GDCy: “The local IT community is already one of the biggest in the world”
Adonis Adoni 07:06 - 07 February 2024
Tim Fadeev and Andrey Ivashentsev, the co-founders of Game Developers Cyprus (GDCy), which brings the local community together through various events, analyse the reasons behind their exceptional growth, which is expected to lead later this year to the largest open-air GameDev event in the EU and possibly the world.
Talk to us about how GDCy came to be and the importance of such an initiative to the local games industry.
Tim Fadeev: GDCy was born in the right place at the right time. Before COVID-19, we would travel around the world to business conferences all year long, expanding our network. But with the pandemic lockdowns, all events were cancelled and people spent almost two years in isolation, seeing each other only via phone and computer links. They were eager to finally meet in person again, as in the good old times: game development was always about the people and networking. As soon as all restrictions were lifted, we held our first GDCy event in Limassol, attracting some 100 attendees. Everyone was so excited and happy to see each other, so we kept organising our events monthly. We tried to recreate the famous beer-mingle atmosphere of GameDev conferences at our home here in Cyprus – that’s how it looks to everyone from the community. With more and more game dev professionals coming to Cyprus, GDCy provides them with a familiar, friendly environment and a platform to communicate with like-minded people, meet newcomers and old friends, and discuss both business and daily life.
Guide us through the various GDCy initiatives.
Andrey Ivashentsev: GDCy grew to attract an outstanding number of 350 visitors at its peak, and they could barely fit into our regular event venues. Over the last two years, we have had to change event venues a few times to meet the growing demand for the community to network. Our growth also made it obvious that we could do even more; we had the resources and a loyal audience to host a proper GameDev conference. That’s how GDCy FEST was born: a unique combination of the classic business conference and an outdoor seaside festival with live bands, DJs, beach activities and lots of fun. This new and unpredictable event positioning was very risky but our community liked it a lot and so we continued growing GDCy FEST. Our portfolio also includes private events for companies like Google and Tencent and regular GDCy Talks meetups, where leading experts from the Cyprus community share their experiences on a smaller scale. We also help other conferences and communities to host dedicated GameDev sessions or even whole content tracks. GDCy is not only about events; it’s also about people, which is why we are developing a community where everyone can speak freely and receive support. Last year, we launched our loyalty programme, through which GDCy ID holders receive benefits like discounts at local businesses, including bars, restaurants and GameDev schools. We also work together with the City Friends Club for clean-up events to make Cyprus a cleaner and better place for all.
What can you tell us about the LVLUP Accelerator and how it will advance the games ecosystem in Cyprus?
Tim Fadeev: Launched last year, in collaboration with venture capital firm NVO Capital and Google, it aims to provide young teams in the gaming industry with free access to top experts and investors, enabling them to grow and thrive. We’ve also joined forces with the CYENS res-
earch centre and Cyprus-based companies like GEM Capital and Green Grey, and we have experts on the Board from different Cyprus-based companies. Our goal is to place Cyprus on the worldwide GameDev map. We are working with the Government on upcoming initiatives and I’m looking forward to the LVLUP Accelerator becoming globally established, with a new programme every year. This year, we are expecting around 50 teams and/or projects from around the world to join us, including gaming studios and startups related to the industry. You can still apply for our programme until the end of February, while the Demo Day will take place in GDCy FEST 2024 on Friday, May 31.
Cyprus is clearly emerging as a growing destination for the industry. What do you see as the key factors behind this?
Andrey Ivashentsev: One of them is the Cyprus legal system, which is based on English Common Law principles and is widely considered business-friendly, effective and fair. Predictable law principles help Cyprus companies do business with game publishers and software giants like Apple, Google and Microsoft, which are responsible for a bigger part of the game revenue distribution nowadays. The transparent and comfortable tax system attracts software development companies from all over the world, while the Cyprus IP Box regime helps companies structure their IPs in Cyprus properly and effectively. Another factor is the climate. I’m not only referring to weather conditions, which are among the best in Europe, but also to living and doing business in Cyprus – people exposed to more sunshine are more open to support and collaboration, after all! Moreover, GDCy actively fosters a supportive environment for companies looking to relocate to Cyprus.
As the country endeavours to expand its foothold in the industry, could you outline the predominant challenges and obstacles faced by developers?
Andrey Ivashentsev: The scarcity of junior game development specialists is a significant hurdle. The minimum salary for foreign experts is often two to three times higher than the average wage for such professionals, which discourages their relocation. Finding junior specialists locally is also not easy but the situation has improved, especially after adding game development faculties in local universities and private schools. The rising cost of living poses another considerable challenge. The current high rents and the prices of daily necessities surpass the earnings of emerging specialists looking to relocate and start a new indie studio from scratch. As Cyprus becomes more financially challenging, they’ll consider other, less expensive destinations. Any emerging business, game development included, requires access to the right specialists, experts and funding, and it’s an area in which GDCy is actively involved, working towards a solution to foster a thriving game development community on the island.
What changes would you like to see that would sustain the brand growth of the local ecosystem?
Tim Fadeev: Frankly speaking, these changes are already happening: the new, faster citizenship programme launched by the Government last winter, and all ongoing activities aiming to attract companies and specialists to the island, are helping a lot. Our community has doubled in numbers since we started, enabling us to create the biggest open-air GameDev event in the EU, if not the world; GDCy FEST attracted more than 1,000 people from all around the world in Limassol last year. For the 2024 edition, we are expecting even more attendees, and we have already invited some very famous and interesting speakers from the EU and the US. If the Government persists in making the country accessible, both for visiting and relocation, we will keep growing. The local IT community is already one of the biggest in the world and we have all the means to become a European Silicon Valley. As GDCy, we will do everything to keep Cyprus a cosy and welcoming home to all GameDev professionals out there, promoting our island all over the world as the best place to live and do business!