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Exclusive Interview with Melissa Summerfield, CCO at Pragmatic Play

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It is my great pleasure to introduce my latest interview with a respected women of the gambling industry. Melissa Summerfield is the Chief Commercial Officer at Pragmatic PlayShe is the the former VP of Operations at Microgaming and also held the role of Head of Gaming Operations at Bwin.Party.

Melissa is know as an ONLINE GAMING LEADER and she is results driven, commercial minded, customer focused, hardworking and creative marketing /business graduate with 15 years of management experience in the online gaming industry focusing in Casino and Games but also experience in Sportsbook, Poker and Bingo. She has a proven track record of accomplishment in delivering budgeted KPI’s, NGR growth, global player retention marketing and product operations. Melissa also possess strong budget and people management skills in a complex in-house technology business, located across multiple jurisdictions and operating internationally.

First of all, thank you very much for accepting this interview. I would like to ask you to introduce yourself to our readers and tell us when and why you started working in this industry?

Melissa: With pleasure. I began my career in the industry with BetVictor, where I was a key part of establishing the operator’s casino offering. I also enjoyed a long and productive period with Party Gaming and bwin.party (now GVC), spending more than four years as the Head of Gaming Operations. I joined Pragmatic Play from Microgaming, where I worked as VP of Operations for Gibraltar and LatAm, overseeing the company’s strategy in Gibraltar, Spain and Latin America.

It is fair to say that the speed and innovation of the iGaming industry was a core part of it’s appeal to me, and since beginning with BetVictor I haven’t looked back.

You have been recently appointed as Chief Commercial Officer at Pragmatic Play – congratulations on the new role! Tell us about your new position, and your tasks and responsibilities at Pragmatic Play.

Melissa: As Chief Commercial Officer, I work with our commercial team as we continue to expand the Pragmatic Play brand’s reach with new partners and into new territories.

This incorporates many aspects that make up our consistent and high-quality delivery, encompassing sales, client services and liaising with our team of experienced developers to ensure we are all singing from the same hymn sheet. I definitely feel I’ve found my feet quickly, and working with such an excellent team of iGaming professionals has certainly been a great help in that.

We had a hugely productive few days at ICE Totally Gaming, speaking with many operators and suppliers interested in incorporating our flourishing portfolio of games, and I aim to continue helping Pragmatic Play to capitalise on its potential.

Pragmatic Play is one of the fastest growing mobile and desktop providers of digital casino games for the online gaming industry. Could you please introduce the company for our readers?

Melissa: Pragmatic Play certainly is growing fast, delivering two online casino games every month. We have a thriving suite of more than 80 HTML5 video slots that we add to with an expertly-modelled new releases. Our games are all based around a design philosophy that appeals to classic slots fans both new and old, where every spin of the reels provides the player with all-important feedback on how they have won, or how they might win next time.

We pack our games with innovative bonus features, such as our signature win multiplier reel in Aztec Gems, and the T. Rex and mighty mammoth that clash in Jurassic Giants to unlock the biggest wins.

With the pace that the iGaming industry moves at, it is fair to say that to stand still is to risk being left behind. With this in mind, we recently grew our offering in two new product verticals, introducing seven new scratchcards based on our popular video slot titles, with a €1m top prize, and the market’s most customizable, mobile-driven bingo product.

In short, we are continually expanding our range of products, backed by an experienced team with innovative ideas to enhance the gaming experience. Our games prove consistently popular with players, and profitable for our operating partners, and we’ll have a lot of news for your readers in the coming months.

Having such a rich professional experience, my next question would be which have been the most difficult periods in your career so far, and what do you consider your personal success?

Melissa: There are always challenges to any career, and like many who work in iGaming, one aspect is to ensure that you are always ahead of the curve when it comes to delivering innovation. The interaction between online casino and player has become increasingly sophisticated in recent years, and it is paramount that you do not allow yourself to be stationary when it comes to bringing players new gameplay experiences. At Pragmatic Play, we are keenly aware of this, and we are finding great success with our dedicated release cycle of two new games a month that are packed with dazzling graphics and bonus games.

Can you tell us about your future plans and projects regarding your professional life?

Melissa: Having settled into the role of Chief Commercial Officer, my number one priority is to continue working effectively with the growing team we have in place at Pragmatic Play in delivering consistent success. We have recently secured significant integrations with companies including Betclic and William Hill, and are live with many of the world’s leading casino operators including LeoVegas, Betsson and GVC Holdings. We have a number of similar deals in the pipeline to be announced in the coming weeks.

Our games are proving hugely popular with players, as well as profitable for our partners, and my aim is to see our commercial reach keep expanding.

What does success mean to you and do you consider your career a successful one?

Melissa: On a professional level, I would say that success often comes from deriving satisfaction and the sense of accomplishment that follows hard work and progress, as part of a team that is all pulling in the same direction. This is certainly something I have found so far in my new role, and I’m looking forward to seeing what the future holds.

With this occasion, 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!

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Interviews

Gaming Corps: scoring big with football-themed games

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Gaming Corps: scoring big with football-themed slots
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Check out our latest Q&A with Graeme Savill, Account Management Team Lead at Gaming Corps

 

We’ve just seen EURO 2024 come to a close – was the result of the tournament what you expected it to be? Did any teams surprise you? 

It’s been a fantastic event overall and I was lucky enough to attend some of the games in person during the first couple of weeks of the tournament. My team, Scotland, failed to qualify out of the group so my time in Germany was very short-lived but the experience of being there to watch my country with our fans was incredible and I have amazing memories of the trip. In terms of surprises, I’d say Georgia and Turkey both defied the odds of last-16 qualification and had great tournaments while the two finalists, England and Spain, were both worthy of the chance to lift the trophy with Spain ultimately coming out on top.

 

There doesn’t tend to be much cross-over between sports bettors and slots players. In your view, what opportunities do major tournaments such as EURO 2024 present to gaming providers when it comes to engaging with new audiences? And how did Gaming Corps achieve this?

It’s true that the two segments do vary considerably in their betting preferences and patterns, but these bi-annual football events (the World Cup being the other) create huge opportunities for the industry as a whole. Creating collaborative content and working with tier-one global sportsbook operators has proven a very successful strategy for Gaming Corps while for our partners it allows them to enhance their casino offering and engage more deeply with their player base. We have several football-themed games within our Arcade portfolio including Penalty Champion, Plinkgoal, Football Freestyler and Samba Soccer that operators can access to help do this.

During June and July, we’ve seen record player numbers introduced to these products through cross-sell efforts so it’s been very advantageous to have these included in our offering. In preparation for the event, our product worked around the clock to roll-out dozens of bespoke branded versions of these games which have been front-facing on casino pages with many of our operators. The feedback we’ve received is that during EURO 2024, many casual sportsbook players have enjoyed being introduced to a different style of casino games like our Crash, Mines and Plinko verticals as they deliver a more compelling experience than traditional style casino games such as slots and roulette.

 

What’s the secret to creating slot titles that appeal to both demographics of players? Should more game developers be turning their attention towards creating slot titles centred around major sports tournaments?

Creating slot titles that appeal to both traditional slot players and sports fans requires a thoughtful blend of themes, features and mechanics that resonate with both audiences. I believe the key to success is around thematic relevance, so creating games for and targeting them to players around key events in the sporting calendar. This allows operators to build hype on the game and players love timely and seasonal titles as a way of being gently guided away from the classic products on the market and towards non-traditional content. Throughout June, a large majority of operators have offered a dedicated category with sports-themed casino games for players to discover which has benefited us immensely as they have stocked more titles from our diverse portfolio. Engaging gameplay features are critical like within our Penalty Champion game where we’ve included the sports-related shootout which adds an extra layer of excitement and engagement. Likewise, balancing game mechanics is important; games must be simple enough for traditional casino players to understand but include exciting elements that appeal to sports fans, such as dynamic animations and fast-paced action. These keep players entertained and eager to sample more products themed around their favourite sports.

 

With player acquisition costs at an all-time high, how can slots developers retain players onboarded during tournaments such as the EUROS and perhaps introduce them to other iGaming verticals? 

There are so many variables here but yes, due to acquisition costs, players must be retained to maximise player lifetime value and loyalty.  One example would be the use of in-game advertisements to promote other verticals. This could mean offering free spins in slots for trying out a new sportsbook feature. This is something that we want to work on together with our operator partners for the remainder of 2024 to maximise the opportunity. Likewise, the bundling of promotions can be highly effective in encouraging players to try different types of games. My belief though is that player engagement and communication is the most important factor whereby the strategy actively engages with players on social media platforms to create a community and keep them informed about new products and promotions. This is very true in countries such as Brazil where influencer marketing has been extremely strong in the overall marketing mix.

 

We have the Olympics coming up in a few weeks’ time, and then the restart of domestic football calendars. Can we expect to see any more sports-themed titles coming from Gaming Corps? 

Yes, I do believe that sports-themed casino games will continue to evolve and will be used by operators to attract and retain players. We’re always looking to innovate and bring something new to market and we’ve discussed our latest vertical Smash4Cash and how we can introduce a sports element to it. This approach has already brought us big success in the Mines, Plinko and Crash verticals.  We have also been working on games outside of football. Due to operator demand, we did create an ice hockey-themed game which we launched with a localised approach for countries in the Nordics and to enhance strategic partnerships with branded versions of the game for certain operators. This is a fun and engaging product and I’d say watch this space for future sports-themed games that take a similar format. We aspire to become an industry leader in creating fun, innovative and engaging sports-themed content and from the success we have achieved with the first few games we have developed, we too will be lifting the trophy in next to no time.

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Interviews

Altenar’s global expansion: Sam Hill outlines plans for growth in LatAm, Europe, and Beyond

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Altenar’s global expansion: Sam Hill outlines plans for growth in LatAm, Europe, and Beyond
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Can you elaborate on Altenar’s specific goals for global expansion? What regions are Altenar focusing on for growth?

We’re not interested in limiting ourselves, so we are actively exploring several global expansion opportunities. Our highly customisable product can be tailored to any region, and we have the content library to support a global audience. Leveraging our existing customer base and success in Latin America, a market where we are already well-established, makes perfect sense. Specifically, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and Peru are regions where we have seen strong results and hold further growth potential.

There’s no reason why we can’t expand further across Europe too, where we already have a foothold, and Asia, a largely untapped market for us. Can we do more to establish a stronger presence in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region? Absolutely! Growing the business globally is a key focus.

 

You have nearly 15 years of experience in the industry, including roles at Betgenius, BetVictor, and IMG. How will your experience be leveraged to help Altenar achieve its global ambitions?

My sales experience and track record in the content and data space were likely factors in my hiring. My network is fairly extensive and a useful asset that can be leveraged to Altenar’s advantage. In my previous roles at IMG ARENA and Genius, I managed a significant portion of the global sales team, including overseeing territories that are key target areas for Altenar.

Altenar stands out as a leader in this area, excelling in both proprietary content delivery and seamless third-party data integration. Our partnerships with over 20 third-party sportsbook suppliers allow us to deliver the broadest and highest-quality content portfolio – a critical advantage for any operator in a competitive market.

 

Can you provide some examples of how Altenar might tailor its approach to different regions?

The foundation of success in different markets is always providing the right products. While UI/UX and front-end features offer customisation options, bespoke solutions are also available. Operators can request or configure custom settings in the backend, including margins, bet limits, customer profiling and across our extensive proprietary bonus engine.

UI and UX are key elements. For multi-territory operators, we offer flexibility in content presentation. They can choose the sports, competitions, markets, banners, bonuses, and bet boosts they want to display. Our deep bonus tool capabilities allow for territory-specific customisation, and operators can enable or disable frontend features based on their needs.

However, differentiation goes beyond just the user experience. Our experienced and dedicated account management team provides exceptional support. We strive to execute any individual operator’s trading strategy, whether they prefer a hands-off approach or a more involved one. We provide the operational support needed for either scenario.

Finally, we can cater to specific market demands. In Brazil, for example, we offer a deeper selection of domestic sports content. This allows operators to differentiate themselves and provide what customers want, ultimately leading to better customer acquisition and retention.

 

Growing Altenar’s revenue and securing high-profile global partnerships is a key aspect of your role. Can you elaborate on the types of partnerships Altenar is looking to establish, and what qualities define a ‘high-value customer’ for Altenar?

I have great confidence in Altenar’s product offerings. We have a well-established reputation for excellence, but we need to continue raising brand awareness and communicating the value we deliver. My goal is to increase awareness of Altenar’s capabilities among high-profile brands.

We are targeting different partnerships. Casino operators are leaving revenue on the table when it comes to sportsbook, that we are perfectly placed to help them recognise. Another major focus is speaking to established operators in various territories. Can Altenar take their brand to new markets, where they can leverage their potential for growth? Even North American operators today will naturally be looking south at LatAm. We can then leverage their brand recognition in new markets. It is a broad remit but ultimately we will leverage the quality of the Altenar product and the strength of the relationships we have to capitalise on our growth potential.

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Interviews

“Our Product is Young, Flexible, and Dynamic” – Anhelina Stasiuk on the Future of the SOFTSWISS Jackpot Aggregator

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“Our Product is Young, Flexible, and Dynamic” - Anhelina Stasiuk on the Future of the SOFTSWISS Jackpot Aggregator
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

European Gaming met with Anhelina Stasiuk after her appointment as Head of Business Line at the SOFTSWISS Jackpot Aggregator to learn about her plans for the product. In this interview, Anhelina shares her vision for expanding the client base, enhancing player engagement, and maintaining top-notch service and technological innovation.

 

Congratulations on your recent appointment as Head of Business Line at SOFTSWISS Jackpot Aggregator! Can you share your immediate priorities with us in this new role?

Thank you for your congratulations.

I am pleased to have this opportunity because the SOFTSWISS Jackpot Aggregator, being one of the newest products in the SOFTSWISS ecosystem, presents vast opportunities for development. Its technological advancements and timeless appeal make it a top-notch engagement tool in high demand among our clients.

Our meticulous approach focuses on technology to ensure we deliver high-quality solutions. As the new Head of Business Line at SOFTSWISS Jackpot Aggregator, my priority is to expand our client base by tapping into the clients of the SOFTSWISS Game Aggregator. I believe this tool is a ‘must-have’ for them. They can seamlessly launch the SOFTSWISS Jackpot Aggregator and join the Network Jackpot, offering their players a thrilling experience and the chance for significant wins.

Expanding our Network Jackpots is another priority in our strategy. Our research shows that network jackpots increase player engagement and enhance performance metrics for participating casinos. The shared pool mechanic is particularly attractive to players, offering more substantial rewards than individual branded jackpots.

 

Can you explain how the SOFTSWISS Jackpot Aggregator differentiates itself from other jackpot solutions in the market from your point of view?

We continuously study our competitors, and our Network Jackpot consistently delivers excellent results, giving us a significant market advantage.

A key strength is our collaboration with game providers. For example, we have launched network jackpots with providers like Evolution and currently have a campaign running with Apparat Gaming. These collaborative jackpots highlight their portfolios and open new initiatives for SOFTSWISS Game Aggregator’s clients. The Jackpot Aggregator’s unique mechanics and the Game Aggregator’s user-friendly settings make these launches seamless and fast.

Additionally, we allow other platforms to organise their own jackpot networks. We can integrate with third-party platforms, enabling them to launch and manage their networks effortlessly.

Our Jackpot Aggregator is versatile and compatible with sportsbooks, which is rare in the market. Betting jackpots are especially exciting during major sports events. For example, we launched jackpots for several SOFTSWISS Sportsbook’s clients during the European Football Championship. With flexible settings, brands can create different jackpots to meet the heightened interest in sports betting.

Moreover, we can run joint campaigns for both casino and sports betting, which is another unique feature. This versatility allows our clients to maximise engagement across different types of gaming activities.

 

How do you envision the SOFTSWISS Jackpot Aggregator evolving, and what impact do you expect these changes to have on SOFTSWISS’s market position?

The SOFTSWISS Jackpot Aggregator is a universal and modern tool that can be implemented not only in casino games but also across the entire iGaming system. All SOFTSWISS products integrate seamlessly, and the Jackpot Aggregator is no exception. It enables unified campaigns combining casino games and sportsbooks, enriching the user experience and allowing casinos to customise launches quickly and easily.

 

Customer satisfaction is crucial for any product’s success. What strategies will you implement to ensure that the Jackpot Aggregator continues to meet and exceed your clients’ expectations?

A partner recently emphasised that while a product may be perfect, service is equally crucial. They emphasised that they would always choose the option with excellent service. At SOFTSWISS, we are committed to excelling in both areas – ensuring our product is stable and our service outstanding.

Our technical team is dedicated to maintaining top performance, ensuring the product can handle any load, regardless of the client’s size, supporting existing functionality, and developing new features. We pride ourselves on our technology.

Equally, we prioritise excellent communication and a solid client-oriented approach in our hiring process, supporting our managers’ qualifications through ongoing training.

Our account managers focus on providing quick responses. We have established minimum response time standards to ensure clients receive timely assistance, even on weekends. We understand that time is money, and our clients trust that their requests will always be processed promptly, with the necessary support and advice for effective operations.

 

What are the main challenges for you in this new position?

The challenge is to demonstrate that I can achieve everything I have planned. I have a proven track record of success and am eager to lead us forward in this new role. With the team, we will explore new opportunities and continue to develop the product.

We are prepared to enter new markets and work with clients to consider new markets at their request. Our young, flexible, and dynamic product makes it well-suited for expansion and adaptation.

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