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Speaker Spotlight: “staying on top of trends involves being a gamer yoursel | Pocket Gamer.biz

Pocket Gamer Connects Digital is back for 2021, set to bring together some of the finest voices in the games industry and beyond.

PGC Digital #5 takes place on February 8th – 12th. To give you a taste of what to expect, we’ll regularly be publishing interviews with the speakers at the show.

The conference spans across five days and will feature a broad selection of tracks, talks and speakers, as well as various fringe events and the return of our meeting system. For more details on PGC Digital and to book a ticket, head to the website.

Today’s spotlight is on Mario Stefanidis, Associate at Roundhill Investments. Stefanidis covers digital media and entertainment and is an avid gamer. He’ll be heading to PGC Digital #5 for a talk titled ‘The Rise of Gaming as a Service’, where he’ll discuss the history of digital distribution, monetisation trends in gaming and stock opportunities for publishers.

PocketGamer.biz: Tell us a bit about your company?

Mario Stefanidis: Roundhill Investments is a registered investment adviser and ETF sponsor focused on thematic and sector-specific investing. We create thoughtful investment products designed to help investors express their vision of the future. Roundhill is built on the primary tenets of investor education, full transparency and open communication. Roundhill launched the first pure-play esports exchange traded fund (ETF) in 2019, under the ticker NERD on the NYSE.

What does your role entail?

My role entails coverage of the digital media and entertainment landscape, including the management of current Roundhill funds in the space. I work to identify new themes to launch new portfolios as well, and to help investors understand our thesis behind those themes.

Why did you want to work in the games industry?

I’ve been a gamer my whole life, and video games are still far and away my top hobby. After deciding to pursue finance in college, I went to work for BlackRock in a more traditional investing role. However, as time went on, I realised there were opportunities to blend my finance and investing experience with the video game industry.

It also became clear during COVID that the shift away from television to more interactive forms of media is accelerating, which is a tailwind I wanted to be a part of. ETFs as a medium for investing are still growing rapidly, and have significant overlap with the gaming demographic.

What advice would you give to anyone looking to get into it?

I think it’s important to keep your finger on the pulse of the industry constantly, as trends are evolving so rapidly. For example, no one ten years ago could have predicted that future consoles would come without an optical disc drive and that many games wouldn’t even come in a physical form.

Part of staying on top of trends involves being a gamer yourself, being familiar with multiple platforms, and being a part of the broader gaming community on platforms like Discord and Steam.

What are your thoughts on the industry in the last 12 months?

COVID has accelerated trends that we’ve been seeing throughout the last decade. Consumer spending on video games, peripherals, and hardware has crushed records, as millions of people stuck inside have become first-time gamers.

Advancements in GPU technology from Nvidia and AMD are enabling higher resolutions and frame rates, allowing games to look more lifelike than ever. We are also seeing extremely popular social games come out from indie developers, like Among Us from InnerSloth and Phasmophobia from Kinetic Games. Games like these allow people to stay close with their friends during a time where in-person socialisation is difficult.

What major trends do you predict in the next 12 months?

Cloud Gaming will continue to gain share from traditional consoles, and new players will enter the space. 5G will reduce latency significantly for cloud gaming, allowing competitive titles and esports to be played over the network. This will also allow gamers in emerging markets like China and India to take part in the same experiences as those in developed markets, as hardware will no longer be an economic barrier.

As a result, titles that can currently be played only on high-end PCs and consoles will become available on smartphones and tablets. VR will still be in its relative infancy, but I expect new titles will be announced from top publishers. We may also see Microsoft announce the development of a VR Headset, to compete with PlayStation VR.

Which part of the Connects event are you most looking forward to and why?

Since this is my first PGC, I’m looking forward to everything the conference has to offer, and plan on tuning in to as many panels as I can. I’m also really looking forward to the esports + influencers track, since this is the space we are tracking most closely and seek to make future investments in.

Want more?

The full conference schedule will be live very soon. In the meantime, you can also check out our other track rundowns and coverage of previous Pocket Gamer Connects conferences ahead of the event itself.

Register for Pocket Gamer Connects Digital #5 today!

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