On in-game concerts, attracting investment, and working without crunches
Ilya Karpinsky is a godsend for developers who have made or are planning to make a game, but don’t quite understand what their next step should be: where to find money for post-production, how to promote their product or where to release it. Ilya explains the right way to pitch your game, what exactly a convertible loan is, and how MY.GAMES can help projects in early-access stages.
Director of strategic development at MY.GAMES and head of the investment division at MRGV
CEO of Inlingo Game Localization Studio
“Making a modern game on your own is impossible”
— Ilya, what does your work at MY.GAMES involve, what kind of issues are you working on now?
— I handle investments, strategic development and making decisions that affect the growth of the company. I decide in what directions we want to move with regards to new projects, services, markets, any big ideas.
— If I’m a developer and I want to pitch a game, at what point should I come to you — at the prototype stage, or when the game is already performing?
— You can come to us at any stage, even at the point before you have anything. If you have good ideas and a good team, that’s enough. From there it depends on how capable your team is of selling their idea: what the product is going to look like, how to create it and how to interact with the target audience. The next step is preparing a prototype, which can be something drawn on paper, or a video, or just a rough sketch.
— What should the team look like? Can it be a single developer?
— One developer is unlikely. Our work mainly involves investing in teams and forming a network of partners, so it’s important to us that the people on the team have some idea of how to create their product. Making a modern game on your own is impossible. As a rule, games are made by a team which is constantly growing. Even when making mobile games, a team can have up to 20 people on it, with 2-3 founders who understand how to make a game.
— Speaking of founders, are there any special requirements or questions that you have for them? Can they be inexperienced founders, from different industries?
— Yes, they can be inexperienced founders. I can give you some examples of different companies which we’ve consolidated and announced. The founders of Panzerdog, for instance, had lots of experience under their belts. They had a big team, with many co-owners and shareholders. On the other hand, there’s SWAG MASHA, where two of the three founders had no previous experience in the gaming industry.
The former came to us with a finished prototype and investments that they’d gotten from another fund, the latter only had rough plans and an idea of how they wanted to make their product. Both companies were successful, and we consolidated them internally. They came to us at different stages, but now they are both earning a lot of money, they’re growing, they’ve become teams — these are our criteria for success.
When they came to us, the BIT.Games team had already been active in the market for over a decade. They’ve had their ups and downs, but now they are growing and developing. Gaming is a market where passion matters. You have to be interested in the development process, you have to want to play games and to understand how to make a complex piece of software. Having a good idea isn’t enough, it’s also about executing the idea well and knowing how to build a team properly.
— How do you tell when you’ve reached the point where you can seek investment and be likely to actually receive it? I had one project which was not performing yet, but we had a team and a business model. We needed money, but the majority of investors said, “Show us traction. If you can make 20,000 dollars, and get it to grow, then we’ll give you as much as you want.” But I realized that if I could show that kind of traction, then I wouldn’t need the amount of investment I was asking for. So, in the context of the gaming industry, how can you tell that it’s time to seek investment and actually receive it?
— Let’s consider this question through the lens of the philosophy which we’re building, one which I like and actively promote. It’s not about services, really — more about products. Although the same approach does apply to the services that surround games.
When we see the team, we understand what they’re capable of. This can be based on prior experience, or on how passionate they are, how willing they are to take risks. In that case, there can be no traction at all, just five people who are still sitting in their houses, who haven’t even bought computers yet. If they have a good idea, then this set-up is more than enough to get started: to buy computers, rent an office and then observe how the team moves through all the next stages.
When we use convertible loans or other sorts of contracts, the team grows and may not meet the conditions after a certain point. In those cases, we might say that we’ve had enough, we don’t want to continue our partnership, because something isn’t working out, the traction you mentioned isn’t there, and so on. But no matter what, we know the risk we’re taking before we sign the contract with this team.
So far, we haven’t had any situations where we closed down an investment project at the development stage. However, we might say that we aren’t prepared to keep working on the project for one reason or another. For example, when a team runs into problems and we’re ready to offer advice, but they won’t take it. If we don’t know how to fix the situation, we can take a step back and stop acting as a strategic partner.
Gaming is, after all, a product-oriented industry, one where there’s no real need to show constant traction. You release a game and from that moment you can show KPI, you can show audience growth, CPI, retention. There are a bunch of metrics that determine whether a game is growing or whether it’s at a standstill. Then, based on these metrics, you can make a decision, starting at the MVP stage, although we do finance some projects even before this stage. We realize that if MVP is going to cost 500,000 dollars, then that money has to be spent.
There’s no point in asking for metrics before the MVP stage, but, again, it all depends on the platform. You have mobile games, where you can get live metrics right away, then you have PC and console games, where metrics may not be available until the CBT stage (Closed Beta Test — ed.) From there, you look at focus groups and then you decide.
— You mentioned “convertible loans.” Can you explain this system in a little more detail?
— A convertible loan is a globally-recognized instrument, used in situations when you can’t precisely determine the size of initial investments. The share that the investor receives is tied to certain parameters, and the loan amount is converted at the time of a certain event. In our case, we tie it to the global launch, or to 12 months after the global launch.
From day one, our deals have had a fairly complex structure: there is a venture component as well as a strategic component. So, don’t focus on the “loan” part of a convertible loan — it’s not an agreement where you have to pay the money back, it’s more a set of conditions under which the amount of our share will be determined at time when the product is released. If, for some reason, the studio doesn’t use the entire amount of money, we receive a smaller share, and if they use a larger amount, we might receive a larger share than we originally agreed on. All these corridors are set out in advance, and based on these conditions we agree on a final amount.
These instruments are widely used in the Valley and all over the world. They make it easier both for the investor and the founder to agree on what the business configuration will look like after the product is released.
— Turning to compliance now, can I come to you as a team? Do I need to be a private company, or to have registered somewhere abroad?
— You can come as a team. In fact, we help everyone we work with to structure their business with an eye towards making it international — this allows us to take into consideration all the particularities of the legal systems of Europe, America and Asia. You can decide where the most profitable place for a company to register is based on where they are located in reality. Russia doesn’t have much of a gaming industry, due to some specifics relating to international payments. That’s why there aren’t many Russian companies. It’s not possible to purchase advertising or offset VAT taxes, which is why the majority of Russian founders set up their companies outside of Russia.
It’s not that they don’t want to start a business within Russia — they already have one, their teams are based here, but due to certain particularities of the Russian legal system, which are not aimed at the international market, they are forced to register within other jurisdictions. This isn’t a Russia-specific issue, it happens in other countries too.
“We’re a great fit as a platform for products that are just starting out”
— What’s the largest amount you’ve invested in a single product over the course of a year?
— We don’t really have a concept of “total amount invested in a single product over a year” — that would sound a bit weird. The products we develop for the mobile market cost, on average, from 1 to 3 million dollars up to the soft launch or global launch point. It can vary. It strongly depends on the place and the region where the product is being developed, as well as on the genre and on a large number of other factors.
There are some products which can be made for 200,000 or 100,000 dollars. In the hyper casual game market, a game can be made for 10,000 dollars, but if you want to have a profitable business, you need to make twenty, thirty, forty or fifty games like that. The average development cost for a PC or console is 3 million or more, with potential costs going all the way up to infinity.
— Do you have any priorities for platforms or genres, or does it depend first and foremost on the team?
— I would say that the focus is on the team. We always do more mobile games, simply because it’s easier to enter the mobile market. The structure of the business entails creating a large number of teams, because you’re doing the development yourself and usually operating the game yourself. These are small teams, though — 10, 20, 30 people. As for PC and console games, we have fewer of these, because the development process is bigger and more complex. We’re interested in both areas, because they have different business and profit structures.
In the long-term, we’re interested in teams that can make universal products that will be available on all platforms. Apple and Google want console-quality games to be available on mobile phones, and Microsoft, Sony and Nintendo want top mobile games, ones that earn millions, to become available on their platforms in some way.
— Speaking of platforms — can you tell us about MY.GAMES? As far as I understand, it is aimed at making games available on different devices?
— Not exactly. MY.GAMES is, first and foremost, a store where games can be published for PC. Of course, keys to other platforms can be sold there, too, including consoles. We’re trying to create a one-stop solution for gamers, a place where they can come, buy any game they want and play it. From there, it’s a question of whether we can reach agreements with our partners and competitors, to get them to release their products on MY.GAMES, too. But for now, it’s mainly a PC platform and our goal is to figure out how, based on our games, we can build infrastructure that will be in demand by other developers.
Within the MY.GAMES store we have the Lootdog platform, where users can trade with one another. We’re working hard with the Overgear platform, which offers user interaction and allows them to sell items, or offer in-game services like coaching, and so on. The only limit that we have is that we only work with completely transparent projects, ones where everything is done with permission from the developers, who have to come to us and set up on our platform. We mainly publish games that we ourselves operate, or games made by partners that we have contracts with.
The platform isn’t very big yet, and exists mainly within the Russian market, but we’re working to grow it. We’ve released it in Europe, and we’re hoping that it will become global. As with any infrastructure project, it’s a slow process.
— Am I right in saying there’s no exclusivity? A developer can release their game on Steam and on your platform?
— Let’s be realistic — we aren’t Steam. If we had our own Fortnite, we might be able to say “We want exclusive access,” like Epic Games. If we were Valve, where they have Half-Life, Counter-Strike, Dota, and Steam itself, we could say that too. For now, though, we’re still in the growth stage, so we want to be an early access platform, and we’re starting to slowly put ourselves out there.
Indie developers release games on Steam or the Epic Store then get a few negative ratings, and that can be really hard to fix. You have to work with the community, spending a lot of money and resources. But, when you release on a smaller platform — one like ours — there’s more room for experimentation. In the near future, we’re planning to announce a few unique advantages over Epic Store or Steam that we want to offer developers who use our platform; we’ve found a few USPs that will be in demand on the market.
Firstly, I want to say that we’re a great fit as a platform for products that are just starting out. We test mobile games in Canada, Switzerland and other smaller markets, before they are released on a global scale, right? Well, developers can come to our platform to test their games, too. We have tens of millions of registered users on the platform, and several million DAU that use the services on the platform every day. This is an active audience with their own channels for promoting games.
“You can’t make games about Russian historical myths”
— Say a developer comes to you. Can you set out some main points that the developer should touch on during their presentation?
— In a presentation or a pitch, the standard set of requirements is enough. You need a specific idea, some background for the idea, and a way to execute it. When talking about gaming and gaming services, it’s important to show that you know how to work with your audience, and to show that you know who your product is aimed at. Apart from that, you need to be able to calculate development costs accurately.
There’s a classic approach to giving any presentation, and it applies to gaming as well. You have to pitch your idea, your team, your plan for selling your product, as well as pitching how it’s going to earn money, why it’s going to earn money, and why the target audience needs this product.
— Are there any points that are better not to bring up during the presentation?
— I wouldn’t say so. If you don’t know anything about games, then, in that case I’d tell you, “Don’t come to us, go and work for a while on a team that wants to make a game first.”
Games are very complicated products in terms of development, compared to other products. They involve so many different professions and specialities. It’s always best to get some experience working in any kind of game company, just to get a feel for how the market is set up.
I don’t want to mention any teams right now, but in Russia, it’s common for people to come to us with an idea: we want to make games about Russian historical myths. I can remember it, starting back with Nival. There’s just one problem: you can’t make games about Russian historical myths. If you want to make something historical, at least use Eastern European stories, so that you have more potential clients and countries, a bigger audience, and so on.
Russia is a wonderful piece of European culture, but there’s no need to single it out like that. Once you’ve worked in a game company for a while, you come to understand that the market is international. If you want to sell games on the international market, you need to consider the interests of many different countries. China is the only place where you can spend your whole life making games about the Three Kingdoms, and always have them be in demand, because that is a huge part of their history, and they have a population of 1.5 billion and an enormous economy.
— In the current global situation, there are a lot of people who have money but don’t know where to invest it. Let’s say I have somewhere between 100,000 and a million dollars. Could I come to you and say, “help me invest this money” and you would act as a co-investor, the way the Internet Initiatives Development Fund tried to do?
— We are, after all, a corporate fund. And, while we haven’t formed ourselves into an LP, outside investors do participate in our deals and we take a positive view of this. However, we’ve always carefully assessed where our money comes from, who these people are — we don’t just accept money from the market, no questions asked. If it comes from a fund, or from the founders of one of our companies who want to invest further in a gaming business, that’s great. It’s another way for us to grow and enlarge our network, our cooperation.
What is more, we don’t mind if founders of our companies invest in games alongside us. In those situations, we’re all still in the same boat, and we don’t have any problem with it.
— If I were a founder with money, then I’d feel better knowing that I, as a separate, independent boat, had a frigate nearby, that would cover me if things went wrong.
— When we work with our founders, they have all kinds of non-competition, non-solicitation agreements, which limit their possibilities, and so we work with them as strategists. But, to make it possible for everyone to grow, to build new business structures, and just generally to be one step ahead of the rest of the world, we try to give people the chance to invest alongside us. It works just like it does in the Valley: if a founder was satisfied when working with us as an investor, then as a partner, and in the future as a money-manager, then he will tell other founders, and they will be more likely to choose to work with us.
We consider this an important component of our partner network, and of the philosophy we’re trying to present to the market. We’re trying to build a company that can compete with — that already competes with — Activision, with Playrix, but that’s not to say that we want to be just another publisher that focuses on 3 or 4 franchises. From the outset, we chose a model where we build a partner-based business made up of a lot of different studios. Each of them has the chance of becoming the next Pixonic, Playrix or Blizzard. To this end, we give them all the tools and opportunities that help them to exist comfortably within our ecosystem.
— Do you think there’s enough to go around? It seems to me that Europe is starting to consolidate, and that it’s starting to have its own hubs. I used to think the European market was extremely varied, but once I started to make deals, I realized that some companies are in fact parts of others.
— The same mechanisms are at work here as in any other large industry. It’s a well-known fact that the top 20 companies generate 90% of the revenue in the gaming industry, even though there are probably around 10,000 companies. All the others have to get by on the remaining 10%.
As soon as companies reach the top of the pyramid, they start actively expanding, just like us, or like Playrix or Wargaming. They all try to grow, not only from their products — they also implement an M&A policy. Each has their own philosophy, their own approach, but that’s what really allows companies to consolidate the market. Although, as in all creative industries, it’s tough to completely consolidate the gaming industry. There’s always a chance you’ll hit on something simple and unique, something that will take off and earn you billions of dollars. Then you skip straight to the top-50, blowing past most of the intermediate steps.
The market is constantly in a different stage of consolidation. One of the most active consolidators in the world is Tencent. They’re always trying to be a part of everything. These days, Europe also has Embracer Group, which is also a very large company, they’re actively buying up assets, but the gaming industry is still in an active growth stage, and so there is still room for new business and there is room for old businesses to grow and develop.
— From a business perspective, do you see more opportunity than risk, or do you think there will come a time when people just can’t afford games anymore?
— Entertainment dies with food, and games are the cheapest kind of entertainment in the world. They’re cheaper than films or books. Especially once you consider free-to-play, the tons of promotions and the amount of entertainment time you get for your 60 dollars when you buy a console game, I think that games are the cheapest kind of entertainment in the world, and that they have huge potential.
People who are already playing now will play even more. What’s more, when film releases are pushed back or offline sales are put on hold, a huge new audience emerges with no way to occupy itself. If in the past, this audience thought that games were confusing, these days they’re starting to get into gaming.
Games will continue to transform over time. Concerts and discos could be held in online multiplayer games. When you have multi-player games that can support a huge number of participants online at the same time, then you don’t need to use Zoom.
At the same time, games move fairly slowly from a development standpoint, so the big question is whether or not they are able to create unique worlds that contain these types of entertainment in time. It all depends on how long, say, the online-concert trend lasts. If it ends quickly, games won’t be able to adapt in time. But, if it continues for a while, then games will be able to exploit it and become a competitor for large festivals like Burning Man. It’s completely within the realm of possibility to organize an event like that within World of Warcraft, for example. Using certain tools which are being actively developed for games, you can set up your own camps, express yourself, use your creativity and create all kinds of things that can’t be created in any other industry.
“You could live stream a ballet from the Bolshoi Theater in World of Warcraft”
— There is the international gaming community and then there are people who used to watch films or to go to the movies, to concerts or sports matches. They aren’t really familiar with gaming as a lifestyle. Do you have any ideas about how to capture that audience?
— People are into different things, and every product has to come up with its own ways to attract them. There is no universal way to do it. Everyone buys traffic from Facebook, Unity, or Google. You can buy from Sony and Microsoft right on their platforms. No one has thought up anything better than featuring, yet.
On the other hand, there are tons of bloggers and ways to interact with your audience, all of which help get people to try things. Any tool that helps you get people to try a game is cool.
If you were to organize a concert by a famous performer in-game, that might turn into a hip trend, something people have never tried before. You could live stream a ballet by the Bolshoi Theater within World of Warcraft, based on the game maybe, and then you’d get a completely different audience which had never heard of World of Warcraft before.
I could give you endless examples of that type of collaboration. Right now, people are watching Belarusian football games, even though they had no idea it existed before, because there isn’t any other football on. That’s a super trendy story right now. Just take any two things that once seemed incompatible and try to find a creative way to integrate them together.
— I had one case where I was going to integrate a large Russian electronics retailer, that I once worked at, with a company that makes tanks. We were about to sign the contracts when one of the parties started to backtrack, for some reason. Nowadays, we have electronic retailers like DNS, M.Video, Eldorado; do you think there’s any point for large developers in Russia to try to collaborate with these sorts of companies?
— Game companies earn money, and all the companies that you just mentioned are going through tough times. I think they’d see the benefits of cooperating with gaming companies.
— Hey, there’s an idea! They could come to your platform, too, as a way to get additional traffic.
— Traffic doesn’t always help in these cases. Plus, now you’re moving away from the gaming industry into a different industry. The problem with chains like DNS or M.Video is that they have a very low retention rate. Companies like that need to launch some kind of ad campaign that helps them keep customers coming back, more so than they do now.
Games are a product with a daily return rate. Retention is measured by the day, and there is a huge difference between the numbers for games and for M.Video, it’s like night and day. Can you set it up so that all the parties of this process get some kind of benefit from each other?
— They’re going through hard times now, any source of traffic would help.
— Everything except food and entertainment goes through hard times. Even food does, sometimes. So, there are all kinds of possibilities for collaborating with games that might help them. But how well would they work?
Placing in-game ads for e-comm companies is a good option, especially with mobile games. You get decent conversion, you can set up a collaboration, it’s pretty straightforward. In theory, the same thing works for collaborations between PC and console games. But there’s no guarantee it’ll help.
— How are board games doing these days? Do you think they could collaborate with mobile games, or are those two different worlds?
— There already are some collaborations. A lot of games are based on board game franchises, and vice versa. Both of these worlds are well-established, and they support each other. Generally, interest in board games grows during a crisis, too, and fairly intensely. But, in the current environment, they run into the same problem as any other physical object.
They have the same problem as console games, exactly the same. These are markets that rely heavily on offline sales. You have to be able to go to M.Video, touch the box, look at them all in real life. And that’s part of the reason some console game releases are being pushed back — more than half of premium console games, not including free-to-play, are released offline. So, if you consider e-comm demand, then yes, board games and console games are experiencing growth, but that can’t make up for the fact that all the offline stores are closed.
These industries don’t have a ceiling. They’ll keep growing; what they’re dealing with now is a typical problem that any offline business has to overcome. All the offline stores are shut down, and so are the distribution channels that were used by other entertainment platforms. The industry is trying to evolve in order to sell more. The console industry might experience some kind of breakdown, but it’s not very likely. One of the main reasons to continue having offline sales is that the game can then be resold. This isn’t very widespread in Russia, but in America and in Europe, there’s an enormous market for reselling console discs, which means that a lot of people still buy physical copies, not digital content.
You can buy a disc for 60 dollars and play for a week, then list it on a local version of Avito or Youla for 30 dollars, and someone will buy it You don’t have to keep the box, and that’s part of why console games continue to be so popular offline. There are lots of people who don’t buy new games, they prefer to buy used games — it’s part of the console game ecosystem. Online sales are growing, and that’s great, but it can’t overcome people’s habit of going to the store that quickly.
“I don’t like when people say you have to work like a dog”
— What are the key factors that set the MRGV foundation apart from others? Why should I, a potential developer with an idea or a product, come to you?
— The first thing that sets us apart is that you can earn money with us. Yesterday, for instance, a car-sharing company announced that they want to get into the gaming industry. It sounded interesting, and we’d known about it since autumn, actually. The thing is, these people whose work involves factories, ferries, newspapers, heavy industry… they all flock to the warm embrace of the gaming industry, but these are two different worlds. When those kinds of people come to the experts in the gaming industry, the question becomes, what can they get from them besides money? The financial situation in the gaming industry is just fine. There’s money in platforms, in publishing, in high-profile investors like us, and others.
The difference is in the type of deal you’re making. Most big strategists in the world are used to buying up 100% of a company, paying worn outs from the metrics if the business is growing, and then absorbing the company. The difference with us is that we don’t want to absorb anyone. We don’t do mergers; we do acquisitions.That means we aren’t trying to buy everything, and if you want to sell 100% of your business and retire, you’ll have a hard time with us. I feel that when I pay money, I’m paying for the experience, knowledge and expertise of the partner, and if he leaves the business, then I’ve basically paid for air. So, we’re a good choice for someone who wants to spend their whole life, or a good chunk of it, working on games, who wants to earn a lot of money and make a product.
Our deals are structured differently. We also pay certain set cash-out payments once we’ve achieved our results, which means you can earn quick money with us, but you can also earn money in the long-term. Unlike many other strategists, we pay dividends and we are interested in earning money from this alongside our partners. This is one key difference that sets us apart from others.
The longer I work in this field, the more I come to understand that you can’t buy a company without the people. If the people leave, then it becomes a different company. Your multiple depends heavily on the founders and the people who are in the business — that can’t be denied. Recognizing that, we offer conditions that help build a business. In a recent report, we talked about a deal that we recently signed. This deal made it clear just how much money we are willing to invest in marketing our partner studios, and in helping them grow and achieve results using our financing. It’s virtually impossible to find that kind of situation anywhere else. We don’t just offer money and a chance to merge into the Riot or Wargaming super-team; with us you can maintain your own team, so that you have the chance of becoming the next Riot.
So, in the end you get a partner who potentially has a large stake in your company, but you can be sure that we won’t come by tomorrow and take away your apartment and your car. Instead, we can find common ground, we can invest in training and help you structure your business properly in terms of paying taxes, giving advice on how to use your profits, or how to invest along with us in up-and-coming gaming products. We see ourselves as an ecosystem, one where any person can come to us for the chance to become the next Pixonic, Playrix or Blizzard. If you want to grow and earn money, you should come to our fund, because you won’t find anyone offering better conditions in the model on the market.
The best way to decide to work with us is to run the numbers. Open Excel, or Timeline, and look at how much you could earn with us versus with someone else, if you’re prepared to be long-term partners. We may not be the best choice for people who need money right away. We do make those kinds of deals, but it’s an issue of economic arbitration and many other factors.
— One point to add: you have to put in a lot of work. Does your path really involve busting your butt and cooperating with people who are willing to work fourteen-hour days?
— That’s how I started out. We’re a good choice for anyone who wants to make games, and to earn money doing it. We’re a good choice for people who, instead of just selling something they made and moving on, want to continue developing their product along with us.
We can’t say we’re Activision Blizzard. We aspire to become like them, and we’re prepared to help any studio reach that level. We have enough resources to make that happen. But if we’re talking about the general atmosphere, then the foundation is that happiness you feel when you do what you love, when you’re earning money and working with people who are on the same page as you. What healthy, growing person could want more?
— I tell all my associates from other industries that this is the only field where you have prospects and social mobility without needing connections. You just show up, put in fourteen-hour days for six days a week, and in 5 or 6 years, you’ve made it.
— I’d put it a bit more simply, even. First of all, you don’t have to work fourteen-hour days. Crunches are, of course, a tool for team building and getting results, but I don’t like rants about how “everyone has to work 24/7.” A company’s top managers and owners have to, because they have no choice — that’s how their minds work. A business owner’s problem is that he has to pay his people, and that means his brain never stops working — but that’s a problem for him, not for his employees.
A team has to think about finding the right balance. I don’t like when people say you have to work like a dog. I don’t believe that, because, if you’ve spent the whole day doing real work, then by the time evening comes you can’t even think anymore. Show me this magical guru who’s capable of working 24/7, especially after a two-week crunch.
Actually, my experience with tough crunches has shown me that they can’t last more than 3 weeks, because everyone will burn out and it ends up having a negative effect. Two weeks is more-or-less doable. That’s enough time to help you increase efficiency and help your team bond. Going for pizza at three in the morning can be fun, but I can assure you that after two weeks of that, everyone will be dying. So you have to give them breaks. And, depending on how long the crunch lasts, the break might need to be a month or two, because people are burning out. I wouldn’t overdo it. You need balance if you want to make a quality product. Because, in the end, gaming is an industry where you have to play games.
The way I see it, if you’re working in this industry, games should be entertainment for you, not just work. If the game becomes just work to you, you stop thinking about the “fun” aspect that people need. It’s a hazard of the job for QA and testers, who really can start to go insane playing some games, but that’s the work. The question is, do they like it or not? The show Mythic Quest depicts this really well, it’s like Silicon Valley, but about the game industry.