People are desperate to showcase their personality in the digital world. It’s something that I’ve really pushed as a company, that we make it easy for people to showcase their own selves, no matter what that might be.
As a part of our series about what’s around the corner for the toy, game, and video game industry, I had the pleasure of interviewing Vlad Panchenko.
Vlad Panchenko is a video game and technology entrepreneur with over 15 years of experience, Vlad is now building new gaming and esports metaverses, and is focused on the future of the in-game items industry — one that covers the needs of 2.9 billion gamers worldwide. His cosmopolitan life views have formed his business approach of a world without borders through gaming and interactive entertainment companies.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Our readers would love to “get to know you” a bit better. Can you share the “backstory” behind what brought you to this particular career path?
What actually put me where I am today is that first of all, I have desperately loved gaming for as long as I can remember. One of the turning point moments was when I got my first PC. I’d played Playstation at my friends’ houses before, but having my own first PC was the real turning point when I started to understand some of the opportunities that were available. Playing games helped me to communicate with people across the whole world — even though I was only a kid. At the same time this hobby required better hardware, and I learned the hard way I would have to make the cash to buy it myself.
My skills as an entrepreneur started early, buying and selling on eBay, before I found a career in Television. For around 7-years I worked my way up to have my own TV production studio where we made around five documentaries a year — mainly focused on sport.
But it wasn’t until I sat down and realised that my sideline hobby — buying and selling games and gaming hardware, earned around 95% of my revenue. I gave my TV equipment to my dad who was also involved in the TV industry, and since then gaming has been both my hobby and my career.
Now I’m helping to combine a gaming layer with the entertainment industry and my background suddenly makes sense. Everyday, I can see the value of what I do. With my Ukranian an Israeli background and international experience I’m aware of where I come from, and I only do something if I can see its worldwide potential.
Can you share the most interesting story that happened to you since you started your career? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?
Actually it comes from boxing. I’ve made films on many of the world’s best boxers. Watching them train I realised — no matter how tired these guys get, they just keep going. I sat there day after day, realising that this section of athleticism is really the end of the line. Because when you think they’ve taken enough, they get back up and do another ten rounds — and then another ten! This is how the 1% work, and even now when I feel tired I remember how they did it, and I get back up.
The hardest moment I’ve faced so far was after I built a business in gaming, and overnight eBay simply blocked my account because at that time it wasn’t common to trade digital assets. Everything was good on my end but they couldn’t control digital assets trading and it was easier for them just to prohibit it. It’s funny because these days they are keeping up with trends and launching NFT trading. But coming back to my story: suddenly I found myself absolutely desperate, all my accounts blocked with no way to access the money I’d invested. But once again — I always remember those boxers who never give up and found a way. And that’s what I’ve been doing throughout my entire entrepreneur path. Overall, our failures bring us to bigger goals.
None of us are able to achieve success without some help along the way. Is there a particular person who you are grateful towards who helped get you to where you are? Can you share a story about that?
The one person I’m grateful to see everyday is my CFO and co-founder Tamara Slanova who I started working with 15-years ago. We were friends before and I realized that at some point, the company got too big and I wasn’t able to keep an eye on all the revenue transactions. I offered the job to Tamara and thank god she accepted because just a few weeks after she started she came and found me in my office and asked if I wanted to hear the good news or the bad news? I went for the good news first — she had found people that owed me money and I simply had to ask for it back and it was in my account. Which was great. The bad? Within 3-months we would have gone in the red, simply because I couldn’t keep track of all the moving parts. Luckily, in two months we developed a new profitable business model. Since then, she’s been a part of all my business endeavors. I couldn’t do it without her.
How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?
I wouldn’t do anything if I thought it was bad for the world. For me, there are red lines that I will not cross — and although I’ve been tempted twice in my life, both times I made the decision not to do it and I’m not going to start now. That’s not how I live my life.
Ok fantastic. Let’s now move to the main focus of our discussion. Can you tell us about the technological innovations in gaming that you are working on?
We have created a technology to build a game around any entertainment content — from a broadcast TV channel or a streamer on Twitch to an existing game that needs an additional boost.
We are basically building gamified metaverses around brands, and helping to grow those brands. Overall, we are already living in the metaverse, it’s only a matter of time before everyone will realize that. Our next step is to develop and grow the technology, so everyone will be able to become an entrepreneur in those metaverses — build their own business and earn money while having fun. It’s already working for NFT collectors, in-game items traders and content creators.
How do you think this might disrupt the status quo?
It’s already being disrupted. Some people who never wanted to play games find themselves hooked because now they can showcase their talents, create content and make money. Like the fashion label Louis Vuitton. This is the future, when Louis Vuitton creates items within the game that can then be sold in the real world. This is the beginning of the metaverse epoc.
You, of course, know that games and toys are not simply entertainment, but they can be used for important purposes. What is the “purpose” or mission behind your company? How do you think you are helping people or society?
People are desperate to showcase their personality in the digital world. It’s something that I’ve really pushed as a company, that we make it easy for people to showcase their own selves, no matter what that might be. I’ve played games with amazing stories that made me feel complete just with their fantastic narratives. But there is an enormous number of games that need different types of interaction to keep players on the short leash. In-game content is one of them. But what I‘m saying is that not all games need items, skins, additional content to be a masterpiece, but there are an impressive amount of games which need it crucially. And that is what we offer. I would say we are helping gamers to feel themselves and to express themselves in different gaming metaverses.
The purpose is to fill the gap, to cover the community’s demand, to make 2.9 billion people worldwide happy and to bring them entrepreneurship opportunities in a way. The mission is always evolving as much as demand does.
I’m very interested in the interface between games and education. How do you think more people (parents, teachers etc.) or institutions (work, school etc.) can leverage toys or gamification to enhance education?
From my perspective the best way to learn something is through a game. As a kid, it’s quite hard to focus in a typical classroom environment and in my view a lot of the standard curriculum could be aided by some sort of game play. Whether that’s learning basic physics through VR or something completely different. The problem is a unit economy, because right now there’s not enough people willing to buy into it, which means that developers can’t create it. But in 5-years, definitely.
How would you define a “successful” game or toy? Can you share an example of a game or toy that you hold up as an aspiration?
Last of Us 2 and Red Dead Redemption 2 are masterpieces.
Also, Roblox is an amazing example. Because they have created not just a game but a gated platform where one user can create an experience for another user and still make money. This is the future for most of the gaming world.
Not only is Roblox pioneering, but it’s an example of giving people the tools to make money in a good way. Nobody is stealing from each other, they’re just being entertained and in some cases, paying for this purpose. And in the middle, the platform facilitates the trade and earns a slice of the transaction. But the best thing to consider is the actual ownership of these items. Yes, 99% of these items will have no value. But for 1%, they will be the rarest in the world. And that’s exciting.
What are the “5 Things You Need to Know To Create a Successful Game” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)
In one respect I think looking at the games that are successful and understanding what they do best is the wrong thing to do. It’s called the mistake of the survivor. It’s like in WW2 when the British Navy tried to armor their planes to withstand the German’s bullets. They examined the bullet holes to see where they most needed to be repaired — but instead, what they actually needed was to look at the planes that had been shot down. Unfortunately, they didn’t get this opportunity — but certainly for game developers these days it’s more a question of ‘why did it fail?’ rather than ‘how can we make it successful?’Actually when a game is successful — it’s a miracle. I have seen plenty of clever people launch games to a bad response, you need hundreds of things to line up to make a game successful but the first thing you need to know is how to entertain — and retain — hundreds of thousands of people every day. Then you need to find a way to sell and upsell.
But I would never give advice to a game developer because this is so easy to get wrong.
You are a person of great influence. If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be? You never know what your idea can trigger. :-)
This is what DMarket is all about. When open marketplaces become a big thing, no-one will want to play a game where they can’t take their character and put them in another gaming environment. These items that are available to craft or purchase in-games — or metaverses as they will be known, will only increase in value when they have the ability to be included across games. But these things take time. On average it takes 3-years to bring a game to market, so for developers to include true item ownership we’re not going to see these step-changes for another few years. But by then, if your game doesn’t include the ability to trade across games, who is going to want to play it?
Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?
My life lesson comes from watching those boxing tapes, night after night. Success is not final, failure is not fatal, it is the courage to continue that counts. I’ve almost given up several times, but kept hanging on. And that’s all you have to do, just make sure you’re the last one standing.
How can our readers follow you on social media?
Sometimes I share my thoughts and ideas @DmarketVlad
Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.