LeoGaming plays on despite the global pandemic
As the pandemic continues to unfold, and people find themselves forced to spend more and more time at home, LeoGaming is seeing a growing demand for their service from across the age spectrum, and an increasingly sophisticated payment industry springing up around it. This month we speak to Alyona Degrik Shevtsova, CEO at LeoGaming, about the importance of minding your people and where to next for the company.
Ding: Tell us about LeoGaming, your role, and what was the inspiration for the company?
Alyona: As the CEO of LeoGaming, it’s hard for me to single out one key role in the company – I am involved in all the development processes across the company. I keep everything under control, but try to do less micro-management, and focus more on strategic issues and key customers. We have a low employee turnover, and we have experienced heads of department who are very capable and know the company well.
People are my main inspiration. Fintech makes life easier for people every day and helps to bring their user experience to a new level. We are lucky to have an inspiring team of professionals who are very engaged in the space.
Ding: How does LeoGaming work and who is your average customer?
Alyona: LeoGaming is a b2b company – we provide universal payment solutions for customers, terminal networks and online game publishers and developers – allowing our customers to add funds into an account of a particular service throughout Ukraine, both online and offline.
Ding: Online Gaming is more in demand than ever and growing rapidly – what has Covid-19 meant for your business?
Alyona: Online games have always shown sustainable growth in Ukraine. Ukraine was one of the pioneer countries in e-sports, and due to a good internet infrastructure, online entertainment solutions are widely available to everyone. The pandemic only accelerated this. The country immediately enforced a strict quarantine at a state level in order to stop the first wave of COVID-19, which meant people were forces to stay at home most of the time, and during that time the average usage of online games in our portfolio of services increased by up to 30%. Based on such dynamics, we ran promotions with our partners – Mastercard and Visa – offering a bonus for game accounts, which proved very popular.
Ding: What does the modern Ukrainian Gamer look like – how has this changed?
Alyona: There are about 10 million gamers in Ukraine – these are people who have played at least one online game over a period of time. The active audience – those who perceive gaming as a way of spending some time with friends and family – is smaller, but nonetheless a significant part of the population. In terms of age, Ukrainian gamers are segmented according to the most popular games. The World of Tanks audience is traditionally older – 25 to 50 years old. This is a unique audience who say “I don’t usually play games at all, but Tanks is a whole different story!” Steam’s online store audience is younger – students and young professionals in the 18 to 30 years age bracket. The situation is the same with all other MOBA games. The audience of the extremely popular Fortnite and PUBG games is even younger, but they are not as active because they do not always have their own income.
Ding: One of the most popular online game distribution models are free-to-play games with microtransactions in it. LeoGaming is working with them. So, what’s the main reason, why are gamers so into f2p games?
Alyona: The reason is that, despite the availability of UAH in Steam as a payment currency, the average price for games remains quite high for most Ukrainian gamers. That’s why gamers prefer to play f2p games, paying small amounts in gaming microtransactions. Premium accounts, new skins for characters and other cosmetic upgrades – this is what Ukrainian gamers are interested in.
Ding: How exactly are Ukrainian gamers paying for games? Are there any unique payment methods?
Alyona: Bank card payments are popular and in demand, as in the rest of the world. However, Ukraine is just as active in terms of the use of cashless instruments, which makes cash-in payment kiosks extremely popular in the country. This is a top-up point with a touchscreen and it can be used to enter data, deposit cash and make payments. There are more than 40,000 payment kiosks in Ukraine, located in shopping malls, supermarkets, small shops, cinemas, pharmacies – wherever the customer is more likely to be shopping.
“Mobile commerce”, or carrier billing – another peculiarity of Ukrainian market – is a method that allows customers to make payments with their mobile credit. This is a very popular alternative to bank card payments. The three largest mobile operators in Ukraine – Kyivstar, Lifecell and Vodafone – are investing in targeting and working with such an audience, while the large online marketplaces are integrating this payment method into websites and apps.
Ding: Has the pandemic changed LeoGaming’s outlook for the future? What are your top three tips for surviving and thriving in the online gaming industry or as a digital business?
Alyona: We had gone through several months of remote work, but recently have returned to the office because we feel being in the office and being part of that culture makes LeoGaming more efficient. We managed to switch to remote work without difficulty, but the lack of communication undoubtedly affects the team.
So my top piece of advice is: people are your company’s most valuable asset. Support your team, listen to them and help them in their ‘darkest hour’ – and when the company goes through changes, they will support you during difficult times in return.
The second tip is to maintain long-term relationships with partners. At LeoGaming we always focus on providing customers with the most favourable terms of working together.
And the third tip – invest in the health of your colleagues. COVID-19 has made this a key priority: high-quality insurance and periodic medical examinations can not only maintain productivity, but also save lives.
Ding: Expansion, new products – you have recently added mobile top-up via Ding, what does the future hold for LeoGaming?
Alyona: Mobile communication and related mobile commerce are in constant demand. Today people need, and want, to stay online all the time. Stay connected. Therefore, this is greatly informing our strategic thinking about where we want to go next.