Game On!

The rise of the mobile gaming industry has gone hand-in-hand with innovative advancements in technology, from the creation of App stores to the forthcoming adoption of 5G. Nexters co-founder & CEO Andrey Fadeev explains how a combination of creativity, data-driven development, analytics and marketing has led the company to rank among the Top Five mobile gaming companies in Europe and reveals what its strategic goals are for the next decade after deciding to list on the Nasdaq stock market.

By Artemis Constantinidou

The gaming industry is one of the most innovative tech sectors today and it has seen tremendous growth in the last decade. How do you explain its development?
Gaming has always evolved in line with developments in technology and the market. Players obviously need something to play on and developers need tools to create games and marketplaces in which to distribute them. The more advanced and widely used these technologies and platforms are, the more people play games. In this respect, one of the major turning points in the gaming industry in the past 15 years was the launch of App stores on the Android and iOS (Apple) platforms and their further growth, along with improvements to mobile phones. Now, people have everything they need to play more games and phones have become the biggest gaming platform because so many people have one (they are essentially advanced computing machines), the App stores make it easy to add new games and make purchases and mobile Internet lets people access games at almost any time and anywhere.

Nexters is one of the top 5 mobile game companies in Europe, with popular titles such as Hero Wars, Throne Rush and Island Experiment. What led to the company’s success and what is it that makes these particular games so popular?
Our portfolio started with the first games that we launched in 2013. Initially we focused on social media as that was the time of a so-called ‘social boom’ and I can say we were quite successful there. For instance, according to our analytics, Throne Rush had been played by around 10% of all Facebook worldwide players as of 2015, which is really impressive. At the same time, we’d been closely monitoring the growth of mobile gaming and in 2018 we made a strategic decision to focus on mobile – within the following two years we managed to increase our revenue and install base by almost ten times.
A game’s popularity comes from a number of factors. Nowadays besides making a good game, you also need to let the players know about it, and the market is getting more and more competitive. We managed to build a team that effectively combines creativity, data-driven development, analytics, and marketing.

It was recently announced that Nexters Global will be going public via a special purpose acquisition company (SPAC) and following a merger deal with Kismet Acquisition One, valued at $1.9 billion. Why did you decide to proceed with the formation of a SPAC instead of going through with the more conventional IPO model?
SPACs are becoming popular as they give companies much faster access to public markets. Listing via a SPAC needs a lot of dedication but doing things in a more traditional way would require even more effort, while we want to focus on our core business, which is developing games that are successful and loved by players. The other major reason is that, in a SPAC deal, you have a partner who helps a lot, and we are happy to have found Kismet in this way.

What benefits do you expect the company to enjoy once it has gone public and how will this help deliver an even better gaming experience to players?
Going public on Nasdaq – the world’s leading exchange for technology companies – gives us vast opportunities regarding our M&A strategy. We have certain plans for consolidating the market and this will be our strategic goal for the next 10-15 years. As for players, they can expect more great games as, besides M&A activities, we are planning to grow organically and expand our portfolio to cover various genres and platforms.

How have the demands and characteristics of the modern gamer changed over the years?
All gamers are different and there are certain distinctions among them and how they play. The biggest split in the industry tends to be between ”hardcore” players who invest in consoles or PCs to play and “casual” players who just play games on their mobile device. And the behaviour and demands of all of them have been significantly affected by the changing pace of life, though mobile has been influenced the most. The amount of information we all consume daily is growing and more and more sources are competing for our attention. On the other hand, people just have to consume more information to catch up with life. So modern mobile players now seek entertainment which is available instantly and in short sessions between other activities. They love to spend some minutes on a game from time to time but those minutes should be solid and engaging.

How did the COVID-19 lockdown affect gamers? Was the gaming industry among those affected positively or negatively by the pandemic?
Gaming is one of the most available forms of entertainment in the world today. Take free-to-play games – you don’t need to make any purchases in advance and you can choose from thousands of games. And as the most accessible type of entertainment, the games market has always grown in times of crisis – financial or, as happened this time, due to the COVID-19 lockdown measures. People look for entertainment which is cheap or even free and which they can consume at home or at anywhere else. Given the variety of genres and complexity, it is no surprise that games become even more popular when other types of entertainment and leisure are limited or unavailable.

What led to the decision to set up the headquarters of an international company like Nexters in Cyprus? What are the benefits offered in Larnaca and Limassol where your offices are located and what do you think could be improved in order to attract more investment via headquartering?
Cyprus was already a hub for gaming and IT companies. In our case, it is attractive for conducting international business, especially given the proximity to some of our dev teams in Eastern Europe. We believe that altogether we can make Cyprus even more attractive, which is why we have joined Tech Island, a recently announced initiative which unites the island’s IT businesses and aims at further improvements in investment, international partnerships, technological education and other areas.

How do you expect the gaming industry to develop over the next decade?
I think the present trends will continue to shape the market, which means that mobile gaming will proceed to gain a larger share of the industry, even though it already accounts for more than 50%. This will be backed by the adoption of 5G, which will let users enjoy more advanced games thanks to higher speed and the ability to download large amounts of data. Besides, games are getting more casual and spread over a wider audience. Also, the gaming experience, which had previously been available only via “big” console and desktop games, is now being adopted in mobile games, which may result in more players choosing mobile as a gaming platform. Although we expect there to be plenty of opportunities for companies to grow gaming across all platforms, we see the future of the industry remaining predominantly mobile.

The games market has always grown in times of crisis – financial or, as happened this time, due to the COVID-19 lockdown measures