacity, strikes a balance between accessibility and complexity, and possesses a distinctive and compelling aspect that entices players to return. A crucial aspect of our success story is Cascadeur, our in-house 3D animation software. This tool, which played a pivotal role in elevating the visual appeal and overall player experience of our games, has now become an industry asset. Accessible to developers beyond our own studio, Cascadeur stands as a testament to our commitment to advancing the entire games landscape, contributing to an enriched visual narrative and an elevated standard of gameplay for all developers in the industry.

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?

The mobile gaming boom is the result of a convergence of factors. Mobile device ubiquity and technological advances have enabled high-quality gaming apps, and gaming engines have spurred community growth and game diversity. Free-to-Play (F2P) models have broadened access, while multiplatform experiences have drawn players to mobile. Gaming is integral to daily life and extends beyond traditional gamers through gamified content. The industry’s evolution, marked by creativity, user-generated content (UGC), effective marketing and innovative cross-collaborations, as well as a competitive and inventive spirit, continues to claim a growing share of the entertainment landscape.

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?

While Nekki relies less on marketing than many in the mobile industry, privacy regulations like GDPR and IDFA changes have presented significant challenges. Targeting and acquiring the right audiences has become more difficult, and investing in traffic is riskier with fewer indicators of audience relevance. For free and freemium apps, advertising is a crucial revenue source. However, it is under strain from policies affecting both advertising volume and targeting options, consequently impacting developer profit margins. This limitation, in turn, constrains developers’ budgets for the ongoing development and enhancement of their apps. In light of these challenges, diversifying revenue streams emerges as a crucial strategy. We remain committed to prioritising the delivery of top-notch service to our players. This includes employing transparent and educational approaches to encourage user opt-ins for data sharing. Recent changes in the App Store have proven instrumental in facilitating more precise and targeted marketing efforts, resulting in noticeable growth and fostering hopeful prospects for the future.

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

Cyprus has become an attractive destination for gaming and IT companies due to a combination of regulatory advantages, quality-of-life considerations, and ease of adaptation. Factors such as the hospitality of the locals and the island’s abundant sunshine contribute to its appeal. Nekki has been in Cyprus since 2016 and we enjoy seeing the local gaming community grow and prosper, with more companies arriving every year.

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?

To further solidify Cyprus as an industry hub, joining the Schengen Area and streamlining the naturalisation process would be pivotal. These initiatives, already in progress, will contribute to making Cyprus an even more attractive and secure location for investment and relocation.

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

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