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Exclusive Interview with Chris Armes – Group Chief Technology Officer at SG Digital

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

I am thankful to have the opportunity to take this interview with a professional such as Chris Armes, who has over 25 years’ experience of managing high performing global teams, covering the full delivery experience for large-scale international projects, across both hardware and software.

Chris was appointed as Group Chief Technology Officer at NYX Gaming Group in October 2017, and following its acquisition by Scientific Games, is now taking the newly-created division SG Digital to the next level..

I would also like to thank you for following my interview series and for sharing these information with your colleagues and partners. If you would like to be featured in an upcoming interview, please send me an e-mail to [email protected] and I will happily get back to you!

We are grateful for your generosity to answer our questions. First, I would like to ask you to shortly introduce yourself and tell us when and why you started working in this industry.

Chris: It’s a pleasure to speak with European Gaming Magazine. My name’s Chris Armes, and I’m the Chief Technology Officer at SG Digital, the newly created division of Scientific Games following its acquisition of NYX Gaming Group at the beginning of 2018. At SG Digital, I oversee the support and development of our products and services across digital gaming, iLottery and sports betting.

This is my first role in the betting and gaming industry, having previously worked for computer software and hardware companies Oracle and Sun Microsystems and one that I’m enjoying greatly since joining the company in September last year. It’s a really exciting industry with lots happening, but there’s also so much more that can be done to capitalise on new technologies and improve both back-end operations and the user experience.

Before joining SG Digital you worked at Oracle and held the position of Vice President, Engineering for Systems. What are those experiences, key-values that you gained at your past workplace and can use in this new role?

Chris: I have more than 25 years’ experience in working and managing global teams for the delivery of both hardware and software products. Oracle and Sun were both worldwide organisations that gave me the experience to take the Digital division forward with a product-led strategy that focuses on innovation backed by new technology. Global engineering in particular is hard to get right, and to make it successful requires a huge time investment. The digital gaming industry today reminds me a lot of the “.com” era with growth opportunities and time-to-market pressures. I plan to bring those learnings to this industry so we can capitalize quickly on the massive opportunity ahead of us.

What role do you undertake in the company’s life? What are your tasks and responsibilities?

Chris: Now that the acquisition is complete and the SG Digital division created, the focus for us now is to implement a strategy that accelerates product innovation and delivery across all our verticals.

Central to our plans is the opening of our new Technology Development Centre in Krakow, Poland. We aim to staff the office with over 100 new product-focused employees by the end of 2018, forming our fourth development centre in Europe. Poland has an established reputation for housing high-quality tech hubs, and we’re thrilled to establish a presence in the region.

It is my responsibility to oversee all our global technology teams and to bring together our different product development teams under one cohesive delivery model.

A big part of that responsibility is helping build an employer brand that attracts the top talent to SG Digital. We aim to attract talent from across the technology spectrum–not just people who have worked in gaming. A lot of our business is about high transaction rates, low latency and a seamless user experience, things you see in many other sectors such as financial services and telecoms. Expertise from various industries is crucial. We need to welcome new ideas and techniques to maximize our potential.

Which have been the most difficult periods in your career so far and what do you consider your greatest personal success?

Chris: The most difficult periods are those two extreme ends of the spectrum when it comes to resourcing: significant growth and significant reductions. Both are challenging times for very different reasons. Growing and scaling a business brings with it the most basic challenge of finding the right talent. From there, though, you also have to retain the best talent. This is not just about compensation, it is also about the importance of building the brand and proving that you are really a great place to work. Hiring momentum is key, but it’s also important to understand that finding the best employees can take time. Employees should feel good about coming to work, even during times of growth. The other challenge with growth is scaling in an efficient and effective manner and having business processes that will scale at the same time. Churning out product is one thing; releasing a polished, quality product is another.

There have been so many things I’ve been proud to be a part of—I’m sure I’d leave many off by accident if I tried to list them. Building technology teams in new locations such as Prague and Bangalore is greatly satisfying, but so is watching talent grow during a career, as junior engineers become engineering thought leaders on my team. Then you see those engineering leaders come up with new and innovative ways to do things, helping to build a world-class, industry leading product.

What can you tell us about the services SG Digital provides?

Chris: The combination of NYX and SG Interactive means we now provide the broadest portfolio of products and services to iGaming brands across the globe. From nine in-house game studios and a network of third-party suppliers, SG Digital offers over 2000 game titles across our platforms. In addition, OpenBet™, the #1 sportsbook platform, used and trusted by the world’s leading sports betting operators.

We’re focused on improving all aspects of our products and services, which is why we have opened a new tech hub in Poland to find people who can drive innovation within our product portfolio.

I am sure that you have experience and knowledge about the European gambling industry, especially the Eastern European one. I would like to ask you to share your opinion about the gambling industry in general in Europe or in the countries you know better?

Chris: Europe has and will remain a key focus for us as we look to expand into established territories and emerging markets, which of course includes those in Eastern Europe. Online gaming continues to gain popularity in the central and eastern regions, particularly as regulation becomes more robust.

Another region that is exciting for us is the U.S., where the potential expansion of sports betting will present us with significant opportunities. Although sports betting is currently limited to Nevada, proposals to amend existing laws are gathering momentum, and we could soon see a flurry of states allow punters to place wagers on sporting events for the first time. From a technology perspective, we have to ensure our products are ready and compliant to meet the standards of these new markets, which is a major focus for us right now.

Which are the future plans of the company that you can talk about to our readers?

Chris: We’re undertaking a major recruitment drive following the opening of our new development centre in Poland. We’re hiring for new people in quality assurance, core software development and product innovation. We’re also keen on continual recruitment across the globe, especially as the gaming landscape evolves. To prepare for potential sports regulation in the U.S., for example, we aim to expand our employee base in the region with talented individuals who can ensure our success in a new territory.

Crucial to making ourselves an attractive company to work for is the promise of a career opportunity, which is exciting and provides them with a platform to be creative. We’re looking into many areas of technology right now, such as video streaming and voice recognition software, as well as looking into how we can provide a more personalised user experience through a deeper understanding of consumer habits.

What upcoming events are the company focusing on nowadays and how prepared is the company for these events?

Chris: For the short-term at least, much of our focus will be on hiring skilled technology leaders to drive growth and innovation.

It’s an exciting time to be a part of SG Digital with so much going on across the many verticals we operate and among the talented teams we have all around the world, all pulling in the same direction.

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Cryptocurrency

“Operators demand access to new markets and new player bases”: Exclusive crypto gambling interview with Glen Bullen from DAOGroup.

George Miller

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Exclusive crypto gambling interview with Glen Bullen from DAOGroup.
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

While this year may have been a turbulent time for some, we caught up with Glen Bullen, CCO of DAOGroup to talk through the launch of DAOWallet, its cryptocurrency-fiat payments partner, as well as the opportunity to use crypto payments as a key way to engage new players.

What is it that DAOWallet can offer partners and end users that other payment service providers cannot?

DAOWallet may be new to market, but our team has incorporated many crypto payment learnings into the product to make it a slick, client-driven solution for operators looking to engage new demographics and markets.

In essence, DAOWallet offers a simple, clean solution for partners wanting to integrate crypto payments into their casino brands. We do all the heavy lifting and compliance work at our end, so operators can work hands-off on the payments side and focus on driving acquisition to a new audience of crypto users.

Perhaps DAOWallet’s biggest innovation is its ability to track fund provenance, both to mitigate AML risks, but also to improve VIP management. Any player who deposits crypto via DAOWallet will have their pseudo-anonymous source of funds tracked, ensuring both VIP and AML managers alike will know if this is a player prime for big stakes play, or alternatively whether they’ve been associated with red flag transactions in the past.

How can those with little crypto knowledge use DAOWallet to join the crypto gambling revolution?

The key purpose of DAOWallet is to allow deposits and withdrawals to and from a players crypto account to be as simple and seamless as possible. With that, we feel we offer a solution that requires only a minimum of crypto knowledge.

However, the wallet’s role is not necessarily to entice new players to crypto – though it can – but instead to deliver a functionable, painless means to support the millions out there who already hold and use crypto; and, most importantly, want to gamble with it at the best casinos around.

Do you see DAOWallet appealing to a certain demographic or region?

Without pigeon-holing an ever-expanding crypto base, industry research shows the main European demographic as being between 25 and 45 years of age and with above-average disposable income. This audience sees digital assets as more than a speculative asset, and want to find functional day-to-day uses for them, with gaming arguably the most tangible use case for them at this moment.

Saying that, DAOWallet easily supports varied requirements across any global market, such as Latin America, where concerns regarding banking infrastructure warrant the use of alternatives to fiat; or Africa, where barriers to credit card uptake mean many are keen to explore alternative online payment methods.

No matter the geography or demographic, our igaming clients can be confident DAOWallet will be covering all KYC and AML procedures in the backend on sign-up, ensuring a clean transition to the casino, which receives only whitelisted players. This is a major benefit of our solution over others on the market.

How do you see the current state of the payments sector in the gambling industry?

We hear so often that gambling as an industry is an early adopter for new technology. All the while however, there’s untold examples of cautious decision-making and sluggish, suspicious adoption of tech that could have major benefits to the whole ecosystem.

There is no doubt that the payments sector is impacted by this paradox, and the utilisation of crypto is a key example. Operators demand access to new markets and new player bases, and there is a crypto market hiding in plain sight, waiting to be serviced. They must take advantage of this opportunity, or they will fall back against their more forward-thinking competitors.

Do you see wider crypto adoption as attainable right now, or do other industry movements need to happen to facilitate wider crypto payments?

Yes, it is attainable, but various ways of thinking need to be reset for crypto adoption to reach its potential. It’s likely not a gambling industry-specific mentality, but too many look back at setbacks in the space and cling onto them as proof that crypto doesn’t have its place in today’s world.

This is naïve when you consider the various success stories that crypto has in engaging those who cannot access credit cards, those who may not trust the status quo and those who just want to be a little more progressive. I would like those doubters to take a deep breath and revisit what crypto adoption can do for the gambling industry.

As a deposit method, using the likes of bitcoin and Ether is a no-brainer for supporting bigger audiences in more markets. Those operators who don’t embrace it soon will likely find they have lost this lucrative audience and will struggle to win them back.

We have seen DAOWallet recently sign a major partnership with MoneyMatrix. Do you have any other partnerships on the horizon that you could hint at?

MoneyMatrix was a major deal for us and shows the strength of partner that we are looking at. In terms of what is coming next, we’re optimistic about various, progressed conversations with further platforms and a number of tier one operators in a variety of regions. Without naming names, there is a desire amongst potential partners to complement their existing payment partners to attract a new kind of customer, and that’s what we’re here for.

We’re well set to make some big announcements in Q4 in terms of new clients and operators, so keep an eye out for that.

What product improvements can we expect from DAOWallet in the coming months?

Our most recent launch was stablecoin integration, and this will go live with partners to great effect very soon. Not only are we opening more crypto avenues (Tether/TrueUSD) for those looking outside of the bitcoin and Ether hegemony, but it also makes our platform more adaptable to local banking regulation.

Significantly, this was driven by client feedback and demand, and we delivered it back to those same partners quickly and successfully, further proving our credentials as a customer-first partner. We know the size of the crypto gambling space and we want to help fiat-based operators leverage it for their own growth, and it’s through these collaborative projects that we can best do this.

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Interviews

Exclusive Q&A with Munly Leong, Co-founder of Balance Gaming Network

George Miller

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Exclusive Q&A with Munly Leong, Co-founder of Balance Gaming Network
Reading Time: 12 minutes

 

Let’s begin with your own story. What is the story of Balance Gaming? How was the company founded?

The company was founded when Munly Leong (CEO) and Goodrich Johnson were approached by an esports organization that had floundered for several years and despite their history and money raises and hadn’t so much as put on one event or even had a casual community. This led Munly to look into the current state of esports which he had never been interested in and saw the waste and poor execution that had a common root cause i.e. the people that had access to or ability to raise funding for esports often had nothing to do with gaming and were clueless about it. Super League Gaming was a particularly egregious example where the only reason that raise even happened was that CEO had worked on Sand Hill Rd prior and game from an Oil & Gas background, what the hell is she doing in esports? They recently lost $14m on $1m revenue. We founded Balance at least to take a stab at an organization that would be led and run with gamers at the core with Munly being in a unique position of both having relationships with and an understanding of external capital unlike the average gamer or even game developer. The name Balance comes from us struggling to come up with a name for the niche we had chosen which was to cater for the other 90% of the market and gaming revenue in reality that ISN’T esports from not having enough time for it and Munly referenced an one man indie developer’s name Imba Games (common Russian/CIS region term relating to game imbalance) that he had briefly known at one point, lamenting that it was a great name wasted on something that didn’t have the potential for it and Godric suggested “What about Balance?” with the potential to allude to LAN’s as well if we ever started doing those and there really hasn’t been a name that fit since.

How does it work?

Essentially a bit unique, we started off validating the concept and bringing in early revenue via just a discord and preselling the concept along with an early partnership with Skyworth (largest TV manufacturer in China) who were also launching a VR headset at to both prove we could build and grow a grassroots gaming community first and also monetize it and validate charging for the concept. Most of this happened even by month two. We’ve now taken what was a small community fighting game event intended “for teh lulz” and are building it up with sponsors, streaming support with an invitational that is intended to potentially be small scale, interactive version of EVO that was recently cancelled. More on this later 🙂

We’re working backwards actually. We’re game developers at heart and are really NOT an esports company. This is being done as a fundraiser primarily as a backup plan / substitute for angel investment post Covid. Essentially our business is to start backwards compared to a typical game developer being community first, community is really at the core. From there we start with merch sales, selling events and sponsorships and are about to offer our own game / bundle deals in the near term along with a new category we still plan on pioneering called Gamer Travel (Covid was great timing huh 😉 that initially focuses on geooarbitrage to maximise gaming time while lowering cost per hour if someone wanted to game and nothing else. The savings can be significant i.e. $1000-3000/month rent in first world countries vs as little as $100-150 in a place like Thailand that still has the 4th fastest landline internet in the world. We can’t wait to start that going again when travel eases up. From the baseline of what larger game publishers would call “ancillary revenue” we would then use that cashflow to fund our own original IP development and geoarbitraging the costs of that too 🙂

Our readers would like to know more about Balance Gaming. Could you elaborate the concept since it is quite unique?

Yeah. It is quite unique where even for gamers. Essentially the concept starts from both a base and the specific type of gamer we are targeting. Specifically gamers who have been able to grow up and are now struggling from a time management standpoint of not having enough time to play, or not getting enough out of their playtime when they do have it rather than spending too much time to play from the standpoint of gaming addiction which is a common assumption with us. We start from a base that gaming is geneeerrraaaaaaally 😉 a hobby that requires at least above average intelligence (the smiles when I say this is the most fun part) to get the most out of and therefore the gamers that manage to grow up and out of mom’s basement as well have the means to make above average lives for themselves and the value in this has been completely overlooked.

Many look down even on themselves as gamers because of long time history and stigma of the activity when we were kids or younger. Even people with great businesses or solid tech backgrounds themselves often cannot make the immediate mental jump that there may be others who fit the bill and if we just reframe our thinking and rid ourselves of these starting assumptions, we may find that the peer groups we have around gaming are more valuable than many of us are assuming

Recently we’ve launched a public alpha of our members site and even some of our more interesting / useful members have only gone so far as to fill out just gamer profiles while not sharing their skills, businesses etc yet and it’s not all a privacy concern either but many either underrate themselves or don’t currently live a life where being known for particular things brings in opportunities for them. I’ll list some examples here where it has happened, but these are folks that are already active in terms of networking ,professional groups and are already pre-disposed to it. I’ll share some examples below and the last being myself.
https://network.balancegaming.network/members/hexrays/
https://network.balancegaming.network/members/mono/
https://network.balancegaming.network/members/fathamburger/

What are the ways an individual gamer will benefit from joining your platform?

Aside from the networking opportunities once we scale further (or even now), we’ll have things like courses, partnerships and hell even gigs down the line in addition to more typical gaming giveaways, discounts and bundles. Instead of only selling this stuff, we’ll tie it to gaming and perhaps networking activity too with the overall theme that the gaming people would do naturally anyway would pay off in real life in ways other than money. At the very base level, we hope that this will be the most “productive” place for anyone to spend their gaming time as getting to know many of us may also open doors outside of gaming for you or at least give you a resource to tap in a lot of things outside of gaming, an analogy to things like country clubs, cigar clubs where you’re more like to meet either independently wealthy or at least time free and lifestyle designer types that one can meet through aviation we hope we end up being a similar space like that but on a broader larger scale too. It’ll be the only place in the world maybe where you can play video games where we also encourage you to ask for intros or open them yourself 🙂

For “Pros vs Joes” we’re currently offering FREE ENTRY for Members, Financial Services industry (e.g. fintech, crypto, real estate, traders, brokers) , startup founders and game developers and the same/similar benefits package that players get are also available for event viewers that meet this criteria. Startup founders and game developers are just love for us 🙂 However there are also a lot of similarities specific to competitive fighting games with trading which I’ll be elaborating on in a future article relating to a trading tips from millionaire futures traders ebook that’s part of our benefits package coming together as a combo. Why financial services? read on 🙂

We also have something that both your better/casino audience as well as crypto guys would want to look at. One of our partners / sponsors is Gold Rush Token / Clean Mining. We’ll be offering a chance to buy CLEAN gold (more on this later) at a double digit discount exclusive to Balance, direct from some of the oldest and historically proven mines in Western Australia. That’s nothing terribly new and there are other tokens that have done it. Those coming from a financial services background will be familiar with the concept of due diligence, things like KYC (Know your Customer) and be a bit better equipped to both perform it for an opportunity like this and ultimately potentially buy-in as well.

However, another layer that we’ll offer FREEBIES at a later date on is a world-first tokenization of actual gold ORE. Essentially this will be gold prospecting in a separate video game/digital form and can dramatically lower the cost of entry into the gold market. For those who don’t know, gold actually comes from gold ore which has to be processed and refined which ultimately means that only a fraction of gold can come from overall gold ore. The percent amount can between 10 to 95% before processing and so yes, someone could get very lucky but understandably many others outside of your readership here may not like to gamble. Gamblers or not however, we can offer some of these ore tokens essentially for free as both participants and viewers of our upcoming “Pros vs Joes” fighting game event that was recently postponed until both we and our partners got things more ready. We can now say that we’ll start things off officially by Sep 12th at the latest with official entry deadline by Sep 5th at the latest with trial runs starting as early as this week of the 26th. Depending on how things go and speed of re-registration we may go even earlier but this is so we don’t have to postpone again.

I should mention that not only is the ore special but the gold as well. Those that take advantage of the gold discount will also be pioneers in helping to establish a new category of gold in the global market that isn’t processed/purified via the traditional method of cyanide and mercury leaving no environmental impact that may take decades if not longer to biodegrade, hence CLEAN gold. While the mines themselves old and proven with deeper reserves still left to unlock, the process itself is new and was created by the Australian CSIRO, something like a more generally academic version of NASA that among other things, helped invent Wi-Fi. Regardless of whether anyone in our community pays anything more than an entry fee or not, through gaming, our players will have a chance in both playing a small role in the transformation of gold mining from something that is expensive and hazardous into something that is sustainable and environmentally friendly.

More info on CSIRO and Clean Mining
https://www.abc.net.au/news/rural/2018-08-30/csiro-pours-first-australian-green-gold/10180014
https://www.csiro.au/en/Research/MRF/Areas/Resourceful-magazine/Issue-13/Golden-alternative

How has been the customer response so far? Could you offer some year on year statistics?

What’s really interesting is that when we started out within the first month or two we had more paid members than free ones on concept alone. 46% conversion rate. By paid members meaning we asked people to pay $10 as a one off to validate that this is something we would pay for once we both had a system to offer digital codes in an automated or at least reliable fashion and enough value lined up where we felt we were ready to start charging monthly. Since when we’ve realized that we needed to make this tier optional as a network only has as much value as it’s members and we are still far from having an interesting enough critical mass yet. We’re not even one year old yet but in the last 2-3 months our Discord community has grown from 100 to 150 ish members now that we have someone who can spend time on it, Oliver/Sundeath who was formerly director level at Razer Europe. A big downside that hampers our growth is that we’re not something that people normally think to search for so doing media, offers and other things that can help get us exposure but we haven’t figured out or own organic traffic yet so growth only happens when we can work on it.

Has the recent lock down had any effect on Balance Gaming’s growth? Could your offer details?

Yeah actually our first major growth drive that I headed up brought in many of our first 100 users, lol. That happened a month into the pandemic around Epic’s free release of WWZ. Unfortunately it was both a pretty short game content wise and people really focused on doing nothing but gaming that initial month of lockdowns. No one wanted to hear about “Balancing” and once they were done, many moved on. We did have an interesting story even ahead of time back then where when I was able to play, I encouraged two regulars at the time to talk about their lives and our mutual ASEAN region and those two ended up both doing client projects together and playing other free games together as well. One was a graphic designer and another was a music producer/student. At the time we didn’t have enough of us engaging people so eventually they left since they were largely only playing with each other by that point. Lesson learned not just for Balance and in life for me that I just need to ride waves while they are around instead of what I actually during that period which was working on some contract gamedev work at the time or building the Balance business while everyone else was gaming and would have preferred if I’d either led things or at least joined them for it.

What are the more popular games and tournaments on your platform? Could you describe the games a bit?

Our most popular is Rainbow 6 Siege and that’s a game that should be well known to you guys since it’s gone from underdog cult game to having one of t he better prize pools in eSports with strong Ubisoft support in recent years. Rainbow 6 is a series that is based on terrorist/counterterrorism originally that prided itself on realism being the first “one shot and you get killed usually” game on the market. I can still remember the LAN party where I played the original game in the series for the first time, it was quite refreshing and hilarious compared to the run and gun shooters like Doom and Quake of the day. These days the game is more similar to LoL or DOTA that is based around Heroes having different powers and abilities, some of which are deliberately designed to be counterpicks. They are perpetually “training”/fighting each other given the multiplayer only PVP context and there are generic terrorists only as AI NPC’s to beat on in generic It used to be World War Z as I mentioned which is a co-op class based zombie killing gaming that’s spiritual sequel to Left 4 Dead 2 that I actually like a lot more than it’s original inspiration and in addition to that we have some fighting game players i.e. Street Fighter, Tekken etc but that’s almost a niche within itself in gaming these days that doesnt play other stuff or interact with the broader gaming community. We’re a bit sad about this and even within fighting games themselves, the competitive level has gotten to the point where people not only just focus on one game, but even just on training one particular character and mastering all the various matchups instead. This means that they dont even play the rest of the genre or even necessarily the rest of the characters in the game! This overcompetitiveness isnt necessarily good for the fighting game industry if they focus purely on tournament type players. Happy Medicine (our resident fighting game pro, former CPT/Capcom cup, world class Bison main) and I talk about this separately in this video here – g66FBCzv_mg . We’re still done with World War Z btw, despite how the whole game can be beat in less than 4-5 hours currently and a bit more if you are doing horde mode as well, if you’re deliberately going to slow-play it and make it last, please come and join us! We’re the place for that lol.

Tell us more about the platform and gaming partners of Balance?

For our “platform”, we have a few key pillars. The first is the always free Discord community where people can only just join as regular gamer and that’s fine. The next level is the membership site which is intended for people to try and look up / surface people that should try to get to know on Discord for either gaming or things outside of gaming. Maybe find out that someone you’ve been gaming with all along can also be a collaborator of some kind in real life too. We also haev an ecom store for all kinds of stuff i.e. offering our own game codes and digital goodies for sale , physical products like geek toys including “gamereats” where we’ll start with snacks and more. Lastly we want to offer “gamer travel” again as soon as we can, starting out with introducing the concept of geo-arbitrage to gamers that’s already well known to location independent and digital nomad types but is probably brand new to gamers. Essentially this means save money on gaming time (plus get more time) in a cheap locale but we can expand this to travel to places that are significant to gaming history as well given a lot of us have deep knowledge and connections with the industry. This is all going somewhere and your next question will naturally segue into that 🙂
One of our gaming partners BRK / Gen2 Technologies where you picked this up from 🙂 is currently working on a world-first interactive streaming platform which we’ll be designing our invitational event around. They definitely have something that will have “pandemic market fit” and we cant wait to get started on it. The event will be physical with social distancing concerns and a limited amount of people but it’ll be super interactive when it’s streamed unlike other events. Just like how we were behind on things, they’re pretty behind too and it looks like we’re going to have to push further back past August. Additionally they’ve just entered an exciting trial period of just their broadcast quality wireless camera tech with PGA Tour Golf.

Finally, how do you see the future developing? Are there going to be any immediate developments in Balance Gaming in the near future?

Yeah we have some angel money hopefully finally coming in within the month and from that we can actually offer some more benefits that hopefully help pull in more users as well and pay for the help in community building 🙂 I think we’ll be the first company to actually pay gamers to build guilds and coommunities under us and also give you a rewards budget to spent on your users as well as kick some nice things to all the hard work your officers do. Anyone who’s ever built or run guilds knows that its pretty much an unpaid second job and guild applications look moore and more like job applications these days. At least we want to take out the unpaid part and compensate some for this especially if they want to build a more casual / mature / non competitive guild that fits the demographic we’re aiming for anyway.

Ultimately in the LONG TERM future, despite how all this is already quite the going concern business-wise, the whole goal is to use this cashflow to then fund game development. Both internal and external third party to us. Game development is the unique DNA that I bring to Balance personally and I’m sure you guys know especially looking at companies like Tencent how valuable things can be when you have your own IP to sell and we’ve already learned the hard way that frankly its much easier to build up communities around having your own game vs using others’ games in this new Discord age.

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Interviews

“We want to innovate and ensure that no two releases are ever the same”: Exclusive Nordics interview with Darren Stephenson from Push Gaming.

George Miller

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“We want to innovate and ensure that no two releases are ever the same”: Exclusive Nordics interview with Darren Stephenson from Push Gaming.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

The Nordic region arguably has some of the most demanding players in Europe when it comes to slots – we caught up with Push Gaming’s Director of Business Development to talk through the supplier’s success in capturing their attention.

Can you give us a quick snapshot of Push Gaming’s operations in the Nordics?

The decision to enter the Nordics was a strong option for us for a couple of reasons. Primarily, this was due to the fact that the Nordics is one of Europe’s most established gaming regions. Online gambling (and in particular slots), are very popular there, so becoming a part of this was an obvious choice.

Also, at that point in time, we had chosen the Relax Gaming platform for our distribution channel. This provided us with a fantastic opportunity to reach a number of respected Nordic operators that were already integrated onto the platform and enabled us to establish a foothold in the region quite rapidly.

Naturally our CEO James Marshall started spending more time in Malta working with our partners to promote the games and ensure everything ran smoothly for them. Over time, and with plenty of Scandinavian operators having their base in Malta, it was a natural progression into becoming a really key region for us.

Why do you think your games have proven so popular in the region?

Scandinavia is one of the most mature markets when it comes to slots, and our slots are designed to be different and challenge the status quo.

Our design team utilises cutting-edge technology to deliver an immersive experience. The attention to detail, which is so important to us, fits perfectly in a market where players notice the smallest of differences, and our quality versus quantity approach resonates well with such a demanding group of players.

How would you profile the typical Scandinavian player? Are there typical demographics?

We try to avoid getting drawn into focusing too much on specific demographics. We simply aim to create a highly entertaining product that is set to resonate with all types of players.

We want to innovate and ensure that no two releases are ever quite the same. Of course, there are certain themes which you might expect to resonate with one region or market more than others, and that might become part of our launch planning discussions with our partners.

A good example of this might be that we have very high hopes for Joker Troupe, as the Joker theme has always proven so popular in the region.

The key takeaway for us here is much its popularity resonated with our approach. After all, we’re an entertainment company at heart – and evidently with the right combination of maths, graphics and immersion, we’ve learned that you can engage and entertain multiple types of players with the same game.

Are there certain design elements of game mechanics that you look to incorporate to meet regional preferences?

When it comes to mechanics, HypermodeTM, the in-game feature for Joker Troupe, has also been very well-received. It gives the player a timer instead of a set amount of spins, and when landing enough of the joker symbol, players can reset the timer and continue spinning.

The game is a fusion of a popular theme combined with exciting mechanics and was heavily influenced by the Scandinavian markets and the demand we’re seeing from Nordic players. The product owner that ran this project was also Swedish so his own experiences and preferences would of course have had an influence on the end result also.

That’s not to say we launched Joker Troupe with plans to make it all about that region, but rather – if it’s good enough for players renowned for their discerning nature, then we’re likely on to a winner.

How do you view the development of the Swedish market since regulation at the beginning of 2019?

It’s certainly evolving. It may have been a somewhat rocky start but being suppliers, we’re lucky that it’s been less of an issue for us. Sweden’s licensed gambling operators still reported strong numbers in revenue for the first half of 2020 so the market remains extremely important and will continue to be a key market for us and will certainly stay a big part of our future plans.

What can you tell us about your plans for 2021 and beyond for these markets?

In general, I see no reason why Scandinavia can’t continue its successful upward trend. Regulation will of course have an impact and is something that will need to be monitored.

When it comes to potential expansion, we are very close to launching with one of, if not the biggest, operators in the region – so we are super excited to see our games going live and look forward to sharing more news on that partnership.

We’ll also be steadily innovating and tailoring our platform in line with our planned expansion, which we hope will be of great benefit to our partners. And of course, we wouldn’t be Push Gaming if we didn’t have a line-up of new immersive games with great features in development, so stay tuned!

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