Mateusz Śmieżewski, GAMIVO: “the future of the gaming industry lies in digital distribution”

As the online entertainment industry expands, so does the demand for trusted digital gaming distribution.

Gamers interested in secure data transactions when shopping for digital games and software need a one-stop shop. Game developers looking to forge partnerships to sell their products can also benefit from a similar platform. The best VPN can help with data protection for all digital transactions, but online companies must address secure transactions too. An online e-commerce site created by gamers for gamers has the solution.

We sat with Mateusz Śmieżewski, CEO of GAMIVO – one of the biggest online e-commerce platform that offers access to a variety of popular video games, gift cards, software, and related digital products.

How did it all begin for GAMIVO? What has your journey been like since?

The humble beginnings of GAMIVO date back to 2017. The company's founders were a team of experienced e-commerce specialists who shared a love for video games. They also had a similar opinion that the future of the industry lies in digital distribution. We desired to create the ultimate go-to place for all gamers. Tar Heel Capital Pathfinder believed in our plan. They provided financial backing for the project, thus helping this dream come true.

It's incredible, but since then, GAMIVO has grown and built a strong market position. In 2021, the company went public, and today we have nearly 5 million registered users from all around the world.

Can you introduce us to what you do? What types of games are the most popular at the moment?

The GAMIVO platform is where users can find hundreds of video games, gift cards, software, and other digital products. There are approximately a thousand different suppliers. Thanks to the substantial number of competing merchants and reasonable commissions, we may offer much lower prices than regular stores. Of course, the safety of our users comes first. We rigorously verify companies before we let them become GAMIVO suppliers.

When it comes to the most popular genres, we can see that players love action-adventure games, action RPGs, and shooters. Yet, some subgenres, particularly survival games and battle royale, have significantly increased their popularity over the last few years. A much more significant transformation involves distribution. Currently, over 90 percent of video games get sold digitally. The share of physical copies is still decreasing. Players get used to the new model, as it's incomparably faster and more convenient.

You don't have to go to a store or wait for a delivery. Once you like a particular game, you can buy it and start installing it in a matter of seconds. Furthermore, subscription and cloud gaming services are shaping a new landscape where a gamer doesn't have to buy a copy of a given title to play it. At GAMIVO, we observe those changes and adapt to provide players with everything they need.

In your opinion, what are the main issues surrounding the online entertainment industry nowadays?

From the customers' point of view, the online entertainment industry has never been more accessible. You can start listening to your favorite album, watching a TV series, or playing a video game with only a few clicks. Even so, people often complain that they must pay for multiple streaming services to keep up with their favorite shows.

Also, PC gamers are not necessarily happy that they need several different launchers. It's hard to blame publishers for trying to maintain control over their products, but installing all these apps and keeping track of which game links to which launcher can be inconvenient. As for GAMIVO, we offer games on all platforms to provide our users with the broadest choice possible.

I would point to security as a much more pressing issue related to the expansion of the online entertainment industry. For instance, scammers send messages impersonating services. It's in hopes that some recipients click an infected link that sends their personal data through a fake form. Or recipients pay to unblock an account that has never been banned. There are also some more elaborate frauds.

For example, you can find scripts or browser plugins that allegedly exploit some bug, thus allowing you to buy items in an online store or marketplace for free. Using them would not grant you a free purchase, and it would cost you money. We always warn our users to stay vigilant and not trust random people they meet online.

How did the recent global events affect your field of work? Were there any new challenges you had to adapt to?

The pandemic has had a serious impact on both the e-commerce and gaming industries. Playing video games helped many people survive the tough time of lockdown and social distancing. Consequently, the natural process of increasing the number of players has significantly accelerated. The need to stay at home also convinced many people to change their shopping habits. Even those who hadn't been into e-commerce started buying online. Some experts expected this change in sentiment to be temporary, but it wasn't. Most customers got used to the comfort of e-commerce shopping, and they haven't returned to their pre-pandemic patterns.

Of course, everyone knows all too well how harsh COVID-19 has been for both people and businesses. We have made every effort to provide all measures necessary to ensure the safety of our employees. The transition to remote work was also challenging. Fortunately, we've learned that it can be equal or even more effective than in-office work. As long as you have the right tools and a talented team with the right mindset. Hence, we decided to implement hybrid work permanently. Now our employees can work from home if they want to.

In your opinion, what are the key elements of a successful video game?

There are many recipes for a successful video game, considering how many genres currently exist. There are, of course, some basic features that can make a game an unforgettable experience. For instance, rich storytelling, engaging characters, and immersive gameplay mechanics. It doesn’t mean a game has to contain all of these to be successful. Another key element is replayability.

Many multiplayer games rely on this very aspect: there’s no deep lore but exciting mechanics and rivalries that keep fans entertained. MMO games like League of Legends or Counter-Strike amass dozens of players who take part in worldwide e-sport competitions. These games are all about player vs. player gameplay and entertainment.

Players also enjoy when they can customize their experience. A game that boasts diverse customization options and the possibility to tailor the gameplay to the player’s needs can cater to a larger audience. It’s quite important to remember that it’s also the developers’ engagement that might lead to a game’s success. Those who actively listen to feedback and care about their fans can count on their audience’s support.

Success isn’t exclusive to huge studios, either. Recent years have shown the growing popularity of games produced by independent studios. They prove that they are capable of releasing titles that can easily compete with big AAA games. Titles like Hades or Stray capture players with unique stories, fantastic gameplay, and memorable moments, despite getting produced by smaller studios.

What tips would you give to someone looking to develop their first game?

GAMIVO is not a video game developer, so I don't have the recipe for the perfect first game. Nonetheless, our unique standing lets me point out some matters that may help release a successful title. For example, many novice developers completely forget about marketing. Unfortunately, even an outstanding title won't be a commercial success unless people know it exists in the first place.

Therefore, it's necessary to think about advertising activities. The least you should do is send influencers copies of your game, hoping that some of them will like it and start streaming. In the best-case scenario, it will go viral and spread through the internet like Valheim did in 2021 and Vampire Survivors in 2022. Don't want to do it yourself? You can look for a publisher or forge a partnership with a platform like GAMIVO, which can take care of marketing.

When it comes to development, it's tough yet essential to restrain your ambitions. It's better to release a smaller, polished build that you can expand in the future than an undercooked game with tons of ambitious but half-baked features. Moreover, regular updates will help you build a community. I would also advise focusing on something that will allow your game to stand out from hundreds of other titles. I understand it's difficult, but blindly following trends is a road to nowhere. Dozens of games have copied Slay the Spire's mechanics, yet none of them have replicated its success.

What details do you think every player should be vigilant about when navigating the online gaming environment? Are there any security tools or practices that you think everyone should use?

The first line of defense is our common sense. If a random person you meet online offers a magical way to double your in-game currency or unlock paid content, the red light should come on. Even if the trick worked, which is unlikely, exploiting a glitch could lead to a permanent banning of your account.

As for underage players, their parents play a crucial role. Most people believe violent games are dangerous, but the real threat lies elsewhere. I'm talking about features that are highly inappropriate or even harmful for kids, such as microtransactions and gambling elements. Moreover, adults should check the game for a voice chat where their children might hear some toxic comments. Unfortunately, parents too often don't even bother to check the age restrictions of their children's favorite games.

Since games are your main field of focus, how do you think this industry will evolve in the future?

The gaming industry is growing and evolving at a very fast pace. The technology already allows for the creation of outstanding visual and gameplay experiences. The recent advancements in VR technology have also brought virtual realities closer to the public. The release of the PS VR 2 headset proved that this technology saw huge improvements in quality and user experience.

We shouldn’t forget about mobile gaming as well. This segment of the industry has seen immense growth. Smartphone games often serve as an entry point for new gamers and introduce them to gaming in general. Mobile phones and current portable devices are advanced enough to handle even more demanding titles, including mobile counterparts to the wildly popular Call of Duty, League of Legends, and Diablo franchises. Many players begin their adventure with simpler mobile titles and move on to the original productions.

Another important aspect is the growth of streaming services and subscriptions. Huge companies such as Sony, EA, or Microsoft develop subscription-based services for their clients, giving them instant access to huge libraries of games right away. Game producers will most likely have to keep this factor in mind. Speaking of distribution, video games are most commonly purchased online. The era of plastic boxes is slowly coming to an end. Players want to access their games quickly without needing to go to a store to get a physical copy. This shift in customer habits and preferences also influences the rise of cloud gaming. Similar to services like Netflix, users don’t have to download games; they only need an internet connection and a machine to play.

And finally, what’s next for GAMIVO?

I believe that a company that begins to think it has no room for improvement starts to crumble. GAMIVO constantly looks for new ways to develop. Before, we emphasized broadening what we offer. Now, we focus on scaling and automation. We also spare lots of effort on UX and UI design. We want to make our platform as user-friendly and intuitive as possible for our customers and suppliers.

Providing our users with deals and promotions they can't find anywhere else is also among our top priorities. Hence, we're trying to think outside the box and forge partnerships not only with game developers but also with companies from outside the gaming industry. In recent months, we have launched campaigns with the Żabka chain of convenience stores, a renowned payment provider PayPal, and Coca-Cola, a brand that needs no introduction. We're about to announce new partnerships soon.

There are also some projects that I can't disclose now. What I can promise is that we will still closely follow all the industry trends. This includes hearing players' voices to be able to meet their expectations.

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