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Aleksandra Rudis: Cyprus is pivotal in the expanding gaming sector

Cyprus’ efforts to build a sustainable tech ecosystem, combined with the potential to draw global talent, make it a prime spot for innovation, Aleksandra Rudis, the CEO of Apella Games suggests.

Speaking to GOLD magazine as part of a cover story featuring 18 of the top gaming developers based in Cyprus, Rudis, among other things, talks about how gaming is emerging as the dominant entertainment medium, opening up new avenues for storytelling, audience engagement and cross-media collaboration.

How did the focus on console games, particularly in the F2P action genre, come about?

Apella Games’ strategic focus on console games, specifically within the free-to-play (F2P) action genre, stems from a combination of market trends and our team’s expertise. Recognising a substantial demand for high-quality F2P action games on consoles, we aimed to meet the needs of players seeking accessibility and depth in gameplay. This direction aligns with the strengths of our team, which comprises individuals with backgrounds in successful AAA titles. By entering this genre, our goal is to deliver an engaging gaming experience that merges the excitement of action games with the widespread appeal of the F2P model.

Walk us through your flagship title, Rite of Titans, and the reasons behind its success.

Rite of Titans stands as our flagship project, embodying our vision for interactive and immersive gameplay. Its success is due to its blend of innovative game mechanics, compelling storytelling and cutting-edge graphics. Our team’s extensive experience in AAA gaming, coupled with regular player feedback, has been instrumental. Constant refinement to meet the evolving standards of the competitive F2P action genre has been a priority. The game’s unique fusion of arcade sports and heroic shooters caters to fans of both genres, creating a distinct niche in the games market. Apella Games stands out due to this innovative approach, combined with our agility and high-calibre team.

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?

Such developments signal a shift towards gaming as the dominant entertainment medium. This trend opens new avenues for storytelling, audience engagement and cross-media collaboration. Game developers now have exciting opportunities to transcend traditional narrative and experiential boundaries. The increasing demand for story-rich games akin to cinema and literature allows developers to craft intricate narratives, potentially attracting a broader audience. Collaborations between game developers and traditional media offer funding opportunities, leading to higher production values and ambitious projects. These developments underline the cultural importance of gaming, providing fertile ground for innovation. Game developers are uniquely positioned to advance interactive storytelling and audience engagement, contributing to the evolution of the gaming experience.

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?

The surge in e-sports’ popularity, highlighted by events like the e-sports World Cup in Saudi Arabia and the recent BLAST Premier World Final 2023 in Abu Dhabi, presents substantial opportunities for game developers. The growing interest in e-sports expands the audience and drives demand for engaging games, as seen at the Abu Dhabi event where top Counter-Strike teams competed for a US$1 million prize pool. Developers can leverage this trend by creating titles tailored for competitive gaming, enhancing spectator experiences and seeking partnerships within the thriving e-sports ecosystem. This presents an opportunity for increased visibility, recognition and potential collaboration within the growing e-sports industry.

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 attracts studios like Apella Games due to its unique advantages for the gaming industry. Its strategic location, access to the European market, and high standard of living make it ideal for developers. The island’s business-friendly climate, coupled with attractive tax incentives, fosters innovation and growth. Known for its tech-savvy community, Cyprus is pivotal in the expanding gaming sector. The country’s efforts to build a sustainable tech ecosystem, combined with the potential to draw global talent, make it a prime spot for innovation. This commitment strengthens Cyprus’s position in the global gaming market and ensures its ongoing development.

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?

This move aligns with Cyprus’ desire to create a sustainable tech sector. The global games industry’s immense growth potential, coupled with advances in VR gaming, e-sports and subscription-based streaming services, positions Cyprus favourably. However, improvements in visa processing for professionals are necessary to avoid delays in securing residency permits. Financial incentives for new investments can further propel the Cypriot tech industry, while collaboration between educational institutions and the private sector is vital for talent development and preparing young Cypriots for diverse tech-focused roles. Enhancing migration policies, financial incentives and focusing on skill development are essential to bolster Cyprus’ status as a leading tech and gaming hub, ensuring that it remains at the forefront of this dynamic industry’s evolution.

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

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