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Exclusive Q&A with Sergey Tsukanov, Head of Sportsbook at Betby

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Exclusive Q&A with Sergey Tsukanov, Head of Sportsbook at Betby
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Are big summer events the most important part of the year, or just an added benefit to day-to-day activity?

Summer sporting events are a big deal for global sportsbook suppliers as they present endless opportunities to boost engagement and deliver unique promotions, but I see it as a bit of both.

After a prolonged period without any major football tournaments and over a season’s worth of fixtures being played behind closed doors, the European Championships and the Copa America have arrived at the perfect time for sport lovers around the world.

The spike of growth in the number of users around these events is very much influenced by the market and depends on many factors, like whether a local team is playing in the tournament and what sources the operator gets its traffic through.

We see a similar number of bets placed on a given day of the European Championships as we do on the night of the Champions League final, with the latter stages of the tournament only attracting more users. This is a testament to the popularity and appeal of summer sporting competitions.

 

How can sportsbook suppliers prepare for these huge events, which should see significantly increased traffic?

Betby prides itself on the flexibility of its products and ability to pivot its platform to suit specific requirements. Preparation for tournaments of this size is key due to the huge spike in user activity during the games.

Work schedules around the time of major events are changed to facilitate the increased number of bets being placed before games, as well as requests from clients to run campaigns in the build up to the tournament.  We also tend to increase the number of markets of bets ahead of these competitions to set it apart from regular sporting events.

 

Are regional sporting events, such as the European Championships or Copa America, popular globally or only within those regions where the games are being played?

For the most part, there is little interest in the Copa America in Europe, and the same can be said for interest in the European Championships in Latin America, but there are always sport enthusiasts and other outliers that must be catered to.

For example, the Argentina-Brazil clash will undoubtedly see some interest around the globe thanks to the prominence of superstars like Lionel Messi and Neymar. That said, when you consider the time difference and abundance of smaller ties, global figures will always be smaller in comparison.

This problem is not specific to football; we see the same issue in the NBA where European followers are expected to sacrifice sleep and brave the early hours of the morning just to watch their team play.

 

Can the Olympics ever become a major betting event?

This is a very complex question. There’s a feeling that the Olympics is slowly losing relevance in the sporting community.

Perhaps we should not talk about the Olympics as a whole, and rather focus on the separate events that make up the competition. The tennis is always interesting to watch from the start due to the ‘knock-out’ nature of the ties, whereas football in the Olympics only becomes a knock-out once teams pass the group stages.

The dedicated following that we see at club and international level in football, rugby and other global sports audiences is just incomparable to the following that Olympic sports like rowing or fencing get throughout the year.

 

How has Betby approached the bumper sporting summer of 2021?

Without going into too much detail on our plans for the upcoming summer, I can confirm that we have changed our priorities to assist the launch of a host of additional football markets for the European Championships.

We recently reimagined the ‘classic’ sportsbook in the design of our site’s new layout, so it now boasts a fully responsive user interface, easy site navigation and swift betting placement, which addresses feedback we received from our users.

With a brand-new sidebar, high-quality widgets and more markets than ever before, we have done everything in our power to make this summer as enjoyable as possible for our audiences. After all, there has been so little to celebrate over the past 18 months that a touch excitement is long overdue.

 

Interviews

Q&A with Victor Pronk, CCO at Incentive Games

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Q&A with Victor Pronk, CCO at Incentive Games
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Can you tell us a little bit more about your recently announced partnership with EBET and what it entails? 

Of course. Under the partnership, Incentive Games will provide unique freeplay content for EBET brands that will help the operator lower acquisition costs and take retention to the next level. We believe that esports fans will appreciate the gamification elements and game concepts that Incentive Games has built its reputation on, and we very much look forward to taking these mechanics and features and wrapping them in a range of engaging esports themes. This is our first play in the esports betting sector, and it is a move that we are excited to have made with EBET, an undisputed leader in the vertical.

 

How can freeplay games be used to engage esports audiences and introduce them to esports betting?

It all starts with offering esports fans something that is relevant and fun, which is exactly what our games do. For each title, we use elements of a live sports event, in this case, an esports contest, to create a game for the viewers to engage with. This in turn increases the excitement around the live event/esports contest and also introduces the concept of betting and wagering to those interested in trying it for the first time. That our games are free to play makes them a powerful acquisition tool as the player is not using their own money, but they also add value for those already signed up with a betting brand whether that be traditional sports or esports.

 

Do these games use different mechanics/features to the freeplay games you create for sports betting? If so, how are they different?

The gamification and human behaviour techniques we use are the same across all sports and all product verticals, including esports. The implementation is specific to both the sport and the audience that we are targeting with the game and getting this part right is a combination of experience and a lot of extensive data analysis and A/B testing. So, in short, the fundamentals of the games are the same but themes, prizes, etc are specific to the sport and the audience.

 

How will you continue to develop products for EBET? What role does data play in how you analyse game performance and use this to guide development of new titles? 

We are looking forward to a long partnership with EBET that will include multiple unique games for their esports audience. With every game, we expect to learn more about their audience and how they respond to different concepts and features. This will allow us to improve on the next run of games and better their contribution to the operator’s wider acquisition and retention strategy. We can’t disclose what games are coming, just that we are very excited about the ideas we are working on with EBET and the product roadmap that we have in place for the coming months and years.

 

How do you see the esports betting space evolving over the next 12 months? What role will Incentive play in driving this growth? 

Esports has been a constant and rapidly growing market and we expect that to continue. With the recent pandemic, all operators are very aware of having alternatives to traditional sports and there is a growing desire among many to add esports betting to their proposition. For that reason, we believe the vertical will continue to grow at pace with further opportunities opening up for us and the operators that we work with. We as Incentive Games are very much looking forward to providing our games to EBET and helping them drive their growth.

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Interviews

Q&A with Relax Gaming CCO Nadiya Attard

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Q&A with Relax Gaming CCO Nadiya Attard
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

In March Relax Gaming, the igaming aggregator and supplier of unique content unveiled their latest innovation, its Dream Drop Jackpots product, a five-tiered progressive jackpot designed to revolutionise slot gameplay, offering players the biggest must-hit jackpot to date.

European Gaming caught up with the company’s CCO Nadiya Attard on how the product is faring in the European market.

 

Snake Arena and Temple Tumble 2 are two incredibly exciting games. Can you tell us a bit more about why you chose these games to introduce Dream Drop?

The thought process behind the Dream Drop mechanic took more than a year of planning and careful analysis, so when it came to applying it to a slot game, we approached it with the same dexterity. Temple Tumble 2 and Snake Arena are both blockbuster titles as a result of their unique mechanics, beautiful graphics and, fantastic long-term results. These elements make both games ideal for introducing a new functionality like Dream Drop to our audience as it provides a comfortable mix of familiarity and originality. Just one month since the launch of our debut title, Temple Tumble 2 Dream Drop, and it’s clear that the game choice has resonated with players.

 

What can you tell us about future titles that Dream Drop will be added to?

The first stage of launching the functionality sees us using familiar titles to expose our players to new material, encouraging them to experiment with the mechanic – something imperative to this early phase of the product’s lifecycle. Following this, we’ve got a roadmap packed with brand new hot titles to add to the Dream Drop space. Once the mechanic has earned the trust and esteem of our audiences they should expect to see some even more exciting games paired with Dream Drop.

 

In which markets has Dream Drop seen particular uptake?

Dream Drop has worked tremendously well across all our key markets including Scandinavia and the UK but has also had Major winners as far away as Peru – where for as little as €2, someone won the jackpot! The initial uptake has been fantastic, and we are looking forward to expanding its reach. As a studio, we’re well-known for having ambition and not being afraid to think outside the box, we wanted to use this reputation to make a bold statement, both to slot enthusiasts and the rest of the industry.

It became clear almost immediately that we didn’t want to develop another classic legacy-type jackpot that was already commonplace in these markets, however we were also quite aware that innovating in such a crowded space would be a challenge, but we’re confident we’ve pulled it off.

 

Are there plans to customise this to the North American market?

Given our strong foothold in Europe, we are excited about offering as much of the Relax portfolio, including our showcase products, in the emerging and rapidly growing North American markets. With regards to the Dream Drop functionality, launching in the region will rely heavily on the ability to have countries or states share in liquidity aspects. Analysis and surveying of the landscape are currently underway and we’re eager to see how we can bring such a fantastic offering to a broader player-base.

 

Before the launch, Relax indicated that these jackpots would drop more frequently than those in other traditional jackpot slots. Has this been the case so far?

Absolutely! In just seven weeks we have had over 280,000 winners and 11 major winners. With our jackpot heating up every other week, and operator feedback flooding in, it seems to be shaping up to be one of the best-performing global jackpots in the industry today.

 

The five-tiered progressive jackpot is inspired. Can you tell us about the thinking behind this and how players are reacting to it?

As with most of our productions, the inspiration is derived from listening to our operators’ feedback on their perception of the market and what their players are looking for. Aiming to innovate from the start, we began by looking at the traditional jackpots currently occupying the space, most of which are open-ended meaning that they can go months without dropping. We brought something entirely different to the table with our must-win functionality. We believe in finding the sweet spot between mounting excitement in our players and awarding gratification, with fairness given top priority; Dream Drop aims to do just that with its frequent jackpot drops.

 

What’s the ultimate long-term goal for Relax Gaming’s Dream Drop Jackpot?

Our goal is to be the number one jackpot provider in the industry for all the right reasons, such as fairness, exciting gameplay, innovation, exceeding operators’ targets, and ultimately reinvigorating the jackpot sector.

As with every product vertical we explore, we aim to bring something fresh to the table, remaining rooted in differentiation and never backing down from a challenge. At Relax, we only launch products that we truly believe in and continually build upon successes. In the case of Dream Drop, we’re already working on promotional tools and campaigns that are set to roll out shortly and give it an additional boost.

 

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Interviews

European Gaming Streamers Roundtable

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European Gaming Streamers Roundtable
Reading Time: 11 minutes

 

Participants

Michael Pedersen, CCO at Livespins

Will Barnes, Owner at Hideous Slots

Bryan Upton, Founder at Lucksome

David Mann, Chief Commercial Officer at Swintt

 

There is no question that online slot streaming is enjoying a meteoric rise in popularity? What are you doing to leverage the potential it provides? 

Michael Pedersen, CCO at Livespins

We have launched an entire company with the sole purpose of leveraging the meteoric rise of online slot streaming, Livespins. For a long time, people have been asking if online casino can be social, but you only have to look to Twitch to see that it absolutely can be. To date, there have been more than 280 million hours of streaming footage consumed in the slots category and the chat is on fire. With the hypothesis well and truly proved, we launched Livespins to take this a step further by allowing players to get in on the action by betting behind the streamer and to also offer operators and developers a reputable, compliant platform via which they too can capitalise on the popularity of streaming. We really are going all-in on this as, ultimately, we believe that it is the future of online casino.

Will Barnes, Owner at Hideous Slots

Hideous Slots was always meant to be about community, and the live streams themselves are really at the core of audience engagement. I consider that streaming and video promotion has already overtaken traditional methods of content discovery amongst key demographics. For me, this means using online streaming to achieve the things that would previously have been achieved elsewhere – for example, remembering to lead viewers to your website through streams, comments and Live Chat has now become just as important as traditional SEO. Working with game providers is becoming more common for streamers – as you’ve said, online slot streaming is massively on the rise, and streamers are now proving to be one of the most direct tools in marketing. But we still need to maintain our integrity and the trust of the audience – so commentary on specific products must always fair and balanced.

Bryan Upton, Founder at Lucksome

Not enough would be the honest answer.  We are a small and new studio going through a normal start-up process of improvement, scaling and hitting our rhythm.  I would say that we are building Slots that the streaming community would have an affinity for.  Voodoo Temple, our latest slot has a lot of punch and enough big wins behind it in the first week of launch to have proven that. This is a starting point at least.  Now, for us it’s about getting our games and brand in front of the streamers around the world and letting them do what they do best – play and entertain.  We are just starting to push in this direction and learning how this part of the industry is working.  With this meteoric rise, has come a premium for streamers’ time, and that is something smaller studios like Lucksome would need to understand in terms of return before taking that cost on.  Is there some solid data on this to prove the business case?  It would be great to be able to have those discussions, and how to help the younger, innovative studios into the limelight.

David Mann, Chief Commercial Officer at Swintt

I agree that the popularity of slot streaming is increasing every month. And for us, as a slot supplier, it is very important that the streaming community knows about our game releases so they can share our latest titles with their followers. A good relationship with the streamers that share the same culture and beliefs as the studio is key as this ensures they are aware of new games coming to the market. However, it is also important to release games that are liked by the community that follows the streamers, because ultimately big wins are what are people interested in. So high volatility games with high max wins should definitely be a part of the portfolio of anyone who wants to succeed in gaining visibility for their games among streamers and their audiences.

We are seeing some studios build out their own teams of streamers. What are the pros and cons of doing this? 

Michael Pedersen, CCO at Livespins

I am a great believer in knowing what you are good at and making that your focus. Game studios are great at developing engaging and entertaining slots and that is where they should deploy their resources. They can then partner with streamers or platforms such as Livespins and get in on the action that way. Of course, this means that streamers and streaming platforms need to be driving progress.

The way I see it, live streaming consists of two parts – the technical and the human. Over time, everyone will nail the technology but because there is such a reliance on the human element this is where the real difference will be made. That is why at Livespins we provide our streamers with access to coaches, props, themes, etc and this is something that studios will struggle to do while also ensuring their games continue to top the charts.

Will Barnes, Owner at Hideous Slots

I think the biggest advantage of building your own team is that you’re going to have complete control over the content. Ultimately the engagement will always be with the individuals on screen and I think this might be difficult to manage if things become successful. The danger will always be that people are tuning in for the influencer and not the brand itself. An associated issue is that social media success often involves interaction across platforms and this can be a 24/7 job. Motivating a team to make personalised social media posts, and to be passionate about your product would be a challenge – especially when competing against streamers who are offering this with ease. To really enjoy success, you need to find someone who is not just passionate about entertaining, but also passionate about engaging with the audience, and passionate about the gambling!

Bryan Upton, Founder at Lucksome

The pros are pretty obvious, if you set up something well, you gain influence and the exposure of your games, which all studios, big and small need and want.  It would also create a stream of solid and direct feedback on a segment of the market to allow you to hone your product even more.  The cons, personally I think the truly GREAT streamers are not just the ones that are fun to watch but are also authentic and independent.  Meaning they play everyone’s games, they play the games they love, the games their audience love.  Asking them to play a game they don’t like falls flat on the stream and the watchers feel it.  If you have your own streamer set up, you need to make sure what you’re producing in terms of content is spot on for the community you are serving and your streamers really need play other competitor games as well – otherwise you’ll lose the audience.  I guess another con is scale.  You’ll need a lot of people to tackle those important local markets, Italy, German speaking, Spanish etc etc.  In the same way as a provide you try to push your games all over the world, you would want your reach and influence to match.  I would say that is out of reach for smaller studios and a different business to that of running a game studio.  I think it would be great to see some stronger relationships between streamers and suppliers to produce some great original content and experiences – so there is something to be had there.

David Mann, Chief Commercial Officer at Swintt

I believe studios that build a team of their own streamers lose the legitimacy and trust of the viewers because it is very probable that in-house streamers will not criticise the studios’ games even if they are not up to standard. However, by having your own team of streamers, you a studio can ensure that all of their games are played and see the light of the streaming community. So, there are pros and cons to both, but if studios want to engage and entertain players in an authentic way it is important for streamers to remain independent.

Just how difficult is it to launch streaming channels and build sizable audiences? What are the key challenges faced and how can they be overcome? 

Michael Pedersen, CCO at Livespins

Livespins is a very different beast. We are not an affiliate streamer and we do not depend on building large audiences and a loyal community of fans. This is because we integrate directly with an online casino operator and engage with their existing player base. For affiliate streamers, it is insanely difficult to launch a channel and build a sizeable following, and then also convert that following into paying players at partner online casino brands. That is why Livespins is so innovative – it allows operators to capitalise on the popularity of streaming by offering it to their players and by also letting them bet behind the action taking place across the reels.

Will Barnes, Owner at Hideous Slots

Launching a channel comes with a number of challenges, and the most significant challenge is building an audience. Often, finding those first 20-30 viewers comes quite easily – friends, friends of friends, or those who enjoy the high level of engagement that a smaller stream can provide. Again, once you surpass 150-200 viewers, growth is more consistent, as your content is pushed out by YouTube and Twitch organically. But between 30-150 viewers is a real struggle, and I think the quickest way to overcome this hurdle is to try and offer something a bit different, and to keep trying. Keep showing up, keep offering somewhere for people to join together, and hope that eventually these numbers continue to grow. There’s no shortcut to building huge numbers – it’s about being authentic, and if you have something interesting or unique enough, eventually it will pay off. 

Bryan Upton, Founder at Lucksome

We are seeing this continued trend in European markets of high volatility game play – but we have hit the ceiling in terms of how much we can push this, factors from high exposure to the Operators and squeezing of margins with very harsh, high risk math profiles are, in my opinion, creating the beginnings of player fatigue and burnout and reticence from the industry.  I feel player tastes are settling into a happy medium between the extremes that our industry tends to have an affinity with, with is a good thing.  From our side, we continuously have to avoided falling into the noise of all the other game releases, and having something to talk about directly to players and through influencers I think is key.  We pride ourselves on being more transparent on the games we’re producing and how they work, as we think it is key to attracting the right players to your games.  We keep an eye on new trends in and outside our industry and how we can utilise or jump on them to make better gaming experiences, which is our life blood, as is as adjusting our design processes looking at the new generation of players out there.

David Mann, Chief Commercial Officer at Swintt

This is definitely not the easiest task. You need to be trustworthy, entertaining and stream on a regular basis to gain a sizable audience. But trust is really key here. Viewers follow streamers to see their reactions so during a stream they need to interact with the audience and react to the important moments when they play. Streamers are also trying to help to change the perception of gaming, so it is important to set the key goals when launching a streaming channel. I see it being of huge importance to be a legit streamer and to stay away from adopting the practices of so-called fake streamers.

What tactics are you using to drive growth? Are audience demands changing? If so, how? And what impact is this having on streams? 

Michael Pedersen, CCO at Livespins

Because we are coming at live streaming from a B2B perspective, we are driving growth by integrating with more operators and partnering with more slot providers. Audience demands are changing – no longer are players happy sitting at home just spinning the reels. They want to engage and interact with streamers and other players, and they also want to be involved in a more direct way and that is why we offer the option to bet behind.

The quality of streams is going to have to improve, and that is why we offer our streamers coaching and the tools they need to create entertaining environments. I think we will also see players demand more transparency from streamers and ultimately concerns about responsible marketing and safe gambling will probably lead to regulatory oversight. Of course, this is something that has already been built into the Livespins platform.

Will Barnes, Owner at Hideous Slots

As I’ve said previously, I always try to put a unique spin on any content I produce, which in itself can be difficult when working within a niche category. I recognise that a commonality amongst successful influencers is to share as much as possibly – and so I endeavour to put myself out there, engaging with social media at every opportunity. Over time, the audience changes. You bring in new viewers, and you begin to notice some of the older ones drop off – this is natural, but as a result of a changing audience, sometimes we have to move along with content too. Some months our viewers primarily want to see bonus buys, and at another time there may be a demand in the chat for an exciting new release. What endures is the desire to have a say in the content – taking requests from the chat, so we keep this at all times. There’s no denying this has a huge impact on streams – our bonus hunt streams receive the most engagement, especially in terms of live viewers when we open the bonuses we have saved. Often it’s about weighing up what gets the most viewers against the cost of producing the content, and keeping the majority of viewers happy with the decisions made.

David Mann, Chief Commercial Officer at Swintt

To have your game streamed by popular streamers introduces the game to a much wider audience and can bring potential players, therefore we like to team up with the streamers and run promotions together to reward the players for trying out our games. We believe that by doing this it’s fun for the players, streamers, and ourselves as well. The audience loves to see huge wins but at the same time, it is important to keep bets within a realistic range so the streamer can show their followers that they can hit nice multipliers with affordable bets.

Where is slot streaming ultimately headed? And what role will you/your organisation play in pushing the sector towards its ultimate destination?

Michael Pedersen, CCO at Livespins

I touched on it in the last question, but I believe that affiliate slot streamers are heading into troubled waters. It is only a matter of time before regulators, operators and providers in regulated markets and even Twitch distance themselves from some of the more unsustainable practices that we are unfortunately seeing many affiliates adopt today.

For example, many have their gameplay sponsored in some way, but do not always disclose this to their viewers, essentially misleading their community into thinking their often-lavish lifestyle can be afforded due to gambling winnings, which is not the case.

As affiliate streamers have their income strongly correlated with the size of their community, unfortunately, we often see practices like view botting, very large bet amounts and extreme studio behaviour, often engineered to create virality and subsequently, increase their following.

Again, this is where Livespins comes in. We really do not like what we are seeing right now with affiliate streamers on Twitch, and we do not think that it is a sustainable platform or practice in the long term. Of course, the appetite for streaming content is only going to intensify. Livespins is an alternative to this; it is regulated, and all of the streaming and betting is taking place inside a licensed entity. We are also leaving unsustainably large bet amounts behind.

Ultimately, the experience that we offer means that we don’t need to wager irresponsibly to create viral videos that engage audiences and allow us to monetise.

Will Barnes, Owner at Hideous Slots

As time goes on and streaming continues to build in popularity, I think we will only see growth and diversification within video promotion. Even outside of slot streaming, influencers are leading the charge in marketing. Long gone are the days of radio or television advertising driving the majority of sales – nowadays, the endorsement by a trustworthy influencer, can make a real difference. What’s most interesting about this is that for a person to earn that position of trust, they just have to be well known, even if no one is quite sure why they’re well known. I believe slot streaming will go in the same direction. 

I think we all play a part in this by continuing to build the streaming community, but on a personal level I’d like to play a role in showing viewers that yes, I advertise a product, and yes I am an ‘influencer’, but I take that position of trust seriously. I want my viewers to know that whether they’ve watched me for a week or for three years, I stand by the things that I say, the content I produce, and the products that I advertise, and I think it’s important that anyone involved in the streaming community shares this goal. Streaming will continue to drive marketing, and it’s up to those of us currently involved to decide how we are viewed in this time.

Bryan Upton, Founder at Lucksome

It’s headed to a more interactive experience with the audience becoming more involved with the stream.  New platforms will emerge that will add tools to allow this form of gambling interaction and socialisation.  We are a fast-growing industry that is mainstreaming, and now, therefore, I believe can support this level of community that perhaps before would not have been impossible.  We hope to be a content partner in this, supplying a core part of the experience, but also meaning that we are aware will may need to look at how to adapt our games design in this direction in the future.  Until then we will watch, learn and see where we can add value in what we do best, games.

David Mann, Chief Commercial Officer at Swintt

In my opinion, streaming is undoubtably a very important part of the gaming industry and its future and it will only grow over the coming months and years. I hope that we will see an increase in legit and trustworthy streamers who will help to improve the perception of slots and gaming. Our plan is to release more games that will be liked by the streaming community and to cooperate with the streamers who we believe run their business in the right way.

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