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Exclusive interview with R. Franco Digital: “Our success is based around making games which resonate with players”

George Miller

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Exclusive interview with R. Franco Digital: “Our success is based around making games which resonate with players”
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

The Netherlands has long been talked-up as the next premier iGaming market. With the newly regulated market set to open later this year, we sat down with Javier Sacristán Franco, Director of R. Franco Digital, to uncover the strategies being put in place by those suppliers aiming to hit the ground running.

There has been some talk that the Netherlands can become one of Europe’s biggest iGaming markets – does R Franco agree with this statement and if so, why?

There is little doubt in our mind that in time, the Netherlands will become one of the most important iGaming markets in Europe. For that reason, at R. Franco we are aware of the importance in hitting the ground running when the new online regulation comes into force on October 1st, 2021. On that date, we will establish ourselves in the Netherlands armed with all our products and services. Dutch operators will be able to utilise our IRIS platform, which is integrated with more than 40 providers across sports betting and casino, the latter including R Franco Games. We also have sophisticated CRM tools, an array of market-relevant payment providers and leading affiliate programmes. In short, everything an operator could ask for to strike an early blow in a newly regulated market. It is also important to highlight the fact that within the IRIS platform, we have included a control system specified by the CDB (Controle Data Bank), in addition to all the additional requirements of the Dutch Gambling Authority.

How does the impending regulatory regime in the Netherlands compare to Germany?

Clearly, there are several important differences that must be taken into account. At the same time, there are certain truths that hold whichever regulated market you are working in. The most important thing for R Franco is that we satisfy our clients while also working alongside regulators. That way the end result is an online market that benefits everyone, from operators right down to the end user – and of course, the regulator that helps ensure the whole ecosystem is safe, secure and responsible.

How important will the Netherlands ultimately become in terms of R Franco’s overall strategy?

For R Franco, the Dutch market represents a clear opportunity for expansion and business growth in Europe, aligning perfectly with the Group’s established strategy. Thanks to the deals we have already closed with strategic partners in the online sector, we see the opening up of the Dutch market as a chance to strengthen these alliances. It’s also an opportunity for us to provide a high level of technological innovation that will assist any operator aiming to stand out within a market as interesting and attractive as the one in the Netherlands.

What importance do you place on localising content for players within this market?

One of our Spanish mottos translates as “R. Franco is Game”. This means that from our origins as a company dating back to 1965, the key to our growth has been the player. We have always created content based around what a player’s preferences are within any given market. To answer the question, we know that the success of our clients – and in turn, our own success – is based around making games which resonate with players and with which they can have fun in a responsible way.

What sort of games do you foresee Dutch players enjoying?

Without giving too much away at this early stage, we have carried out an extensive market analysis in the Netherlands. Based on the results, we plan to make available to our clients a catalogue of games that tallies with the tastes of players. That means a wide variety of games and themes, with the intention of securing 100% satisfaction from every client.

To what extent will your choice of partnerships determine your success in the Dutch regulated market?

Without a doubt, the choice of partner within a highly competitive iGaming world is crucial. The alliances that are the strongest are those that share a common goal, with each partner bringing out the best in one another. For this reason, R. Franco has pursued and secured partnerships with major players in the industry with whom we work together at a global level. The world has changed and R. Franco is proud to be an integral part of the exciting new iGaming environment we all find ourselves immersed in.

Interviews

Exclusive Q&A with Hyperion Tech Chief Business Development Officer Ori Zilbershtein

George Miller

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Exclusive Q&A with Hyperion Tech Chief Business Development Officer Ori Zilbershtein
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

With lockdown restrictions being eased across Europe, businesses have a big decision to make on whether to force a return to the office or keep a culture of remote working.

Hyperion Tech Chief Business Development Officer, Ori Zilbershtein, believes it is an easy call – remote working is here to stay. Productivity has increased during the pandemic and businesses are embracing the hybrid model that provides greater flexibility and perks to employees.

European Gaming caught up with Zilbershtein to understand how remote working has influenced product development and why the traditional office model is dead.

 

How have working practices in iGaming changed since Covid and do you expect these to remain in the future?

Before the pandemic, iGaming CTOs were fixated on the idea that developers had to work alongside each other in the same office to create new products. It was common that companies would refuse to hire candidates who wanted to work remotely – a puzzling approach given the well-documented skill shortages in Malta, one of the industry’s main hubs. However, Covid-19 has completely transformed the office setup and how organisations interact with colleagues and recruit new staff. Businesses are taking full advantage of the wealth of overseas talent available, realising the benefits of recruitment without being restricted to a certain geographic location.

The advent of remote working has reassured senior executives that allowing employees to work from home does not impact productivity. In fact, we have found the opposite with output actually increasing as staff feel more comfortable in their own surroundings and are not distracted by constant meetings.

 

How big an impact has Covid had on tech with people working remotely? Has innovation suffered because of this?

Far from it, instead we have seen projects completed more efficiently since developers have worked from home. Meetings and discussions have become more succinct and operational efficiency has increased as a result.

Simply put, time is wasted when developers spend every day in the office. Rather than finding themselves in endless face-to-face discussions between stakeholders, which often yield no real solutions, developers working from home are now able to spend more time writing the code that creates world-class products.

 

Many people claim to be more stressed since Covid because there of a lack of downtime, how can iGaming companies address these issues to ensure their workforce is engaged and efficient yet also happy?

That is a responsibility that should be shared between teams and managers at all organisations. At Hyperion Tech, we do not ask staff to respond to professional enquiries outside of working hours, unless it is a matter of urgent importance. Clients do not generally contact us out of hours, and of course there are instances when we can make exceptions. The key is to develop an open relationship with your partners based on trust and courteousness, communicating honestly throughout the process.

For example, when we do receive an out of office hours enquiry which is not urgent, we reply at the earliest opportunity when we are back working, which is never a problem. Of course, in those exceptional circumstances where a pressing matter needs addressing, then we are more than happy to do so outside of working hours. That approach brings tremendous mental health benefits, reducing stress by ensuring that staff do not feel obliged to spend every waking hour glued to their phone or laptop.

 

What does the future hold for offices post-pandemic? Is the traditional office model dead?

Working habits have fundamentally changed and the office setup that was previously the norm is unlikely to return. People often enjoy working from home and save time by cutting out their daily commute, with output increasing as a result.

Giving people greater responsibility to achieve their goals is almost always a positive thing for businesses looking to expand, and doing this remotely is no different. Showing your employees that you trust them to work from home will in most cases see them repay you by going the extra mile to help the company grow. This is having a positive influence on staff turnover too, with fewer people leaving their jobs and HR saving on significant costs.

Our office will still be in use for certain meetings and training sessions once the pandemic is over, as well as providing a space for those who cannot comfortably work from home, but the hybrid model is very much the future. Companies that insist on making staff use the office on a full-time basis will be at a significant disadvantage in the job market, playing second fiddle to those who offer a flexible model of some kind. Making people sit in an office for 40 hours a week will only make your business a less desirable place to work – and hiring top talent will be more difficult as a consequence.

 

How is Hyperion Tech supporting iGaming companies in a post-Covid environment?

As an iGaming technology services provider, Hyperion Tech is here to support companies that are looking to build their teams with the right talent. Working with a range of clients in the iGaming, Fintech and other tech sectors, we create hybrid teams of internal and external developers that take a business’ operations to the next level.

Malta’s tech talent shortage has been well documented, but with remote working we now have a solution to this key issue. Malta-based businesses often tell us how hard they have found it to recruit and retain top talent, but now they are in a position to embrace the hybrid model and employ staff from across Europe. That is where we come in, as we take great pride in building successful teams for our clients by tapping into a huge pool of tech talent.

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Interviews

Q&A with Justin Chen, PickFu Co-founder: How Can Mobile Game Developers Overcome IDFA Void?

Niji Narayan

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Q&A with Justin Chen, PickFu Co-founder: How Can Mobile Game Developers Overcome IDFA Void?
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Apple’s recent iOS 14.5 update has disabled the Identifier for Advertisers (IDFA), a handy tool for mobile game developers and online marketers to create game features and design advertising strategies.

Here we have with us Justin Chen, co-founder of PickFu, a leading consumer research software that feeds business intelligence through instant online polls.

He talks about the removal of IDFA, its potential impacts, user reaction to the removal, and how game developers and marketers can fill the void.

Q. Welcome Justin Chen, Could you explain the recent talks surrounding IDFA?

A. IDFA acts like a cookie to help advertisers better target iOS users and measure the effectiveness of their mobile marketing campaigns. Apple’s latest iOS 14.5 update has a App Tracking Transparency feature that disables IDFA by default.

This could substantially impact how mobile games are created and marketed. Let me explain it.

Prior to the change, IDFA provided advertisers with information such as whether users downloaded their game through a browser ad or when they’re using the app, how they are interacting with ads in their game, and more. This data became fundamental tot programmatic advertising strategies that free-to-play games use to acquire and target users, improve the user experience, and monetise games. Many marketers believe the update is the death of IDFA, as consumers must now opt in to allow app tracking.

Q. PickFu has recently conducted poll with gamers with Apple devices. Could you tell us more about the results of the poll?

A. PickFu’s poll involved 200 mobile gamers with Apple devices. The poll simply asked whether they would enable or disable app tracking.

In the poll, 81.5% of respondents, though, said they’d disable IDFA tracking. They largely felt it invaded their privacy and were uncomfortable with companies owning their data. According to one respondent, “I don’t want my data tracked by anyone or anything, anonymous or not. I don’t need targeted advertisements. If I am interested in purchasing, I will look into the product myself and do my own research.”

There were 18.5% respondents who said they would enable IDFA tracking. These players commented that they like to receive personalised advertisements and don’t mind being tracked, as long as their personal information wasn’t shared. One wrote, “I don’t like the idea of being tracked, but they are not getting any of my personal information. I would rather get advertisements that might interest me than ones that I don’t care about at all.”

Q. What would be the impact of this on mobile gaming studios?

A. Before iOS 14.5, approximately 70% of Apple users shared their IDFA data with app publishers. This figure could drop to as low as 10%, making the data pool much smaller for advertisers. Mobile gaming studios will have to reevaluate how they collect data to market to mobile audiences.

Q. Now, how will game marketers figure out whether the ads are optimised and targeted to the right people? 

Well, there are basically two ways: 1. Find alternate ways and 2. create new methods.

  1. Find alternate ways to gather real-time audience insights

IDFA helps mobile game developers collect real-time data around how their core audience plays their games and interacts with their ads. Using this data, developers optimised their games to provide a better user experience for players. With the soon-to-be smaller data pool, this granular information will, ironically, become even more granular.

To supplement the dramatically lower numbers, mobile game developers will need supplemental ways to gain audience insights quickly. Surveys of mobile gamers will help developers to gauge opinions in a totally privacy-compliant manner. Speed doesn’t need to be lost, either. The online nature of player polling means that developers can act on their survey results the very same day they pose a question.

  1. Create new targeting opportunities 

The hyper-targeting that IDFA makes possible is one of its most appealing qualities for advertisers, even if less so for those they target. But online surveying providers can offer readymade audiences based on your targeting needs, and these audiences usually self-report their identifying qualities.

Q. That is interesting. What are the options available to game developers and marketers for such surveys?

A. Some available polling audiences that game studios may find valuable:

  • Gaming platform: mobile, PC, console
  • Gaming habits: daily players, weekly players, occasional players, etc.
  • Favourite gaming genres: role-playing, trivia, strategy, word, etc
  • Devices: iOS, Android
  • App store spending habits: under $10, $100 or more, etc
  • Demographic groups: women, parents, income range

Q. Final question now. But can surveys provide the exact kind of data that IDFA used to provide?

A. IDFA shows advertisers how mobile players interact with their ads. But one limitation is that you can’t access any data until you have a launched game with live players.

Surveys enable you to get real-world reactions to a much wider range of mobile gaming assets, from mobile app icons, game concepts, artwork, app names, descriptions and more. You can conduct this research at any stage of a game’s development lifecycle. The earlier you start gathering data, the more confident you will be as you move toward launch.

In addition, IDFA provides purely quantitative data such as impressions and click-through rates. However, you’re left to guess the why behind these numbers. By incorporating polling into your strategy, you’ll hear directly from players, helping to understand why they like or dislike characters, ad creative, or whatever else you show them.

Taking qualitative feedback into account will improve your game overall, allowing for improved player interactions, stronger download figures, and better overall ROI.

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Central Europe

A Q&A session with Endorphina’s Head of Legal!

George Miller

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A Q&A session with Endorphina's Head of Legal!
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Recently,  Jakub (Head of Legal at Endorphina) had an interview and dropped some professional insights and thoughts about Germany, their new regulations, the treaty, and more.

 

So, big things are happening in Germany, right?

Yes, Germany was always a rather complicated market. The need for new gambling legislation to fully legalize online gambling was very urgent. Finally, there is hope when the new legislation has been introduced in 2020. And in spring 2021, the number of states to approve the new gambling treaty was met and Germany’s State Treaty on Gambling aka “Der Glücksspielneuregulierungstaatsverag” will become effective from the 1st of July 2021.

 

The Treaty on Gambling becomes effective in July, does that mean that starting from July all operators must have a respective gambling license issued by German regulator?

No, it does not mean that. Germany is not that far in the process and the new regulatory body must first be established. Work to establish this body is underway, and sources suggest it will be fully operational by the end of 2022.

 

When the regulatory body is not established yet, how will Germany apply or enforce new rules introduced in the Treaty on Gambling?

The transitional regime has been introduced and does stipulate guidelines that certain online gambling offerings, namely those of virtual slot machines and online poker, which are actually not yet permitted under the current Interstate Treaty on Gambling, will be exempt from enforcement if operators meet certain requirements that are recognized as technically feasible. Basically, it is some sort of “gentleman agreement” between operators and the government saying: “follow the rules and we will leave you alone”. However, such “guidelines” cannot be mistaken with an effective law!

 

What requirements must be met in order to comply with the guidelines of the transitional regime?

It is a set of various rules. For example, for virtual slot games, the maximum bet must be 1 euro, the spin duration must be at least 5 seconds, no jackpots or auto-spins are allowed, reality checks must be triggered after 60 minutes session of un-interrupted duration and after that, the player must take a 5-minute cool-down break, where they are unable to place a bet, etc. As you can see, the new Treaty on Gambling really focuses on player protection and preventing gambling addiction.

 

Are there any problematic parts of the new regulation?

There are always some problematic parts and challenges from the regulatory point of view. On one side, the regulator tries to protect players but on the other side, games still must remain attractive compared to other markets. So, we can see those lacking jackpots, spin duration, and EUR 1 maximal bets could potentially cause some issues with the attractiveness of games and that is even before we will get into taxes.

 

What is wrong with taxes?

There is a proposal of new taxation of poker and online slots in the amount of 5,3% from all stakes. Considering that the average RTP (return to player) rate from slot games is 96%, such taxation would mean that the operators would be losing money on slots. Actually, to make the revenue from slots equal as without the proposed tax, the RTP of the slots would have to be reduced. And here we come back to the attractivity of games for players. Why would you play a game with a lower RTP when, just a click away, you can play the very same game with a higher RTP, only in an unregulated casino? This is why many experts are afraid that such taxation would drive players to the black market, which is very risky, especially if the jurisdiction is just opening. This taxation is still not yet agreed upon, but unfortunately, there is a high probability that it will actually happen. Even with bet limits or spin durations, Germany is still a very interesting market so we can only hope that the German parliament will reconsider their tax proposal.

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