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Exclusive interview with GAMING1: “Our online operations in Belgium have grown beyond all expectations”

George Miller

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Exclusive interview with GAMING1: “Our online operations in Belgium have grown beyond all expectations”
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Belgian omni-channel expert GAMING1 has proven itself as a worthy partner during the pandemic, especially when it comes to transitioning operators’ offline operations to online. We sat down with Sylvain Boniver, COO and co-founder to talk through GAMING1’s market outlook for Europe over the coming months – this one’s not to be missed!

GAMING1’s services were certainly in demand during 2020 as land-based operators sought to establish their presence online – can you give us a quick snapshot of what that’s looked like? 

The outbreak of Covid-19 has accelerated the transition online for most businesses, and that includes the gambling industry. For us, helping partners navigate the unprecedented circumstances caused by the pandemic was priority number one.

Lockdown restrictions forced land-based casinos to shut up shop, and even in countries where they’ve reopened, visitor numbers remain a long way off their pre-pandemic levels. The longer outlets wait to go digital, the greater the loss of their market share – it really is that simple.

Fortunately, our model is designed to help facilitate that shift, allowing players to continue using their favourite brand in an online format. We help retail and land-based partners digitise their operations – a service which, for many, is urgently necessitated by the current situation, and we’re here to deliver.

How has the last year changed the European landscape? Comparing to the way the market looked last January, how much would say has shifted in terms of growth and expectations?

The widespread closure of land-based establishments has underlined the imperative for operators to expand their digital activities. Our partners have enjoyed tremendous success when it comes to re-directing offline customers online, thereby curbing the financial impact of the pandemic.

Self-evidently, operators without an online outlet are struggling to succeed right now. Those who have a synergised land-based and digital offering, on the other hand, are much better equipped to weather the storm that is sweeping the global economy. For those in the former category, our company is ready and waiting to help deliver an omnichannel experience to their players.

Where has growth been particularly strong for GAMING1 on the continent? Where should our readers be looking at for potential expansion?

Our online operations in Belgium have grown beyond expectations. Of course, that can partially be attributed to the Covid-induced shift of all land-based activities to the online sphere. But it also reflects the sky-high quality of our digital products, and the operational efficiency of which we are so proud.

In addition, our status as a Portuguese market-leader remains undisputed, with valued local partners Estoril continuing to grow at an impressive rate. Our Iberian reach has also expanded in Spain, with 777.ES going from strength to strength by outperforming the competition – a pattern which we are confident will continue in the year to come.

Your home markets are very much across Belgium and France – do you see the current French approach to online gaming changing anytime soon?

There’s a world of difference between the two markets. Looking at regulation, in Belgium you must own a land-based casino to open a betting shop, and there is a €500 weekly deposit limit in place. Neither of those rules apply in the French market – and yet, France is still the more restrictive of the two.

French laws prohibit the existence of any private sector in the entire gambling industry, except for land-based casinos. Little wonder, then, that the country’s black market is the most significant in Europe. Regulation would not provide an overnight solution, such is the scale of the exposure of unregulated sites. It would, however, be a giant leap in the right direction – not just for France’s gambling industry, but for its players and economy too.

Looking to the year ahead, a lot’s been talked about in terms of engagement and retention, as well as acquisition of land-based players to the online world – what should operators be spending their money on to make that happen?

As a land-based operator, having the right partner by your side is paramount. That’s how to deliver a world-class digital product to players, and marketing your offering in the most effective way possible is paramount.

Beyond the cross-selling acquisition and retention tools that we’ve implemented, my strongest recommendation is to develop a 360o strategy that maximises the synergy between your different channels. Ensuring that staff genuinely buy into your vision is also critical – without them on board, even the best-planned projects won’t get very far.

Last but not least, can you give us a few insights for staying ahead this year? What’s going to be the GAMING1 approach for ensuring your partners can succeed?

We strengthened our senior management team over the course of 2020 with an impressive string of industry heavyweights. Our peerless 50-50 business model, in which we win or lose alongside our partners, continues to reap the rewards, and we’ve got an ambitious set of expansion plans in place. I’m very proud by our hard-earned reputation for excellence, and we’re all very excited for the decade ahead. This is especially the case for the growth of our existing operations in Europe and Colombia, as well as developing markets such as France and Holland. Safe to say, we’re in for another busy year!

Interviews

Exclusive Q&A with Andrey Vajdyuk, Head of Business Development for NetGame Entertainment

George Miller

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Exclusive Q&A with Andrey Vajdyuk, Head of Business Development for NetGame Entertainment
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

How has 2021 begun for NetGame Entertainment?

We’re incredibly pleased with how the year has begun as it’s seen us deliver on our key growth targets in Q1. Against the backdrop of an unforgettable 2020 for the industry, we worked tirelessly to set the perfect foundation and it’s allowed us to seamlessly focus on new jurisdictions, promotions, aggregator and platform partnerships.

Our creative games studio has been busy with several hugely popular releases that included the latest in our Book of Nile series and Fruit Cash Hold ‘N’ Link. Another milestone for the business since the turn of the year was the launch of crypto currency and it means we now work with all world currencies.

NetGame Entertainment’s creative studio continues to release a wave of successful slots, what makes these titles standout from the crowd?

Our creative team and studio is second-to-none and deserves all the plaudits for the positive reception of NetGame’s titles. The team has been curated over time and is perfectly positioned to drive the business forward through designing exceptional iGaming experiences.

Supporting the innovative thinking are outstanding graphics, fair and trusted math and a combination of interesting features that each help deliver the best experience to players. Particular attention is paid to our bonus games and multiplayer elements that both have positive impacts on player engagement and retention.

Engaging bonuses feature heavily within NetGame Entertainment’s slots, what impact do these have?

Bonuses add to the fun for players and make games more exciting as we constantly strive to make every user’s experience interesting and enjoyable. NetGame’s bonus games are synonymous with our brand and there are various levels to the in-game features. One component that players love that’s present in some of our titles is the option to buy different starting levels within the bonus game to give a greater chance of success.

We are proud of our Progressive Jackpot Series Game and these have really added to player engagement and therefore life-tme-value. Other NetGame features include Free Spins, Buy bonus feature, Gamble feature, Tumbling reels, Hold N’ Link, Pick’em Game, Fortune Wheel, Super Laser, Multiplayer Mode, Totalizer, Pay-any Symbol and Quick cash.

The Fishing Kingdom slot has a multiplayer element, is this something that NetGame Entertainment will introduce more?

Fishing Kingdom has been incredibly well received and the results have been beyond encouraging. The game has been beautifully designed, but the standout feature is the multiplayer element. Given the results thus far, we plan to develop these styles of games and there will be another three launched during the remainder of the year.

How do slot series, such as Book of Nile, perform when compared to standalone titles?

We’ve been thrilled with how warmly the public has taken to the Book of Nile series. Magic Choice launched in February as the third installment following Revenge and the Lost Chapter. The Egyptian series is packed full of fun features and builds a narrative across the three games that players have really engaged with. Book of Nile is one of our most volatile games and that really adds to the breathtaking experience on the reels. Our series games and standalone titles perform equally well with our partners and that’s thanks to the creative team’s commitment to fun, thrilling and rewarding experiences. The key for us is having a diverse library of games to suit all our partners’ demands.

What are your business expectations over the next 12 months?

The next 12 months promise plenty for NetGame Entertainment and we have high expectations on delivering on our action-packed roadmap. One core element of that strategy is that we’re close to obtaining our MGA license and you are the first publication we have shared this information with.

Later in the year we’ll also be revealing some more details on some major arrangements with big aggregators and operators. These significant deals will allow us to expand NetGame’s reach in the market and give more players the opportunity to fall in love with our proprietary titles.

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Interviews

Exclusive interview with Petra Maria Poola, Head of Business Development and Operations at OneTouch

George Miller

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Exclusive interview with Petra Maria Poola, Head of Business Development and Operations at OneTouch
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

We sat down with Petra Maria Poola, Head of Business Development and Operations at the mobile-first casino game developer OneTouch, to discuss how suppliers should adapt their products to the geographic regions which they are targeting.

Is content localisation a myth?

No – for those who get it right, it’s an invaluable acquisition and retention strategy. What do we mean when we talk about localised games? Put simply, it’s a title that’s tailored to a specific geographic audience.

And it takes a lot more than just changing the language to do that. From both a visual and technical perspective, adapting your content to individual target markets can do wonders for engagement.

For example, there are obviously still places lacking in internet coverage, particularly in growth regions such as Latin America. For suppliers trying to enter those territories, that makes it all the more important to ensure that your games don’t take up too much storage, and can be easily downloaded by those with an older smartphone model or a slower internet connection.

Do you localise your games? If so, how? And which regions are they tailored to?

Here at OneTouch, we think it’s all about striking the right balance between creating international hits with cross-cultural appeal, while also producing content for specific local audiences.

Our recent release, Ganbaruto Battle, draws inspiration from the great Japanese tradition of sumo-wrestling. It features a renowned Estonian wrestler called Baruto Kaito, so its appeal is likely to include, without being limited to, players from that country.

Equally, classic casino themes such as Ancient Egypt and Vegas-style fruit symbols often generate global popularity. Our timeless slot title, Forgotten Pharaoh, has achieved tremendous and widespread success by drawing on the former theme.

One might expect that our basketball-based slot MVP Hoops performs especially well in markets where that sport is popular, but it’s actually proved a hit in regions where basketball is not generally followed by the wider population.
Finally, we expect our upcoming title Live Crash to reach a transnational audience, because it is a crash-style title similar to those enjoyed in the crypto-gambling space – which is rapidly gaining followers from around the world.

We research every market diligently to understand what its players want in precise detail. Localisation has proved a successful strategy for OneTouch!

Are there any aspects of game development which are internationally uniform, and do not vary based on where you are in the world?

Some aspects of content development require more localisation than others. Failing to geographically adapt your game from a visual perspective might mean that customers might not want to play it. Failing to do so from a technical perspective, meanwhile, could mean that they are not able to play it.

However, there are other stages of the game development process which are not subject to regional variation. With the exception of a game’s volatility, mechanics do not tend to vary all that much on the basis of geography, unlike technical and visual effects.

Similarly, sometimes localisation isn’t just about adapting to cultural or infrastructural differences, it’s simply a case of knowing the ratio of land-based to online players within the market you are targeting. It’s all about creating an enjoyable entertainment experience for the end user by paying heed to their specific cultural context. Get that right, and you could be onto a winner.

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Cryptocurrency

‘What is the role of social media within real-money gaming, and how will this change in the years to come?’

George Miller

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'What is the role of social media within real-money gaming, and how will this change in the years to come?'
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

We sat down with Tom Leadbetter, Head of Marketing at multiplayer casino game developer FunFair Games, to discuss the increasingly important role played by social media within the modern-day gambling industry.

The casino industry’s use of social media is fundamentally outdated. Specifically, the world of iGaming has yet to understand the true value of community engagement.

The crypto space, by contrast, has long been ahead of the curve. That includes crypto-gambling, which places community at the heart of its acquisition strategy. Yes, many in the real-money gaming sector post about their activity, but that’s rarely followed up with a conversation.

That’s why FunFair Games uses social media to start a two-way dialogue with its community, stimulating discussions on platforms such as Discord, Reddit and Telegram, as well as more conventional social channels like Twitter, where we’ve got more than 35,000 followers.

I doubt there are many companies in the real-money space who use Reddit, but we’re proud to call ourselves pioneers in the gambling industry’s use of social media. And with a current membership count of nearly 17,000, as well as 72,000 page views in January alone, we’ve found the platform to be a fantastic engagement tool.

Keeping your community engaged takes more than just emailing a newsletter without response. We live stream our games at the prototype stage, and ask for community feedback on the names of the characters found in our titles.

In that regard, social media is a great way to garner instant feedback on your content. The crypto index is much younger, boasting a higher level of popularity among Gen Y and Z players than the mainstream casino sector.

Crypto is therefore a useful predictor of things to come. If the emerging generation of player wants more community-driven experiences, it’s likely that social media will prove key to the gambling industry’s future.

There’s a tendency for the real-money sector to fear community engagement. In some ways, that’s understandable: scroll through Twitter these days, and most of the stories you find about gambling tend to be negative.

That negativity, though, stems from a lack of trust. That’s a word you wouldn’t normally associate with the world of gambling, but social engagement allows you to cultivate it. Most of the feedback we get is positive, but our community often flags potential problems too. We don’t shy away from spirited discussions and debates with them – it’s not that everyone agrees, but that everyone cares.

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