It’s been a busy few years for Dutch video game developer and publisher My.Games. Previously owned by Russian social media giant VK, My.Games has now separated itself entirely in the aftermath of the war in Ukraine. Despite challenges, the studio has launched new games such as Little Big Robots and celebrated the fifth anniversary of Left to Survive.
We spoke with My.Games chief strategy officer Elena Grigoryan who has been part of the gaming industry for 20 years, including an eight-year tenure with Disney’s video game division. We caught up about the state of the industry and the changes seen along the way, in addition to the future of My.Games.
Pocketgamer.biz: Tell us about how you got started in the games industry and what led you to My.Games?
Elena Grigoryan: I specialise in marketing and strategic management and joined the My.Games team at its inception as Chief Marketing Officer before later transitioning to Chief Strategy Officer. In my current role, I am responsible for launching products into new markets, guiding the investment department, developing positioning strategies, and crafting communication approaches for games within our primary markets.
What are some of the biggest changes you have seen in the industry, and what impact have they had?
Over the past twenty years, and until very recently, the industry has continued to grow at an accelerated pace, defying even several major global crises.Elena Grigoryan
When I started in the gaming industry in the early 2000s, it looked very different from how it does today. PC games dominated the market and were sold in big boxes in offline retail stores, while smartphone games were only just beginning to emerge.
The gaming industry has evolved significantly since then. The number of people playing games has skyrocketed - surging from below one billion in the early 2000s to surpass three billion worldwide - while the industry has seen a broader shift toward more casual gaming.
It has also demonstrated its resilience. Over the past twenty years, and until very recently, the industry has continued to grow at an accelerated pace, defying even several major global crises. The last two years, however, have presented new challenges, with growth impacted by post-COVID economic stagnation and the rise of short-form video entertainment presenting a new threat to the industry.
And what about the future of the industry? Is there anything particular at the moment that really excites you?
The industry is currently at a critical juncture, facing not only competition for user time with other entertainment products but also needing to pivot its targeting strategy due to increased regulations around privacy and advertising. The latter has led major gaming platforms, including Apple, to disable access to the IDFA identifier, a crucial tool advertisers use to precisely target users. And it’s just the beginning.
These developments have had a significant impact. Economic factors have intensified competition, making it increasingly difficult for mobile games to contend with videos, while lack of access to the IDFA identifier means that conventional marketing strategies relied upon by companies for the past decade can no longer be leveraged to engage audiences.
I am excited to be a part of the industry as we address and overcome these challenges. I look forward to devising new and innovative ways to captivate audiences and win players’ hearts.
What is My.Games current state of play? Any big updates or games on the horizon?
We are working at the forefront of innovation in game development and promotion strategies. We have also been exploring new and exciting marketing campaigns that feel better suited to the modern games market. We have applied the latter to some of our existing mobile titles, including popular games like Rush Royale and War Robots, resulting in fantastic community developments.
In addition, we’ve announced the PC game War Robots: Frontiers and, even more recently, introduced Little Big Robots. We’re building a cohesive, connected universe with these titles, and we’ll continue exploring universe-building with future titles, including some presently under development.
Little Big Robots has its own unique style. What was the main thought process behind the shift in genre?
In the nine years since War Robots first launched, the development team and the broader War Robots community – which is now in the millions – have become profoundly attached to the game’s unique robot characters. So much so, in fact, that these robots have almost taken on a life of their own in the eyes of the games’ players. In this latest launch, we sought to breathe new life into the robots again and imbued each new character with a distinct personality.
In shaping the visuals for Little Big Robots, we took inspiration from various sources, including animated cartoons and imaginative fan art shared by devoted War Robots players. This has resulted in the vibrant tapestry of characters that fills this latest instalment.
Our primary goal is to expand and develop the War Robots franchise to encompass an array of engaging and accessible free-to-play mobile games.Elena Grigoryan
What is the goal of Little Robots with its different take on the series?
Our primary goal is to expand and develop the War Robots franchise to encompass an array of engaging and accessible free-to-play mobile games. This will enable us to capture a fresh and wider audience and share the War Robots universe with more players.
While the original War Robots and its counterpart, War Robots: Frontiers, are set in a traditional and contemplative sci-fi environment, Little Big Robots has a more colourful and carefree feel that caters to a diverse mix of players. Its lighter tone and versatility make it a great game to play with friends, family, and people worldwide. We hope that Little Big Robots helps to foster a sense of unity, bringing together people from every corner of the world to revel in a lighthearted and exhilarating gaming experience.
Is there anything you can tell us as to why the game has seen a global release but no launch in China?
As it stands, we have not yet received the ISBN licence necessary to bring this game to China. However, securing one remains in our plans and is something we are working towards.
What does My.Games look for when investing in new teams and ideas?
The gaming market has always relied on hits, but unfortunately, there's no exact recipe for creating one. However, your chances of success are significantly higher if you can assemble a competent and innovative team and allow the people within it to experiment and test ideas on their target audience as early as possible. This has long been our guiding principle - to create dynamic teams and afford them the opportunity to explore and innovate to discover new and fresh concepts. By consistently sharing the results of these experiments, we can ultimately enrich the entire team.
Our appetite for risk has somewhat waned at present, in line with a broader trend in the market. We are now focusing our efforts and resources on larger projects that have already launched, alongside a chosen few projects for market release that can demonstrate a wealth of content and a well-established monetisation system. It's essential to compete for the audience right from the initial launch - the initial lure of a low entry price fades swiftly, leaving you in competition with the established leaders of your genre.
The separation from VK has provided further opportunities to intensify our international focus.Elena Grigoryan
And what’s changed since separating from VK?
My.Games have consistently maintained a core emphasis on catering to a global audience, with the company's Amsterdam headquarters serving as a strategic hub for its operations. The separation from VK has provided further opportunities to intensify our international focus. Our continued global expansion has been underscored by the establishment of numerous significant offices and hubs across the globe, including in Abu Dhabi, Serbia, Turkey, Armenia, and various other regions, all contributing to our mission of fostering a truly worldwide presence.
We are also pursuing ambitious endeavours with our games library. Our development pipeline is brimming with a diverse array of mobile and PC games. Just this year, we’ve announced incredibly well-received titles such as War Robots: Frontiers, HAWKED, and released Little Big Robots, as well as many other captivating mobile games. We have even more exciting titles to release in 2023, and 2024 is already set to be even bigger.
In parallel, an integral facet of our strategy involves expanding our global footprint. We are resolute in our commitment to penetrate new markets, granting players access to premium, captivating content. At the same time, we remain dedicated to empowering skilled game developers globally and have cemented strategic alliances with gaming associations across Europe. These collaborations are designed to expand opportunities for local developers and serve as a testament to our overarching goal of fostering innovation and creativity.
Amidst the formidable challenges confronting the gaming industry today, My.Games acknowledges the imperative for collective action.Elena Grigoryan
What does the future at My.Games look like?
The future at My.Games is characterised by a steadfast commitment to developing top-tier products that resonate with a global audience, ultimately capturing the hearts of millions worldwide. Our aspiration is for our games to be cherished across continents, appealing not only to Western audiences but also making a significant impact in the vibrant Asian gaming landscape.
As we venture into the future, our unwavering focus remains on crafting distinctive player experiences, which can pose a challenge when navigating the global games market requires adaptability and agility. With this in mind, we are dedicated to cultivating specialised regional teams, enabling us to connect more intimately with players from various corners of the world. Moreover, accessibility remains paramount in our vision. Our strategy includes the development of crossplay functionality, ensuring that our games serve as a unifying platform, transcending barriers and connecting players across different devices.
Amidst the formidable challenges confronting the gaming industry today, My.Games acknowledges the imperative for collective action. In unity lies the strength to surmount these challenges and usher in a new era of gaming excellence. Our ethos is rooted in the conviction that sharing experiences and collaborating with industry peers will propel us collectively to new heights. This ethos exemplifies our commitment to elevating not just My.Games, but the industry as a whole, toward a brighter, more interconnected future.