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Elena Grigorian on how MY.GAMES continues to look ahead as it celebrates its fifth anniversary

“The current landscape in the gaming industry remains challenging and requires gaming companies to be more creative, to experiment and develop fresh solutions,” Elena Grigorian, CEO, MY.GAMES suggests.

In an interview with CBN, Grigorian, who has over 20 years of experience in the gaming industry, gives her view on the local scene and current trends in the sector.

Among other things, she also shares some of her own professional experiences while revealing that, as well as celebrating its fifth anniversary, MY.GAMES has a lot of exciting plans for this year.

You have over 20 years of experience in the gaming industry. What do you consider to have been some of your most important career milestones until now, and at MY.GAMES in particular?

I began my journey in the gaming industry over two decades ago. Prior to joining MY.GAMES, I spent eight years leading Disney's video games unit and executing the strategy to grow the local business of the global company. Then, I joined MY.GAMES as the Chief Marketing Officer and that was a turning point in my career.

This was an exciting challenge for me, as my background was primarily in leadership roles, not exclusively marketing. Despite it, I aimed to leverage my expertise to help the business scale and expand internationally. Our team has excelled, making our company and products (across PC, console, and mobile) successful and well-recognized in key markets. It was a great experience that enriched me as a professional.

The gaming market is a fast-evolving sector. What is your opinion of some of the most prominent current trends?

The current landscape in the gaming industry remains challenging and requires gaming companies to be more creative, to experiment and develop fresh solutions. Thus, there are several trends that specifically stand out and significantly influence the market.

One prominent trend is the rise of direct-to-consumer (D2C) approaches, particularly alternative payment methods. This allows game developers to market their products directly, fostering closer relationships with users and creating unique experiences. Today, there are more opportunities to build a direct dialogue between the developer and the player, including up to the payment stage. Previously, the final stage of the funnel in direct communication was often lost.

Branding marketing is another significant trend reshaping the gaming industry. In today's oversaturated market, where we’re competing for players' attention with other entertainment apps, one cannot overemphasize the importance of building a strong brand for your game to ensure players keep coming back, especially as the ability to accurately target the right audience has increased, reducing the need to work with a broader, less targeted audience. Various brand activations, including the involvement of celebrities, create new channels for engagement and growth.

Now is the time for new solutions and experimenting with unconventional and less obvious approaches. The era of picking only low-hanging fruit is over; we must seek new opportunities. This search is often more labor-intensive and has a lower success rate, but these steps are necessary. We see many attempts to launch alternative platforms and stores, expand into challenging new regions, and much more.

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Going back to MY.GAMES specifically. How would you describe the company’s business focus and vision?

At MY.GAMES, we focus on developing our flagship projects, expanding regionally, and experimenting with new mechanics and monetization strategies. Our Asian campaigns, such as the War Robots relaunch in China and the Rush Royale campaign in Korea, have been major highlights. Securing an ISBN and relaunching War Robots in China, after years of success in Western markets, was a logical move. The impressive results placed us among the top five most successful shooter games in the region, just behind major players like Tencent.

Besides expanding existing projects, launching new products is also a significant focus for us. This always involves some level of experimentation. For example, we launched a new mobile title, Zombie State, which combines rogue-like and first-person shooter genres for the F2P mobile market. The PvP genre of mobile shooters is highly competitive, but the market for PvE shooters with free movement is less prevalent on mobile compared to PC and consoles. Hence, we decided to explore this direction.

We recognized that entering this space required strong expertise, and our experience with Left to Survive gave us the confidence to tackle this challenging genre. Through Left to Survive, we learned to excel in various aspects, including creating engaging gameplay, managing balance, optimization, and meta elements. This expertise assured us that we could achieve similar success with Zombie State, which is why we decided to develop this game.

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Further to the above, can you tell us more about the products and services of MY.GAMES, including Mobile and PC/consoles Games Development and Knights Peak, new publishing division?

In June, we announced the launch of MY.GAMES’ new publishing label, Knights Peak Interactive, focusing on premium PC and console titles. MY.GAMES has extensive expertise in free-to-play publishing for mobile, PC, and console games but didn’t have much experience in premium.

To enter this new market, we've assembled a very strong team of experts to launch the Knights Peak publishing label – led by industry veterans Eugenio Vitale, Mario Gerhold, and Jan-Eric Lauble, the team is dedicated to supporting both emerging and established studios in reaching new heights in global markets and brand development. Knights Peak has already signed initial publishing deals, resulting in a portfolio that currently includes five captivating games: Starship Troopers: Extermination, Nikoderiko, Mandragora, Pathfinder: Kingmaker and Blast Brigade with more to come.

As for mobile games, our current goal is to focus our efforts on key projects and studios, particularly in the area crucial to our business — midcore projects. MY.GAMES will focus on developing and publishing mid-core games that captivate millions, lead their genres, and foster long-term engagement with players, and we will continue to experiment, including with launches, with Zombie State's recent launch being a great example of this.

Does the company have plans for further territories expansion?

Indeed, we have ambitious plans to further establish our presence in the Asian market for both mobile and PC projects. As I mentioned, we successfully secured an ISBN and relaunched War Robots in China. At the same time, we are also studying the markets of Southeast Asia, with a particular focus on Japan and Korea.

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The Cyprus IT market has grown significantly in recent years. Can you tell us about what you consider to be the comparative advantages for international companies in the sector to establish themselves in Cyprus?

A lot of work has been done in recent years, making Cyprus an attractive destination for many IT companies.

Firstly, the naturalization process for IT professionals has been simplified, making it faster and more convenient. This has led to an influx of highly skilled talent into Cyprus, greatly supporting the local tech industry and economy.

Additionally, Cyprus offers significant income tax benefits for foreigners, which are more favorable than those in many other EU countries. This financial incentive is a major draw for international IT professionals and companies looking to establish a presence in Europe.

Furthermore, the availability of work permits for spouses is a significant benefit. This policy not only attracts international IT talent but also helps integrate their families into the local economy, fostering a more stable and inclusive environment for expatriates.

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On the other hand, what would you consider to be the main areas that require improvement? (For example, Schengen Zone Issue and Blue Card system, IP Box benefits improvements, Investment in Start-Ups, Office Space for IT Companies, Education, and Housing Assistance).

To further improve the business environment for IT companies in Cyprus, several areas need attention. Attracting IT giants like Google and Apple is crucial for growth. Studying successful examples from countries like Ireland and the Netherlands such as offering a grace period for new IT companies and establishing numerous double taxation avoidance agreements, could provide valuable insights.

For employees, improving education by increasing the number of international schools and enhancing curricula with IT courses is essential. Housing assistance, such as lowering the 50% down payment requirement or introducing programs like the UK's Help to Buy, would facilitate easier relocation.

Visa issues and the lack of Schengen membership are significant barriers. Joining the Schengen Zone would enhance Cyprus's appeal by allowing easier travel for work and family. While the Blue Card system helps, full Schengen membership would remove major mobility barriers.

As well as being accomplished in your sector, you are also one of just a few female CEOs in the gaming industry. How has MY.GAMES specifically implemented initiatives to foster diversity, and what impact have these initiatives had on your company's success?

I've been fortunate to have a diverse and supportive network throughout my career. I strongly believe that diversity and inclusion in the tech industry are imperative. They foster innovation, ensure that tech products meet the needs of a diverse user base, and expand the talent pool. It's a matter of social responsibility to create equal opportunities. This requires implementing inclusive policies, offering mentorship, and fostering an inclusive culture.

At MY.GAMES, we are making an encouraging atmosphere where women feel not just included but truly empowered. This environment has led to remarkable achievements, reflected in our team's outstanding success. Our collective efforts have resulted in reaching a milestone of 1.2 billion registered users across our gaming platforms. Our hit titles such as War Robots, Rush Royale, Left to Survive, and others continue to lead in their respective gaming genres, resonating with players worldwide.

Moving forward, MY.GAMES is committed to further enhancing these figures by implementing initiatives aimed at increasing the representation of women across all levels of the company.

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Is there anything else you would like to add?

In May, we celebrated our 5th anniversary, a milestone that allowed us to honor our vibrant community of players. We are immensely proud to have built such a large player base over the years, and with our diverse portfolio, we believe everyone can find a favorite game among our offerings. We also celebrated with our employees, honoring our collective achievements across all our hubs, including our major offices in the Netherlands and Cyprus.

As MY.GAMES has a lot of exciting plans for this year, particularly in publishing for PCs and consoles, as well as in mobile game development and publishing, I want to wish our team a great and successful year ahead as we continue to create exciting gaming experiences for players around the world.

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