GamesBeat: What makes you attractive to developers? The way your platform works, you can get those games in front of people who might like them?

Paul Sulyok: Bear in mind, because we’re a retailer—a normal publisher will have their normal publishing channels. We’re a retailer. Because of our relationship with the market, we have, for instance, 2,000 Twitch streamers in our affiliate network. We have 2500 affiliates at websites all over the world, content websites we work with on a regular basis. We have this ability to tap into an engine that we already had in place from a digital perspective. A normal publisher can’t do that, because they can’t feed 2,000 Twitch streamers with content, with free games, with prizes, something else every week. They don’t have that breadth of content. We have a relationship with 450 other publishers already, which allows us to say, right. Mr. Streamer, have this and this and this, you can promote and profile these games. We’re in a slightly unique position, to the benefit of our developers, because we can put their games in front of a much wider audience than they would otherwise get, whether it’s with a medium-sized publisher or by trying to do it themselves.

GamesBeat: Or on Steam, where they’d just get lost.

Paul Sulyok: Well, Steam is easy. We sell on Steam as well, by the way. We sell on Steam, Humble, about a dozen different outlets. Amazon. You get up on Steam, you make that first splash, but unless someone’s checking in to Steam that particular day, they won’t see you. Whereas we send out 2.5 million emails to people who’ve opted into our mailing list, offering them products and bargains. You don’t need to have lots of those people tapping in and talking about buying that game to start creating a groundswell of opinion behind it.

GamesBeat: Is it fair to say that one of the other things that makes you stand out is the fact that you have an engaged community, as opposed to something like Steam where a lot of people don’t participate in community at all?

Paul Sulyok:  Yes. They’re a very lively community. Bear in mind, if you roll in Playfire as well, where people are talking about games—admittedly they’re talking about other things as well. But it’s a focused community around games. You drop into any of the buzz feeds in Playfire and ask a question – how do I get X-Y-Z – then they’ll be very happy to jump on that thread and say, this is how you do it. We have an engaged community.

GamesBeat: Is that community different than Steam’s community in any way? Steam can get pretty nasty sometimes.

Paul Sulyok: All online communities need a level of management. They need a level of freedom, a level of democracy, and a level of management. If you work well with an online community then they’re a self-managing entity. If somebody’s out of order, then somebody will always jump in and say, that’s out of order. You get your community invested. You get your community leaders. They’re not even formally appointed, but they become senior members of the community to help guide that community. From a community perspective, you make sure the people that take on that additional responsibility are the right people to lead that community.

GamesBeat: What is it about being a retailer and a community driver and a publishing platform—what is it about that that’s attractive to you?

Paul Sulyok: I’m an entrepreneur. This is my third company. My first company produced algorithmic trading engines in the equity markets. Total shift away from here. I made some money doing that and I really enjoyed it. My second company was a hybrid of computer games and gambling, which was called Prizefight. And I loved that too. It was brilliant. Everything I did wrong in the first company I did right in the second company. But it made no money. I’m very commercially focused. I believe a company has to be commercially focused. That’s the lifeblood of any organization. You can’t rely on venture capital to come in and keep feeding you money. You have to prove the organization can make money. Am I deeply involved in this company? Yes. We do a town hall meeting every month where I sit down and tell people how well we’ve done – or not, if there’s bad news as well. I like the up close and personal with my staff, but I like to be highly engaged with my customers and my publishing partners as well. So you have to be. You can’t not—we started in 2010 and made 50,000 pounds that year. In 2015 we made 29.5 million pounds. That’s public knowledge. If you’re trying to grow a company that fast, you can’t not be passionate about it. It’s not a job at that point.

Fallout 4 E3 2016 Contraptions - Warehouse

GamesBeat: Do you play many games yourself?

Paul Sulyok: I always play one game. I obviously play our games that we’re coming out with, although I recognize the fact that I’m probably not the person who should be guiding them on what they should and shouldn’t be doing. I’m not creative in that sense. I just played through Fallout 4 now. That was a project and a half. I have a wife and two children. I don’t play games with the wife and family around, so I have to play games when my wife’s out and the kids have gone to bed. Then out comes the laptop and I start playing Fallout 4. It’s a great game.

GamesBeat: In the next three or four years, what kind of games do you see as your growth opportunities?

Paul Sulyok: Interesting. I’m very interested in VR, where that’s going. That’s going to be driven by where the—the battle of the hardware, basically. That’s absolutely something I think is going to be a position of great interest. If they can get it right, it’ll be a whole new level. Not just of games, but of entertainment period. It’ll require refining and a great deal of work. Right now, many of the virtual reality games that are out there are just too intense on the brain. Just too much to take in. You’ve obviously played them.

GB: I’d agree with that assessment on bunch.

Paul Sulyok: You come out feeling fuzzy-headed, even after 15 or 20 minutes. We need to refine the art of how to make games like that. Then, I think, it’s going to be very interesting. The classic genres of games are going to remain. MMOs, strategy games, first-person shooters. Those sorts of games appeal to different types of people. I do think there’s going to be an interesting turn with what’s happening right now in the economics of games and game playing and game distribution. Steam has turned the market on its head a little bit. They’ve not gone for a walled garden the way PlayStation and Xbox historically have done. They’ve not felt the need to rely so much on physical distribution. They’re very much looking at, how can we leverage a virtual online community in order to talk about our games, play our games, discuss playing the games, build that groundswell of opinion behind them. There’s going to be a major move away from brick and mortar retailers. We’re already seeing that. Which is going to work well for online, digital propositions.

GamesBeat: Where do you see competitive gaming and esports in this picture?

Paul Sulyok: Many games are competitive in nature. Esports has its part to play in the ecosystem of the games industry. The challenge around esports is the longevity of the games themselves. If you’re a footballer you learn your trade playing football and you go off to—when you’re eight or nine, you start out and you work your way up, and through all that time the rules of football don’t change much. Try doing that with a computer game from 10 years ago. Apart from StarCraft in South Korea. It’s a challenge. The games move and the games change. It has its place. The way the Koreans have done it is fantastic, absolutely brilliant. They’ve done it with the pomp and the splendor of an event, rather than just a competition. It’s a show. You’ve obviously been to–

GamesBeat: Yeah, I’ve watched it, although I haven’t been to South Korea.

Paul Sulyok: Unbelievable. I went to an event of the Korean esports association and saw the StarCraft finals in 2008 or 2009. I’ve never seen anything like it. At the same time was the finals of the Korean baseball tournament. 35,000 people watched that. Then we went down to Pusan, a very big bay with a bridge going over it. These guys drove in on two V-shaped convoys of speedboats with the team captain holding the flag. People were going crazy, hanging off the suspension bridge looking at them. Then they pulled up onto the sand and the whole bay was full of people. Every 200 meters there was another big widescreen TV, like the side of a building, for people to watch. I was sitting there on the beach watching the finals. I’ve never seen anything like it in my life. It was so slick. Brilliant. That’s the way to do esports.

GamesBeat: Green Man Gaming just had a celebration of sorts, right?

Paul Sulyok: We did indeed, our sixth birthday. We’re very proud. Six years on May 10. Could arguably be May 11, I’m not quite sure. We launched Green Man Gaming and then we decided to un-launch it quite quickly because a couple of things went wrong. Then we relaunched it. So yeah, six years old. We’ve gone from two of us to 70-plus.

GamesBeat: How do you get more people to use Green Man Gaming? That seems like your big challenge?

Paul Sulyok:  We’ve grown dramatically as a company. We’re a Sunday Times Tech Track 100 company. We’re in Deloitte’s Fast 50. We’ve been selected by the British government as one of the 50 companies in the technology sector that are going to IPO. We’ve grown dramatically. We’ve not done ourselves a massive service, if I’m being honest with you, by being able to juggle all the balls we need to. You have to really focus on doing something well and then get that done and move on to the next thing. There were a lot of things we’ve not done very well. One of those is localization. We’re all over the world, but we’re not localized in a lot of languages. We need to be localized. I’ve only just launched a new website, our third-generation website, which is mobile responsive. It allows me to upload more currencies and localize far more easily. That was my first stepping stone for massive localization on a territorial basis. That would allow us to be able to appeal not just to the people who understand English, but also to every other language as well that’s economically significant.

GamesBeat: Are you involved in mobile gaming at all, or is it just PC and console?

Paul Sulyok: Right now it’s just PC and console. It’s one of those things that we’ve considered. The mobile space is quite aggressive. It’s quite flooded. There are quite a lot of very big players in there. From a business perspective, we’re not discounting the mobile space at all. What we’re saying is, right here and right now we have quite a lot on our plate doing what we’re doing with Green Man Gaming.

Green Man 3

GamesBeat: Can someone buy a Green Man Gaming game on mobile?

Paul Sulyok: Yes. You can buy it on the responsive website right now. We’ll be launching a mobile app on Green Man Gaming by the end of the year.

GamesBeat: It seems like that would help you especially in Asian markets.

Paul Sulyok: Absolutely. Anywhere you have a population with long commutes and Wi-Fi on the train systems, as you have in places like South Korea, that’s an ideal scenario for you. Someone can flick through the app, see something they like, bang, they’ve bought it.

GamesBeat: It also works in other places. I could be walking through this convention center, see a game that’s out, and say, hey, I’d like to buy that.

Paul Sulyok: They can open up the website and buy it, but yes, it’ll be far easier to open up an app and buy it. Much slicker process. The idea is that with an app, you want to get to a one-click checkout. That’s the nirvana. You can’t do that on a web browser.

GamesBeat: Would that be your biggest advance for your community that’s in the works?

Paul Sulyok: It’s one of the innovations in the works. [Laughs] Watch this space. We’re doing a number of things. We’ve gotten to a very good place. We’ve rolled out this new platform. The new platform is much slicker, much smoother on the surface. But underneath it—when you’re building a company rapidly, plugging bits, attaching this to that, it’s almost like you’re in a house. You start with a run-down house, put an extension on here, put some new windows in there, a couple of babies come along and you stick some more rooms in over there. Next thing you know you have a house with all sorts of bits and pieces stuck on to it. You almost have to take it back down to basics and say, this is the house I need to have now going forward. That’s what we’ve done with Green Man Gaming.

GamesBeat: With Green Man Gaming and with your platform, what would you consider the most attractive part of it for somebody who’s looking to publish their game?

Paul Sulyok: To sell a game? Green Man Gaming has a very thorough and accomplished marketing element to it. We have our 2000 Twitch streamers. We have our affiliate network. We have a customer base we talk to. We have a highly engaged customer base who, when they come on the Green Man Gaming website, they’re looking to buy a game. They converse at off-the-scale proportions. What I’d say to anyone who’s put the love and the work into building a game and wants to get a return on that, if you have a partner that works hard for you and has the assets to make your game a success through their marketing and sales channels, that’s a partner you should seriously consider.

GamesBeat: As traditional retail becomes less important, do trade shows like E3 become less important?

Paul Sulyok: From my perspective I think they’re invaluable. The reason why is, it’s about face time. It’s about breaking bread with someone. It’s about seeing someone. It’s about understanding what’s going on in the broader industry. You don’t get that from a one-point contact. You get that from gathering together the industry. The industry talks to each other. The industry interacts with each other and drives forward. Do I think trade shows, from our perspective, are important? They’re absolutely vital.

GamesBeat: The evolution of trade shows into fan events, do you think that’s good for the circuit and the industry in general?

Paul Sulyok: Gamescom is interesting. On one side you have the trade events, very clearly segregated, and on the other side you have the fan event for customers. It’s brilliant, because you get all the benefits of interacting at a business level, and then if you want to dip in and see the product, you can. You can wander out and see the stands. But the stands are there principally for the fans, and then the quiet meeting rooms are around the back where you can cut deals. Crossing the two together causes a bit of a clash. But from my perspective, the ability to have the time to meet people and discuss business is critical. It’s only right and fair that customers and consumers have the ability to get their hands on games. Developers love having their games in front of people and seeing their reactions. It’s part of the pleasure of being a developer. There’s no reason why we shouldn’t continue that as well.

GamesBeat: Seeing people enjoying their games like that, does that help you make a decision about doing a deal with a developer?

Paul Sulyok: No, we don’t stand in front of the stands of a developer and think, we’ll take that one because there’s a big queue there. It wouldn’t influence me. But I do think it’s good for the industry. It’s good for publishers and developers. It creates that excitement around gaming that we all need in this industry.

Correction, 8:26 a.m.: GamesBeat misspelled Paul Sulyok and Gary Rowe’s names. We regret the error. 


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