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Exclusive interview with Saverio Castellano, co-founder, research director and CTO at GameArt

Zoltan Tundik

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Reading Time: 5 minutes

Our latest interviewee is well know in the online gambling industry, especially in the Omni-channel development. Saverio Castellano is the co-founder, research director and CTO at GameArt, a boutique Omni-channel development studio of customised casino applications and slot games to the online, social and land-based casino verticals, with offices in Malta, Slovenia, and Serbia.  Saverio holds a Ph.D. in Particle Physics and is an igaming industry veteran with 12 years of software and mathematics slots development.

I would like to thank you for spending time to answer our questions. You have rich experience in gaming and gambling industries as one can read in your biography, you are “an Igaming industry veteran with 12 years of software and mathematics slots development.” Why did you choose gaming, or may I ask: did the industry choose you? What do you think?

Saverio: From an early age, I was always inquisitive to how everything worked. This led me to study, one of my passions, science and in particular the field of Nuclear Physics. Within Physics, applied mathematics is essential for developing abstract concepts, problem-solving and the practical application of those models.

After completing my Ph.D., I started my career in computer science and software development, gaining extensive experience in design architecture, and an enterprise-level backend for mobile applications. I always had an interest in slots and the iGaming sector which was rapidly growing in Italy, and my first adventure into the world of gaming, was as Head Mathematician of Sogei, the Games and RNG regulator for the Italian state monopoly AAMS, and the rest, as they say, is history.

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

Saverio: My role within the GameArt business, which I co-founded, is I’m the research director and CTO. Overall I’m responsible for the company’s development studios, the management of our engineers, delivery and support teams in Malta, Slovenia and Serbia. This includes the product roadmap, from conception, to prototype to production of slots, for our clients that have Omni-channel businesses across online, social and land-based.

Since the start of GameArt, I have also been the one that invents the concepts of all our slots designs the mathematics, and I have built the foundation of the technologies that the company has been using so far: namely our game server and the game client technology that we rely on to develop our games.

As a business, we are continually striving to be adaptive to fast-changing technologies and part of my remit is to source, and research how the latest tech can be used within our business and more importantly by applied within the regulated iGaming ecosystem.

Will you please tell us about the difficulties and successes you have experienced during your career?

Saverio: In answering this question I will refer to my experience with GameArt only. Otherwise, there’d be too much to say here. What has enabled GameArt to start and become in such a short time a successful business is entirely the ideas, experience, and expertise of me and the other two partners who founded the company.

When we were still in a start-up phase, there were many potential venture capitalists that would be interested in investing in GameArt. Again, we decided to do everything with our own strength. This definitely made things harder and a lot more challenging especially in the initial phase. I have learned that becoming an essential player in the gambling market it is not only about having great games, but you also need to go through the whole process of acquiring licenses, getting the games certified, establishing your name, and deal with a lot of other things.

Despite the significant challenge, we succeeded and had made all of this without a consistent upfront investment, and this is what I consider our most significant success.

GameArt is a leading-provider of high-quality digital gaming. Please speak about this company, its activity and its goals.

Saverio: Since its inception, GameArt has been focusing on producing slot games only. Slot games are what we like, what our expertise is, what we do well.

Our mission derives from the consideration that there is a gap between the quality of the slot games in the online gaming world and one of the best performing slots that you find in the world’s best casinos and more generally in the class III world. In creating our portfolio of slot games, we have been aiming to fill this gap, producing high-quality slots with outstanding graphics and solid mathematics. Because of this, even focusing mainly on online gaming we have been able to expand our business to the landbased world as well.

Which are the most successful, most popular products you offer to your clients?

Saverio: The success of our product stems from the ability to release game titles that appeal to different markets and different player demographics. If we look at our range of slot games, there are games like Money Farm 2 and Dragon Lady that are among the best performers in Europe, and games like Dragon King and King Of Monkeys that are much appreciated by Chinese players and are doing very well in Asian markets.

Our product offering is completed with a cutting-edge gaming platform that offers our clients powerful features and marketing tools to promote games and maximize revenues, such as multi-level and multi-currency jackpots, free spins, tournaments, and campaigns.

Tell us please about the future plans, projects of GameArt.

Saverio: Our current goals are to maximize revenues and get a bigger slice of the markets in Asia and Italy where we are already doing quite well.

Having completed the certification process for some of the most stringent regulated markets, our next goal is to approach big operators and at the same time extend the certification to other countries where we are still not operating. Completing the process of acquiring the UK license is our most important short-term goal at the moment.

We are also looking at blockchain technologies, and we recently made a prototype which consists in having integrated our game server with the Ethereum blockchain so that people can play our slots directly on the blockchain and have all gameplay provably verifiable. This is an exciting topic which we will continue to explore and pioneer during this year.

I would like to ask you a more personal question. In what ways does work influence your personal life, your personal growth and what does success mean to you?

Saverio: Work and personal life in my case are entirely entwined. I like it to be this way since I chose to be part of this industry because I understood that it enables you to have a very dynamic life and keep yourself busy doing exciting things.

The influence that my work has had on my personal life is enormous, and it is not limited to the economic side as it allowed me to travel the world, to meet great people and to do fantastic, challenging experiences.

The meaning of success is comprehensive, in my case; it has to do with the amount of freedom and control of my own time.

 

ABOUT GAMEART

GameArt is a premium developer of slot games to the online and land-based gaming industry, including leading online operators, video-lottery suppliers, and casino game machine manufacturers.

New licensees include established operators looking to expand or diversify their games offering, fast-growing challenger-brands looking to increase market-share, and start-up operators, including those targeting newly-regulated markets.

GameArt’s core technology provides a true multiplatform capability and its game management system provides licensees extensive integration options, high-level bonus, and CRM capabilities, plus predictive business intelligence tools to help maximize game-player retention and improve ROI.

For more details, visit www.gameart.net

After starting out as an affiliate in 2009 and developing some recognized review portals, I have moved deeper into journalism and media. My experience has lead me to move into the B2B sector and write about compliance updates and report around the happenings of the online and land based gaming sector.

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Interviews

Mario Ovcharov, CEO at UltraPlay: UltraPlay delivers betting entertainment over the top

George Miller

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Mario Ovcharov, CEO at UltraPlay: UltraPlay delivers betting entertainment over the top
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

First, we would like to read a few words about yourself. Our readers love to hear top-class professionals describing themselves.

Mario Ovcharov: I have been involved in the online gambling industry for over 5 years delivering innovative betting products and contributing to UltraPlay’s firm positioning on the global gaming market as the leading eSports betting data and platform provider.

It has been just over a year since you took over as CEO of UltraPlay. What would be your biggest achievement during this period?

Mario Ovcharov: I wouldn’t say I have personally achieved anything. It is a team effort that achieves success, and leads to solid partnerships, big customers, and a number of awards.

Tell us more about eGold.gg. How is it different from the other cryptocurrencies in the market? What’s its USP?

Mario Ovcharov: The eGold project started with a mission to unify gamers worldwide and offer them a next level of entertainment through specially designed betting cryptocurrency. By its nature, eGold is a pure utility token where players can get cash back on every bet. It basically uses the numerous advantages of the Blockchain technology to speed up and make betting faster and more attractive than before.

The project was received extraordinary by the crypto and betting community. Foundations were laid for what can be called crypto betting revolution. Now, we see many betting brands offering altcoins to their players. We are working to offer the best for our customers and users, and great things are ahead of the project.

We would also like to hear more about UltraPlay’s award-winning product – ODDS.GG? How is it going to revolutionize the betting scenario?

Mario Ovcharov: It was a fantastic year for our eSports betting suite and ODDS.GG in particular, which was reflected in several international accolades from both betting and IT perspective. We started offering betting on eSports 5 years ago and we were the first to provide such product on the online gambling market. Actually, UltraPlay was the first company to offer live betting on CS:GO. Since then, ODDS.GG doubled the number of competitive game titles reaching almost 30 games at that moment, including the eSports sensations PUBG, Fortnite, NBA 2k League and many more. The popularity and usage of ODDS.GG increases exponentially. Moreover, if we look at the landscape now, eSports has a much higher growth pattern than any other gambling vertical in the last few years.

You have introduced some innovative features in the eSports front-end. How do they fare with the customers? And what are your new plans on the eSports segment?

Mario Ovcharov: We believe that User Experience and User Interface play a significant role in today’s product development. Having been on the cutting-edge of technology for over 9 years now, we strive for highest quality and best entertainment for the end-users. Thus, our product is constantly upgraded so that our partners can positively experience the change with a strong boost in terms of players’ satisfaction. In UltraPlay, we love new technologies, and throughout the years, we have established ourselves as pioneers in emerging sectors, where new audiences are brought together. UltraPlay’s eSports dedicated front-end solution is specifically built to answer the wide variety of requirements those new audiences have, such as Millennials, favoring easy-to-use layout, intuitive tools and functionalities. BUFF.bet is a perfect example that our efforts are going in the right direction with the recorded boost in terms of betting brand recognition and players’ acquisition, conversion and retention. To offer eSports now is not enough. You need to go over the top. Impressive eSports betting entertainment is what we aim and successfully deliver for over 5 years now.

The multi-game module of UltraPlay’s casino software has been in the news. Are the customers loving it? Tell us more about the feature.

Mario Ovcharov: It’s been decision backed by solid research and analysis of player’s casino behaviour accumulated from leading online gambling brands. Our advanced multi-view module enables up to four games to be played simultaneously – something that many players turned out to request and use on a daily basis.

UltraPlay’s affiliate platform is known to be pretty comprehensive? What makes it unique? We will surely have some wannabe affiliate marketers reading this. What is your advice to them?

Mario Ovcharov: We use a top-notch affiliate software that manages our clients’ affiliates, connecting all aspects of the affiliate marketing cycle for the betting brand. It’s intriguing how affiliate marketers can benefit from eSports and penetrate in this challenging sector professionally. They have to understand and manage this new gambling vertical that has specific audience and mechanisms.

UltraPlay is one of the early adopters of cryptocurrencies and blockchain technology, having started using them since 2011. Do you think the company managed to leverage the early bird advantage? Finally, do you foresee any disruptive new technologies in the near future?

Mario Ovcharov: UltraPlay’s early adoption of Bitcoin positioned the company among the crypto leaders in the iGaming market and expanded the business partnership network even further. Not only our direct business results are positively affected by our visionary decision back in the days, but also our thought-leadership is further strengthen and shared during the large-scale international gambling exhibitions we usually attend.

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Parimatch’s people first approach is recipe for sustainable success

Zoltan Tundik

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Employment in the 21st century is no longer about simply finding a job for life and as the desire for work to engage, educate and enhance employee’s lives increases, companies who can foster talent are akin to bottling lightning. With more than 1,600 employees operating in multiple territories across the globe, Parimatch’s decision to seek out and develop tomorrow’s industry leaders has proven a winning tactic as the company’s expansion strategy continues apace.

The universal language of business has opened the door for more and more forward-thinking companies to embrace and grow their teams internationally as the industry continues to expand into new markets. However, to ensure employee engagement remains a core focus, it’s key to invest in both your employees through a blend of stability and adventure according to Parimatch Head of Corporate Development Katerina Belorusskaya. “Despite the turbulence of the markets in which we operate we are a stable, reliable and honest company with constant growth over the past 25 years. On the other hand, we are ambitious and risk-taking which attracts genius people who are looking for an unusual approach and bold decisions. Parimatch is a big international family where our staff has the opportunity for constant development.”

She continued: “As with every company nowadays we understand that the key to success is talent. Our people are at the heart of the organization. Their ambitions, knowledge, and skills helped us to become who we are today. Our employees are our future.”

With their employee numbers have grown by about 15 – 20% annually since 2016 amid larger recruitment bursts as the company develops in new markets, the need for motivation has naturally grown too. “Engaged employees see their importance, which is the biggest motivation,” continued Belorusskaya. “Here, in Parimatch we realized this fact a long time ago, and now we’re trying to do our best to grow our unique corporate culture where employees are engaged, devoted and feel that they drive the business. Employee engagement can become one of the most significant workplace problems, indeed. Also, vice versa: an engaged employee can form a positive attitude towards the organization and its values which makes them go above and beyond to contribute a lot more.”

Following up on its goal to invest in its people, throughout 2018 the Cyprus-based company delivered 1,300 hours of education across 53 unique pieces of training through its Corporate University of Parimatch initiative, including specialized courses on bookmaking, sports, software and language classes. Discussing its inception, Katerina explained: “Our in-house university has been established to develop employees not only professionally but also mentally helping them to find a balance between work and life. Also, our CSR activities are significant. Philanthropy is a powerful HR tool that strengthens the team, inspires employees, forms parallel connections and shared values among them. So, all the time we try to make social projects truly beneficial for employees for them to want to be a part of this.”

For Parimatch, new markets are key to the recruitment strategy with the company significantly strengthening the local and partner teams in Kazakhstan and Russia recently preparing both territories for some ambitious goals in the coming years. “We are open to new horizons and opportunities,” stated CHRO Tatyana Davydova, who recently joined the company after more than five years at Playtech, where she has taken the role of Head of Global HR. “So there is much more to be done to achieve the ambitious goals of the company for example adopting cultures across our brand is the primary challenge for the HR team in relation to global mobility. In one hand organizations across industries are embracing the benefits of a diverse workforce. However, with benefits come the challenges of working across borders, cultures, and languages.”

To achieve its seamless overcoming of cultural barriers across multiple offices whilst maintaining happy and productive teams, Parimatch has instilled English as its official corporate language for the back office and circulates a holistic environment of common values and corporate unity through consistent, integrated sharing of information. Davydova explained: “It is crucial, and at the same time not easy to create a comfortable environment for everyone regardless of cultural background and location. We have been working on this a lot over the past five years and only today we can say that we feel the ground under our feet for all our employees.

“At some stage, we realized it can be complicated to unite people from different cultural mindsets and places in one, productive team without principles and values that would join them all. Therefore, we have created an integrated information space or flow. We believe it is essential that each employee is aware of what is happening in the life of a group in another country so the flow was developed across multiple information channels to create a monthly digest, video or blog to keep everyone in touch.”

Corporate unity also forms a major aspect of Parimatch’s people first approach exemplified by their bi-annual strategic sessions where the company or its partners hold operations and host employee representatives from all countries at large-scale gatherings. “These strategic sessions are an excellent platform for the exchange of experience, ideas, specific (local) cases between employees from different countries,” Belorusskaya added. “In such an atmosphere, cultural affiliation is replaced by association with the culture that is formed within the company. As for the relocation of employees and their adaptation in another country, in a team with other cultural values – this is a separate and fascinating topic. In short, our people are what drives our business and a unique corporate culture that is one for all, regardless of race, creed or language is key.”

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Interviews

Q&A with Steve Cutler, CEO & co-founder of Kalamba Games

George Miller

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Q&A with Steve Cutler, CEO & co-founder of Kalamba Games
Reading Time: 3 minutes

This week we had a quick chat with Steve Cutler, CEO & co-founder of Kalamba Games.

What makes you different to other providers/to what else is available?

Kalamba Games was founded in 2016 by myself and Alex Cohen, two industry experts with experience in both real money gambling and social casino. We identified a gap in the market for a supplier who brought the best of social casino to RMG along with a focus on introducing revenue drivers that help improve operators’ KPIs. Our game design strategy has always been driven by integrating engagement and retention features, as well as world-class promotional mechanics. Our games are proven to increase player engagement and retention by up to six times, as well as having a far slower game degradation and a much higher earning tail than the industry standard. We release one game a month and we now have a portfolio of over 16 high-performing titles.

How are you brining your social gaming experience into the business?

Alex and I between us have over six years’ experience in social gaming and casino and thus, we had a few tricks up our sleeves when we founded Kalamba. We knew what helps drive session length and long-term engagement. A lot of that involves offering features with saved progress and collection mechanics to encourage longer and multiple sessions. With ever-increasing competition, it is less about acquisition but more about retaining the player for a longer time. Our games help ensure this.

What exactly is Kalamba doing to increase player engagement and retention?

Our games have a number of unique and improved in-game features. Among other things these include progressive jackpots and our HyperBet and HyperBonus features, enabling players to adjust game volatility. We know they have different experiences of slots and by allowing the flexibility to set different game modes, you can attract different types of players and also ensure they stay for longer as their skills and comfortability levels increase. This way, the same game can appeal to beginners as well as VIPs. Newcomers with a lower taste for volatility won’t be put off while the game still remains interesting to those who desire higher volatility.

You recently hired a UX expert from the video games industry, could you tell us a bit about the reasoning behind this?

The first two years at Kalamba have been primarily focused on delivering games that get better and better with a highly competitive velocity of one game per month. Most importantly, we coupled this with a legacy-free framework that delivers for all markets and operator requirements. We are now, taking our games to the highest level by bringing on board a pair of highly experienced and talented game UX professionals. Graham McAllsiter joined us from Player Research, a company he founded to provide UX research and playtesting services to the video games industry worldwide, including major studios such as EA, Sony and NaturalMotion. He helped studios deliver successful games by applying scientific methods for objectively evaluating key assumptions about the way a game will be played and experienced. Working with the new Senior UX Product Lead, Andrzej Sekula, who joins at the same time from Huuuge and Vivid Games, he will now do the same for the games we develop at Kalamba and help shape the mindset of the company to create games that deliver the greatest user experience to the players. We are excited that we are now in a very good position to be a highly competitive company within the industry.

What can we expect from Kalamba in 2019?

We will expect to release more than 12 great games with our various engaging in-game features over the year. We received investment from venture capital funds Vereeni and RB Capital at the end of last year and this investment has given us the ability to speed up the time to some of our key business, games and platform goals. There are exciting times ahead

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