Xsolla, a global video game commerce company working with the likes of Roblox, Epic Games and Ubisoft, recently partnered with global cryptocurrency platform Crypto.com to allow gamers to use cryptocurrency as a payment method for in-game spending.
Chris Hewish, president and interim CEO of Xsolla, describes the partnership as a pivotal moment for the gaming industry, paving the way for a more inclusive and secure gaming ecosystem.
Hewish is a lifelong gamer and an award-winning interactive executive and studio head with experience driving operations and go-to-market strategies across all segments of the video game industry.
In this week’s In Profile, Hewish shares his experiences, challenges and views on both the gaming and fintech sectors, and the future of Xsolla.
What are some of your recent achievements you’d like to highlight?
Some of my proudest recent achievements at Xsolla include continuing to grow and scale the company in the context of challenging conditions in the wider tech industry, and overseeing the company’s growth and expansion into new markets. For example, we recently launched a partnership with AliPay which is streamlining the payment experience for gamers in South East Asia, allowing tens of millions of players access to reliable, safe and fast ways to pay for their favorite games and items.
Additionally, we’ve worked with Mastercard on a ‘Pay with Points’ loyalty scheme to reward players for their commitment to their favorite games and apps. Our Webshop for Mobile Games is another accomplishment from our team that I feel great about.
We’ve really helped grow the audience and business of mobile games by introducing a truly robust set of ecommerce tools and larger mix of payment methods to our friends in the mobile gaming industry. For these and many other reasons I’m incredibly proud of our team’s efforts in ensuring Xsolla is at the forefront of fintech innovation, and are always looking at how fintech can embrace emerging technologies, such as through our new NFT checkout solution.
How did you get into the fintech industry?
I’ve always been fascinated with technology and its potential to reach people and solve real-world problems. Working at gaming and entertainment brands Dreamworks Interactive and Activision allowed me to be part of some of the world’s largest entertainment IPs, bringing famous storylines and characters to millions of gamers.
What attracted me to Xsolla was the opportunity to remain connected to the video games industry, while learning about an entirely new part of the business related to how fintech and payments enable gamers across the world to access more of the content they love.
What’s the best thing about working in the fintech industry?
For me, the best thing about working in the fintech industry is the opportunity to be at the forefront of technological innovation and to create real-world solutions that impact people’s lives positively. The fintech industry is constantly evolving, with new technologies and payment solutions being developed every day.
Being part of this industry provides a sense of excitement and fulfillment as we work towards creating a more inclusive financial system. Furthermore, fintech has the potential to make a significant impact on the global economy and communities worldwide, especially in developing countries where access to financial services can be extremely limited. Smart, accessible fintech solutions can help level the playing field and allow consumers all around the world to benefit.
What frustrates you most about the fintech industry?
I’d say there are two major frustrations for me personally; one related to the industry and the other related to its customers. Industry first: in this day and age where we’re so connected globally, I find it frustrating that there are regions where it’s still incredibly difficult or costly to engage with and/or get money out of. Regional controls and regulations in parts of the world make it unduly difficult to conduct business with local payment providers both large and small.
The second thing that really frustrates me is the limited awareness that many game companies have around the opportunities provided by embracing alternative payments on a global scale. It’s unfortunate that macroeconomic conditions are what it took to finally force many companies to educate themselves about the entire fintech landscape and how much opportunity they’d been leaving on the table.
How have your previous roles influenced your career?
I’ve been really fortunate to hold a variety of roles that have provided insight and experience working on all sides of the video game industry. I love games and the games industry, and it’s provided so many great opportunities for learning and growth. My first two jobs in the industry really drove home the idea that you can’t teach passion. You can teach people the technical side of things, but if they aren’t passionate about the job or the industry then the upside is limited.
Both the video game and the fintech industries operate at such a high pace, that it’s important to be working with passionate people to help offset potential burnout.
Working at game and entertainment companies has also really influenced the way I look at messaging and engaging with our partners. I truly believe in providing interesting narratives and content to help get our message across, versus selling purely based on data. Being able to connect authentically and emotionally with our partners has really come from these previous experiences creating engaging content for games and interactive media.
What’s the best mistake you’ve ever made?
There are so many to choose from but one that really had a major impact on my career and my life could be traced back to making a choice between pursuing a career as a DJ versus a career in games. I was working full time at a video game company, back when the industry was a fraction of what it is today.
While at night I was spinning records in front of large audiences. In the same week, I had an offer to move across the country to join a tiny company in turnaround mode, and an offer to become resident DJ at a club in Washington, DC.
There was more money in the DJ job, but my passion drew me to the video game job. So it was a ‘mistake’ to leave the hire paying opportunity, which became my best mistake by joining what we now know as Activision Blizzard; where I worked for 13 years as we grew from 100 people to thousands across the globe.
What has the future got in store for your company?
Xsolla has always been at the forefront of innovation in the video games industry, and we are constantly looking for new ways to meet the evolving needs of the gaming community. We see a future where gamers worldwide have access to a huge range of payment methods using the currencies of their choice, including cryptocurrencies. We are continuing to scale our business globally from our headquarters in LA, expanding our presence in Berlin and London and opening a new flagship office in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia.
What are the next key talking points or challenges for your industry as a whole?
As the fintech industry continues to evolve, there are several key challenges that we must address. One of the biggest challenges is staying ahead of the curve in terms of technological innovation. The pace of change in both the fintech and video games industries is rapid.
Another significant challenge is ensuring the security of payment transactions. As the development of artificial intelligence continues to advance, cybersecurity threats are becoming more sophisticated, and it’s essential that we stay vigilant in providing the highest quality of anti-fraud protection as well as keeping our customer’s data safe.
Finally, regulatory compliance is also a critical issue for the industry. Xsolla is committed to maintaining the highest standards of regulatory compliance and working with industry partners and regulators to develop and implement best practices that benefit our customers and the wider fintech community.