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Golden Opportunity: 2020 brings ambitious release roadmap for Golden Rock

George Miller

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Golden Opportunity: 2020 brings ambitious release roadmap for Golden Rock
Shane Regan, Head of Commercial, Golden Rock Studios
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Following his career move from industry giants IGT, Microgaming and Pragmatic to becoming Head of Commercial for the innovative slot and table game start-up Golden Rock Studios, Shane Regan is well versed in what success looks like. As Golden Rock prepares to unleash its groundbreaking RouletteX2 table game as part of an impressive 2020 release roster, Regan reveals what makes this start-up stand out in a crowded marketplace…

In your role, how do you instil a culture of innovation in terms of practical steps in line with the Golden Rock brand ethos?

Being one of the first people to join Golden Rock Studios, I have had the pleasure of helping shape the brand ethos and culture within the business. We are always striving to be a fun yet progressive place to work and this is already evident in the general feedback we receive and the close partnerships we have been able to build up before we went live with our first game. One of the key factors in ensuring we are innovative in the way we work and not just innovative in the product area is that we hire experienced and creative people who are able to bring across a wealth of various skills and ideas to help us keep to our ideals as a business.

How would you describe the differences between working at major brands and moving to a new start-up studio?

Firstly I must say that each of the previous companies I have worked for are all very different but all have a similar goal and that is to keep growing the business and finding the right formulas to keep delivering innovative content, some do it better than others, but all companies recognise that is what it takes to maintain a strong presence in this ever growing industry. So having spent the last eight years working in these varied environments this has definitely helped me to understand what ideas and processes would work best in a start-up company like Golden Rock Studios.

Is there more opportunity for creative freedom and is this part of why you transitioned to Golden Rock?

There is a lot more creative freedom available in my role within Golden Rock Studios. I have joined a company with no preconceptions of what success looks like, there are no legacy processes or systems holding us back and I have been given creative licence to develop the companies commercial strategy for the short and long term. This actually goes for each new member of the team, as people join the business and new roles are created, we are all encouraged to put our stamp on the role and use our experiences to help shape the processes and expectations for the business.

You’re launching RouletteX2, can you tell us a bit more about this and how it will impact your overall strategy for the year ahead?

If you are going to compete with Table Games you have to innovate and bring something new to the table. RouletteX2 is the first of six exciting new table games which we aim to have out by the end of 2020. The strategy for table games is to make sure we work closely with all the key operators to ensure that we build and supply content which meets the needs of the business and also gives something new to players.

RouletteX2 is a well-polished version of the European Roulette game but with innovative features such as Fast Chips allowing players to place multiple chips on a the same time with a single swipe action. We also have a very a powerful reward mechanic like no other, with a unique dice feature potentially gifting players with double winnings for free on every spin, whilst retaining the standard odds expected without taking anything away from the player – our motto for this game is “If you can win double your payout with RouletteX2, why would you ever play any other Roulette game again?!”

As someone with experience across the industry, where do you see the big wins taking place in gaming, both in terms of technology and geography?

I don’t see future technologies such as VR or AI having any kind of major impact on the industry in the foreseeable future if I am going to be honest. Whenever I see these innovative products or ideas, they just look like that are being done for the sake of appearing to be innovative and forward thinking, however in my opinion the target customer base for our gaming products do not need this change. I believe customers want speed and efficiency more than innovative change in what they already love. Better loading times, better stability in gameplay, better efficiency and KYC with casino withdrawals and registrations etc. Although I should mention that I do also believe that the companies who invest properly into their tech stack and ensure they have solid and agile promotional tools will always prevail when it comes to driving growth within their areas.

With regards to the geography winners, big opportunities lie in North and South America as they open up more markets, as well as Japan, India and Africa being touted by many as having big potential for growth. But with regulated markets tightening up requirements and also with tax being a key factor in where a lot of people operate, the landscape is always changing.

What can you tell us about the year ahead?

For Golden Rock Studios, 2020 has already started off with us being very busy and active on the commercial side of our business. Star Gods, our second game and the first of an ambitious roadmap planned for 2020, went live. Initially it was launched as an early exclusive to the GVC Group brands and they showed great support and faith in us by giving the game a big promotional push before the game was released to the whole Microgaming network in January. We actually have 16 Slots and six Table games all currently in various stages of development, as well as an innovative product feature which will be available in all our Slots games from the second half of this year. So taking all this into account and the fact that we are now growing in terms of customers and products, 2020 is going to be a huge year for Golden Rock Studios!

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Interviews

Exclusive Q&A with Iustin Cojocaru owner of Eyenovation (Gunnar representative for Romania and Hungary)

George Miller

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Exclusive Q&A with Iustin Cojocaru owner of Eyenovation (Gunnar representative for Romania and Hungary)
Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Tell us about the history and current status of Gunnars Glasses.

Iustin: The idea for the glasses was born out of one woman’s frustration with her husband’s digitally induced migraines and worry about the eyes of her child who was fascinated by technology. Jenny Michelsen’s husband, Matt, was suffering from headaches after hours sitting in front of six computer screens. The headaches were a symptom of Computer Vision Syndrome, a collection of minor ailments that build up over time.

As the Rancho Santa Fe woman urged her husband to see a doctor, she wondered whether her 3-year-old son, Gunnar, was getting a jump-start on similar problems.  If she and her husband believed the computers were getting to their eyes – and they didn’t start using electronics until they were in their 20s – what would happen to Gunnar’s generation?  Matt and Jenny Michelsen reached out to their close friend, Joe Croft, a former Oakley engineer, about the issues surrounding CVS.  They wanted to learn more about the effects of focusing on a digital image projected on a screen just inches from one’s face for hours at a time and years on end.  The Crofts and the Michelsens began their five-year road to launch by talking to medical experts.  One of those experts was Dr. Jeffrey Anschel, a Carlsbad, California, optometrist who has become an expert in Computer Vision Syndrome and Visual Ergonomics.  He noticed the problem about 17 years ago when employees of a nearby computer company began complaining about dry and tired eyes and difficulty focusing.

They were problems that people generally didn’t experience until they were in their 40s, but these patients were in their early 30s.  It didn’t take him long to make the connection between their work and the required time spent in front of a computer screen.  “You can work, shop, communicate and do just about everything from your computer now, and people just don’t realize how much time they’re spending looking at the screen.  The digital images that computers project are one factor contributing to Computer Vision Syndrome.  The eye focuses on the hard edge of an image, but digital images don’t have a clean edge.  As a result, the focus drifts forward and back, causing eye fatigue.” Anschel also noted, “that when people spend long periods focusing on something close to their face, eye muscles tend to lock into a singular position, which is tiring and can push the eye down the path to becoming farsighted.  Meanwhile, the eye has to deal with light from conflicting sources, such as sunlight, that are much brighter than the computer screen.  There’s also glare from the light shining into the eyes.  And the angle of view for the computer screen, which is straight ahead, isn’t desirable.  People tend to focus better at objects when looking down, such as reading a book.”

Croft and Michelsen set out to create a product that addresses the issues associated with digital eye-strain.  They completed their first prototype in 2006.  In early 2007, they founded the company and in October of 2008 they launched their first product.   Investors included Carl Zeiss Vision, 50 Cent, Peter Thiel and Monster, Inc. Retail customers include Amazon, Best Buy, Fry’s, GameStop and Staples. Corporate customers include Facebook, Google, Microsoft.

Gunnar is present in Romania since 2015, when I began experiencing Computer Vision Syndrome symptoms after spending hours in front of two screens as a Poker player and began to look for a solution. This is how I’ve learned about Gunnar glasses being the no.1 brand among computer glasses brands and the next step was to become Gunnar representative in Romania and now also in Hungary.

 

Let us talk about the gaming glasses now. Do we really need customized special glasses for gaming?

Iustin: Yes, if we tend to be passionate gamers, we end up spending extended hours in front of our screens and we experience blurred vision, eye strain, and headaches – symptoms of Digital Eye Strain and Computer Vision Syndrome. Some compensate for their blurred vision by leaning forward, or by tipping their head to look through the bottom portion of their glasses. Both actions can result in a sore neck, sore shoulders and a sore back. GUNNAR gaming eyewear can help because is engineered to reduce digital eye strain while increasing contrast, comfort, and focus. And what is different for the gaming styles, compared to the computer styles produced by Gunnar is the shape of the temples that comfortably accommodates headsets.

  

What about gaming developers and others who work in gaming companies. How will they benefit from the gaming glasses?

Iustin: They can benefit too, because Gunnar glasses are made for anyone who works and plays on a digital screen for extended periods of time.  Gunnar also makes glasses without the yellow tint – with CLEAR lenses, for those who work in “true colour”, such as gaming developers, graphic designers, digital artists.

 

What make gaming glasses special? What are the differences, for example, these glasses have with normal common-use glasses?

Iustin: Gaming glasses and computer glasses developed by Gunnar, with their amber-tinted lenses, make images appear clearer and sharper by adding contrast and, very important, filter out blue light. The lenses have an anti-glare filter that allows light from the computer in but keeps out distracting reflected light from other sources.  The lenses are also designed to be fitted close to the face, creating a “micro-climate” that keeps away the dry air currents and prevents dryness of the eyes. GUNNAR GAMING glasses, compared to GUNNAR COMPUTER glasses, have a more ergonomic shape and thin temples that are compatible with wearing headsets.

 

How do you ensure lower weighing frames for these glasses? Does the lower weight affect the durability of the glasses?

Iustin: GUNNAR has many styles to choose from. Some frames are lighter than others. GAMING frames are usually lighter and therefore more comfortable during long gaming sessions. These light frames are good quality ad durable frames – such as RAZER FPS, RAZER RPG, Torpedo, Trooper, Vayper, Heroes of the Storm.

                                                             

I have seen some articles about using wide-angled lenses for gaming glasses. Could you elaborate on this point?

Iustin: Yes, especially for gaming, a wide-angled lens provides a panoramic view, as the frame does not interfere with the viewing field of the gamer “caught in action”.

 

Now on to the business front. How has been the business going during this period of lock down. Some reports suggest that an increasing number of people playing games online. Does it reflect on your business?

Iustin: Yes, this has been a quite good period for our business and as our business is mainly online, we are running at full speed right now as work from home extended the hours we work in front of a digital screen and gamers play more while staying home. People became more conscious of spending long hours in front of digital screens and reached out to us to protect their eyes.

 

What are the best ways to buy the gaming glasses of Gunnars Glasses during the lock down?

Iustin: The best way to buy Gunnar glasses is definitely online. For Romania and Hungary our online shop is www.gunnars.ro. We are offering online advice on our chat and we implemented the “virtual try-on” feature on our site that enables anyone to try-on most of our styles.

 

Finally, what are the new innovations and offers that you have in store for post-COVID-19 situation? The gaming community is eager to hear any such announcements.

Iustin: Gunnar releases new frames each year and this year is no exception. At the beginning there was only the Amber lens that has a 65 BLUE LIGHT PROTECTION FACTOR – BLPF (filters out 65% of the blue light). Then Gunnar added the Clear lens with a 35 BLPF, the Sun lens that has a 90 BLPF and also Amber Max lens with a 98 BLPF, designed to be used before going to sleep or for extremely sensitive eyes. In July, Gunnar will be launching CRUZ for kids from 4 to 8 Year Olds and for kids from 8 to 12 Year Olds, as this was a concern from the beginning: children spend more and more time in front of screens and the parents want to protect their kids as much as they can. Right now, in May a new style was launched: Pendleton. Four new exciting gaming styles will be launched this summer – Lightning Bolt 360, Lightning Bolt 360 RAZER Edition, Assassin’s Creed Valhalla and a new design in partnership with Razer: MOBA. For those who are more on the hip and “vintage look” side, there will be a new style called Berkely, in September.

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Interviews

Pre-conference interview, Vladimir Malakchi, CBDO at Evoplay Entertainment

George Miller

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Pre-conference interview, Vladimir Malakchi, CBDO at Evoplay Entertainment
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

How much of an impact has the COVID-19 pandemic had on your business plans?

As an agile young company, Evoplay Entertainment has been able to adjust its commercial plans quickly and react to the ongoing situation. While the pandemic may have blunted the industry’s schedule, we’re not letting that dampen our spirit.

With resources freed from a number of ongoing projects, we’re able to embrace the challenge by going all in on our R&D process and continuing to work on pioneering new technologies. Instant games are a particularly interesting area right now; with the current downturn meaning that players are looking for a far more engaging proposition than the usual offering.

 

How has it affected your potential partners? Has it helped focus their mind?

It certainly should. The unwanted change in circumstances gives companies a chance to widen their appeal by reaching a new generation of players looking for entertainment. With a plethora of new products flooding the market, operators are reporting a marked change in player preferences. As gamblers become increasingly tech-savvy and hungry for innovation, traditional ‘spin and win’ slot games no longer have the draw they once did.

However, in order to pioneer the gateway from sportsbook to slots in light of the recent cancellations, it’s essential to develop a tailored cross-channel portfolio that truly stands out for those who want something different. A new generation of player demands an immersive, detailed and aesthetically stunning entertainment experience which can be enjoyed on any device.

Here at Evoplay Entertainment, we’re proud to provide exactly that.  From VR to 3D and every piece of immersive tech in between, now is the time for gaming suppliers to go bold and get creative. The market share is there for the taking for operators who offer a fresh approach.

 

What strategies have you put in place for business development following the cancellation of industry conferences?

Naturally, we’re disappointed to see the cancellation of in-person conferences, such as the MARE BALTICUM Gaming Summit, which no doubt would have been a key regional event. Health and safety, however, have to take priority and we fully support the decision taken by organisers.

We certainly haven’t let the cancellation put a dent in our plans. We’re a tech first company and it’s all about adapting and innovating. As well as making use of our global network for business development – we’re ready to embrace the latest methods available for networking and insight, with virtual conferences such as these likely to prove invaluable during the current downturn. We’re very much looking forward to sharing our experiences as well as hearing from expert voices through the industry.

 

How important do you believe virtual conferences to be? Do you believe online events such as these will become the new normal?

Virtual conferences are a great way to keep abreast of the latest industry trends and exciting new developments in technology. Events such as these also allow us to continue networking with colleagues and sharing our insights amid unprecedented global circumstances.

I think we’re definitely at a point where new technology (i.e. virtual conferencing tools) are certainly coming into the mainstream – however the ‘use case’ for such an approach will remain to be seen once we return to normality.

As an industry innovator looking to bring new technology into the gaming space – whether it be 3D or VR – we welcome the addition of virtual conferencing as a new, fresh approach. However, despite its advantages, especially when it comes to reduced costs and convenience, there’s also no substitution for the face-to-face meeting element. I personally predict that over the longer-term, rather than these events becoming the new normal, I would envision that we’ll see them emerge as a mainstay niche to complement on-the-ground events throughout the calendar year.

 

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Interviews

Maxima Compliance’s Antonio Zanghi on the impact of COVID-19 on compliance

George Miller

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Maxima Compliance’s Antonio Zanghi on the impact of COVID-19 on compliance
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

Maxima Compliance managing director Antonio Zanghi spoke with European Gaming to discuss how the ongoing global crisis is creating new challenges across the field of compliance, and what both operators and suppliers must do to adapt.

What does the gaming industry need to consider from a compliance perspective during the global lockdown?

We need to remember that the additional scrutiny that our sector has been under over the past couple of years has not disappeared because of this crisis. If anything, we are being watched even more closely than before.

In the UK, Labour MP Carolyn Harris has already been vocal about the additional dangers isolation will place upon those at risk of problem gambling in the UK.

And in France, regulator ARJEL has warned its licensees not to aggressively target new players with bonuses during the lockdown.

Concerns about player safety are top of the agenda right now, and a single slip up could prove costly.

The temptation for operators concerned about the financial impact of COVID-19 will be to loosen player, AML and responsible gambling checks.

In fact, the opposite is required. We are being watched closely, and a slip up by one operator will impact us all. Do not expect regulators to be forgiving of anyone seen to be exploiting the current situation.

 

What new compliance challenges is the COVID-19 crisis creating?

One interesting area has been the impact on the way suppliers approach technical compliance.These suppliers are under pressure to quickly deliver new content that can thrive in the current environment.

We’ve seen operators looking to immediately roll out new virtual sports and esports products, or change the way existing products and platforms operate.

But of course, all these products must meet the same strict technical compliance requirements as ever.

The companies that are rising best to this challenge are those which have already optimised their technical compliance processes.

It means they can be more flexible from a product perspective right now, and that has never been more important.

 

What longer term impacts will this crisis have on the future of compliance within the online gaming industry?

I think it will accelerate the trends we have observed over the past few years. The lockdown provides an opportunity for both operators and suppliers to evaluate and rethink approaches to compliance.

We have been advocates for a new approach to compliance for a long time now. Even before this pandemic, the move towards a dot country model of regulation has made both regulatory and technical compliance more important than ever.

Speed and a comprehensive understanding of requirements are critical. The operators and suppliers who have grown quickest have been those who best execute on this.

This crisis lays bare why we talk about how speed, flexibility and agility within compliance are so important. You need to be able to adapt to sudden shifts in the market.

The operators and suppliers who had not yet taken this lesson on board are now finally facing up to this reality.

 

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