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Much like witnessing a sunrise from a camp site in the Big Sur or that crisp feeling of trying on a Saint Laurent suit for the first time, I was pleasantly drawn into this discussion between four financial and business professionals in the gaming industry from the very beginning. It is infrequent that gamers are exposed to the business that is behind the creation of the art that makes, well, the gaming business. In truth, many gamers would like to ignore that aspect of gaming. However, it is often the dynamics in the business fabric that drives what so many of us have questions about — that failing to listen can be obfuscating to many deep insights.
Nikolaj Nyholm, Alexis Bonte, Sofia Dolfe, and Harri Manninen gathered to discuss the European Games Investment Landscape during the week-long GamesBeat Summit, and a few factors were very enlightening. A panel made up of both venture capital insiders and industry leaders who participate in talent scouting, mergers, and acquisitions, the panel brought three particulars to light: geographic locations of emerging games development talent, what happens to Ukraine and its game development potential, and whether or not the customer pushback on alternate monetization methods really matters.
In the cyclical look for studios of high development talent, Turkey is the place these panelists are keeping their eyes on now.
“In the last five years … we’ve seen the outliers starting to pop up in other places. I think initially it was Israel, then it became Turkey,” said Nyholm.
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Dolfe echoed that sentiment.
“We’re seeing such strong talent come out of there,” she said. “Strong hubs of tech talent, strong concentrations of studios. There have been previous successes there such as Peak Games…” [makers of mobile games Toy Blast and Toon Blast] “…that have also…given a sense for what can be achieved … and what success can look like. Operators who have been part of that journey also then looking to start new businesses and start new studios.”
Expect more investment dollars in the games industry to head that way and for a studio from there to break out of the pack and put itself on the map with gamers.
In a war, people must prioritize their safety
Manninen continued the discussion about emerging markets for talent by bringing up Ukraine.
“I would have said Russia, Belarus, and even Ukraine,” said Manninen. “All of these incumbents had interesting new teams coming out and trying to connect with, let’s say, global capital to build global studios and powerhouses but obviously now the war in Ukraine has put a stop [to that]. We felt that that could have been the next logical ecosystem to grow and become more global as well.”
Ukraine, formerly thought of as one of the assured hotbeds of new gaming talent, may have missed an opportunity for massive investment due to Russia’s war. The panelists agreed that they cannot look at the country to make games when its residents are just trying to survive.
Block-chain games may yet come even as gamers balk at the prospect
The panel then moved on to how gamers feel about new business models. In particular, the business leaders said they would likely continue experimenting with block chain even as most gaming fans make it clear that they hate the idea. Bonte said he’s seen this anger before.
“I don’t think the backlash is worse than when we were seeing the transition from premium to free-to-play, to be honest,” said Bonte. “Everyone who was working in games was saying ‘this is not games, what you are doing is awful, it’s dirty, it’s bad, it’s bad for the players.’ But look at free-to-play games today.”
Whether you like it or not, one of the driving forces behind where the games industry will go is that there is a race to see whomever starts this disruption and those who get in on it early, for fear of getting left behind. Bonte feels like the consumer backlash is normal. The industry will move on and the market will determine whether it is successful or not.
Listening to this panel is a great opportunity to be exposed to the business dynamics that some of the top investors and most aggressive studios are paying attention to. Hearing how the development studio heat moves and transitions out of one territory and shifts to another, and where the industry is willing to weather the storm of negative consumer opinion and forge ahead is incredibly illumination. This panel is but one of the reasons why any student of the industry should pay attention to this and other sessions out of GamesBeat Summit 2022.
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