This month we’ve got an extra special Final Boss feature with Green Man Gaming CEO Paul Sulyok, to celebrate Green Man Gaming’s tenth birthday and look back at a decade of success
Happy tenth anniversary! Got anything special planned?
We’ve always had a robust sale to celebrate our birthday, but this year we’re pulling out all the stops with month-long deals, special giveaways, charity events and influencer parties, plus we will be doubling down on supporting the studios that are part of our Digital Partners Programme. Everything planned will be a chance to bring our community and friends from the industry together.
How are you coping with the current crisis?
Being together as one team is an important part of GMG culture. Prior to the official lockdown, we carried out department rehearsals and organised all the tech we needed, but this isn’t just about coping with logistics. For those without dedicated home office space, or with small children to homeschool, WFH can be challenging. The team realised early on that we need to make this work, and there’s been a really positive attitude taken by everyone in the company.
Most of the feedback I’m getting is that people are finding that WFH allows them to be highly productive and they are enjoying spending extra time with family without commute times. We’re taking a collaborative approach including all employees to develop a strategy for post-lockdown.
In essence, the idea is to find a healthy balance between what employees want, what is feasible, and having future government guidelines in mind. Giving the whole company a say in building this strategy has given a sense of belonging, despite the distance and WFH at the moment, and is for me, what has always been GMG’s greatest strength, the Green Team!
Looking back, how has Green Man Gaming changed over its ten years?
Even with the best planning in the world there are bumps in the road, but it’s the quality, professionalism, and enthusiasm of the team that’s got us through ten years. We started in a couple of small offices just near the British Library, and as we grew to a hundred people, had to knock down more and more walls to accommodate everyone on one floor, right up until the ceiling bowed and fell in! We were placing bets on how low it would go.
What was true then is true now; the spirit of the team, their ingenuity, and tenacious creativity to get the job done is the thing that keeps us alive and kicking. We launched (during a recession I might add) with a penny games sale and the idea of offering digital trade-ins for games. We went live, and saw a massive rush of customers from Japan and India so we’ve had to think globally from day one. Let’s just say, responding quickly to change has always been our forte.
We’ve also never been afraid to try things out, like being the first retailer to offer Bitcoin as a way to buy digital games, or to stick our neck out like launching a publishing arm (2014) way before other digital stores were exploring this space. More recently we’ve evolved our offer with our Digital Partners programme to say, hey, one size no longer fits all and here’s another way to go forward that requires a change in thinking and how we do business, but really does work.
“I think I still have some original branded Green Man Gaming goo in a tin that we gave away at the MCV Awards one year and will outlive all of us.”
When I think about it, my greatest memories of the past ten years have all been when someone has said, let’s try this, and the whole team dug in to make something happen – whether it was our notorious summer 666 sale where we had six deals changing every six hours for six days (which was insane as every member of the company was involved in some way, and I’m happy we have left our crunch days well behind us), or the massive task of rebranding ALF, our original Alien Life Form mascot so he was ready for any version of the future.
That was a tougher decision to make than I thought it would be, and I’ve had to make a LOT of tough decisions over the past decade. I think I still have some original branded Green Man Gaming goo in a tin that we gave away at the MCV Awards one year and will outlive all of us. It was the right call to make as we grew up as a company in that moment, and properly laid the foundation for us to be so much more than just a store – to become a whole ecosystem.
I think we’ve come a long way as a company in terms of global reach and expertise which was always our vision, but our beating heart still remains the same.
And with the greatest respect to your current role, what is / was your dream job?
I’ve had two dream jobs. The first was to be a soldier and the second was to be an entrepreneur. I’ve ticked both boxes! I think my time in the British Army gave me the confidence to lead from the front, and to respect that great things come from working in a team all working on the same mission.
“I’m still blown away that after ten years at Green Man Gaming I can walk out of a meeting with a developer, humbled by their courage, determination, and raw talent.”
I worked a spell in the City, and to be honest I hated it. It wasn’t the people that I disliked, it was how the culture warped individuals’ perspectives on the world.
In the games industry I’m lucky that I’ve managed (and continue) to work with some amazingly talented, intelligent, and professional people. I’m still blown away that after ten years at Green Man Gaming I can walk out of a meeting with a developer, humbled by their courage, determination, and raw talent.
Can the games industry possibly change as much over the next ten years as it has over the last ten?
I sincerely hope and believe so. The games industry never stands still. Just look at how we’ve come together to serve our biggest ever audience over the past couple of months – like the YANA event we were proud to be a part of at the start of this month, and think on how that will inform what we do next.
“The moment we stand still, or settle for doing something just because that’s the way it’s always been done would for me be a sad day indeed.”
We’re all online and collaborating more than ever before across platforms and timezones, with new business models, charities and outreach initiatives, education… We’re driven as an industry by creativity first, which leads to rapid advances in technology that drives change in ways we can’t even imagine yet. There’s no other industry as exciting and pivotal to change as ours.
Green Man Gaming has diversified over the years, onto different platforms and into publishing, will that continue?
It’s what we do best! Tracking the industry, and combining technical know-how with commercial sense is what got us through ten years and will serve us well into the next decade and beyond. The moment we stand still, or settle for doing something just because that’s the way it’s always been done would for me be a sad day indeed.
And are you missing the big games events this year or is it a bit of a relief?
We’ve always been wherever our community lives their lives, and though I personally will miss shaking hands with folks at the Saddle Ranch or at the Golden Joystick Awards, our focus remains on delivering a great service to our fans and customers, even if that’s all online for the foreseeable future.
Who continues to impress you in the industry?
I think companies such as Sumo Digital and Team 17 continue to impress me with their vision and growth, and give me energy to think about the next 10 years. I certainly couldn’t do my job without a great team around me, a team that have stayed the course for a decade and continue to deliver above and beyond when times seem tough.
Mostly, it’s our community of publishers, developers, and customers who keep me on my toes, and make the job a pleasure, not a chore.
I’d like to take this opportunity to thank everyone who has in any way been part of our story and supported us on this wild journey over the years. It’s been an honour.