Dmitry Kozko of Motorsport Games: “The first thing is to understand why you are creating a game”

The first thing is to understand why you are creating a game. Without true passion and dedication, completing and continuing to evolve a game is really tough. So to make sure you’ll persevere, I would say find your north star and don’t take your eyes off of it. In other words, define your success. As a […]

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The first thing is to understand why you are creating a game. Without true passion and dedication, completing and continuing to evolve a game is really tough. So to make sure you’ll persevere, I would say find your north star and don’t take your eyes off of it. In other words, define your success.

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 Dmitry Kozko, Motorsport Games.

A technology entrepreneur with a history of delivery, Dmitry joined Motorsport Games from its parent company, Motorsport Network in January 2020, having held the positions of Senior VP of Operations and then COO at the media monolith. Prior to joining the Network in 2018 he was CEO of Ultracast and President of IC Realtime, where he retains a seat on the board. Formerly the President and a director of Net Element (NASDAQ:NETE) from 2012 to 2014 Dmitry was Executive VP of Business Development of the Company’s predecessor, Net Element, from December 2010 until October 2012 and a director from October 2011 until October 2012. He co-founded the Company’s subsidiary, Openfilm, LLC, in 2007 and held the position of CEO from 2009 until October 2012 having previously been its Chief Marketing Officer.

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?

I am a true geek at heart. I’ve always loved computers and cars, tinkered with computers to overclock them to be more competitive in Unreal Capture the Flag or rebuilt car engines after screwing them up in street racing when I was a teen. I’ve also always had an entrepreneurial spirit from my middle school days. Seeings how things are in the world and always having ideas on how to improve them is another blessing of mine. Growing up in a low income family, I had to earn my lunch money selling lollipops in middle school. My backstory helped build the foundation of who I am today. Fast forward to my career point now and after a few successful — and some not so successful — tech startup ventures, I was able to land an opportunity to lead Motorsport Games, which is really at the crossroad of all my passion points. It mixes racing, cars, technology and gaming all into one. My experience of innovating and leading private and public companies has added to the mix and I couldn’t be more excited. This is a career that definitely became one of those stories where it doesn’t feel like work anymore.

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?

Many interesting stories come to mind, but one stands out as most relevant here. I remember it like yesterday, having dinner with my dear friend and advisor, John Schappert, who is one of the most noted people in the gaming world. During dinner, I was telling John that I really believed that a portfolio company of ours, Motorsport Games (at that time I was COO of the parent company, Motorsport Network) really had massive potential. I detailed my vision of where I saw it heading and asked who he thought could be a good CEO to help drive this vision. John looked at me and said, “Why don’t you be the CEO?” I thought he was crazy, since I am not from the gaming world and I feel CEOs of potentially massive gaming companies should be from that industry and have such experience. However, in further conversations he helped me realize that my unique attributes, passion points and relevant enough experience, paired with a vision to disrupt the racing genre, is exactly what needs to come from someone from outside the gaming world. I couldn’t thank John enough to help me see this from a different perspective.

So the main lesson that I learned is that things are not what they seem and the obvious path is not always the right one. You have to continue to look from all angles and challenge your own thoughts. But if you have a great outside perspective, someone (like John in my case) can help you connect the dots that were not so obvious initially and after will seem like a “Duh!” moment.

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?

Many people have helped me achieve success, especially support from my wife and my daughters. Most of all however, I would say that my partner back in 2006 helped most. My partner gave me the first chance of starting a new online video sharing site by drip financing small milestones, one at a time. Fast forward 15 years from then and having been around this mentor, I continue to learn that NO is not an answer. There is always a way to get to the desired end result. I saw this successful, self-made entrepreneur do things that many said were not possible. That inspired me to continue to try, even though things sometimes seem impossible. Now, I always try and focus on making constant progress in the right direction.

How have you used your success to bring goodness to the world?

One thing that I continue to see is that racing games create positive emotions from our gamers. I really want to focus on bringing that positivity to the masses around the world. These are not shooter games or other genres, but are cross generational, fun and engaging forms of entertainment. The more we can spread this emotion, the more I feel that I would be spreading joy throughout the world, and we can all use a little more joy in life. If we can help people with similar passions as us find their own career path in games, we would encourage that tremendously. This is why we started to sponsor STEM programs locally and hope to expand such initiatives in the future.

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?

I cannot reveal too much, but what I can say is that innovation is required to disrupt the status quo and that is exactly the focus of our passionate Motorsport Games family. We are an odd mix of individuals who have experience both within and outside the games industry, but we all share the same passion and vision for Motorsport Games. I cannot wait to show the world what we are cooking up here.

How do you think this might disrupt the status quo?

In our opinion, the racing game genre has been neglected by the games industry for too long, especially considering the level of commercial success some titles have had, such as Forza. We believe this is one of the many reasons highlighting how we can not only take the leading market share position (racing games are about 5.8% of the $175B gaming pie), but also increase the overall size of the genre to be within the top three in the entire games industry. It takes innovation, listening and speaking to the passionate community to achieve this. In addition, we have to create great racing games that will appeal not only to all gamers (because they will be fun), but to everyone who is looking for a positive form of entertainment.

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?

Our purpose is really to spread joy in the world through racing games. We believe that a more joyful world will be a better place for everyone. If we can contribute to that notably, I would say we will be proud in making such an impact and have fulfilled our mission.

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?

The virtual world has become a new format kids use to socialize and be expressive. Because kids are used to this format of content consumption and creation, educating kids in this familiar way will help with retention and add a fun aspect to learning. I believe people retain information that they really enjoy and connect with. In my opinion, if parents and teachers can make education a lot more fun, kids will embrace it more and will develop an affinity for learning. Just look at how some game environments are able to capture kids’ attention today. Kids argue with their parents when they disrupt their gaming sessions for example. We need to leverage such gamification as much as possible to get to a point where parents will instead be asking kids to stop spending so much time within these gamified education world. I can’t wait for a moment where one of my three daughters will ask me for in-game purchase for something more educational 🙂

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?

Success is defined by different things to different people. To me, success is meeting a goal that was set by the creator of said goal. I can think of many examples that surpassed each’s original goal. One inspiration that comes to my mind is Mario Kart. I believe it’s a great racing game that captures the right positive emotions of gamers. I cannot think of a single person that has played Mario Kart and didn’t enjoy it. That is the type of success we are looking to achieve with our racing games. We want to capture the fun and joyous emotions in a game like Mario Kart and bring them to our titles. Once that is achieved and we become known around the world in the way industry leaders like Mario Kart are, I would say that would be a success.

What are the “5 Things You Need to Know To Create a Successful Game” and why. (Please share a story or example for each.)

  1. I would say the first thing is to understand why you are creating a game. Without true passion and dedication, completing and continuing to evolve a game is really tough. So to make sure you’ll persevere, I would say find your north star and don’t take your eyes off of it. In other words, define your success.
  2. Second, I would say to understand who you are making the game for. It’s important to know upfront who your target audience is, as there are many methods, formats and platforms to make a game. Pinpointing exactly who you’re making the game for will help you better identify how you can get to your north star.
  3. Third, make sure to find the right team. The main thing we look for is a shared passion and vision. Without the right team, it will be a much more difficult process to create a successful game.
  4. The fourth thing is to be elastic. Of course, be true to your vision and passion, but the path to get there can (and probably will) change over time, so be ready to adapt at any moment and be flexible to change.
  5. Lastly, have a running start. We are a big believer in gathering existing IP and the access to the captive fan bases that comes with them. It’s easier to start the race from a rolling start than to figure out how to take off first. For us, our rolling start was obtaining these licenses that have captive passionate fans that we can bring great games to. If we make good on this, we will have a community that can help spread the message and ultimately joy to more and more people.

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. 🙂

I would love to inspire positive emotion days throughout the world. Particular days where we focus on only the good and not on the drama or challenges in life. Everything has good in it and I would love to encourage the world to find that and share it with each other. If we have enough such days, maybe it will become a habit and that can just turn into a standard way of living.

Can you please give us your favorite “Life Lesson Quote”? Can you share how that was relevant to you in your life?

I say to my team all the time, “We can eat an elephant one bite at a time.” When I looked it up, it was actually said by Creighton Abrams before. I would say that is the most relevant life lesson quote for myself. I look at any enormous goal and believe it’s achievable by going one step at a time. I focus on that goal and make sure that no day gets wasted in moving ever closer to that goal.

How can our readers follow you on social media?

I am not big on social media posting, more on consumption, but if I had to point to one place, I would say to my LinkedIn page

Thank you so much for joining us. This was very inspirational.

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