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Exclusive Q&A with Ivan Lebeau, Founder and President of Gamestream

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Exclusive Q&A with Ivan Lebeau, Founder and President of Gamestream
Reading Time: 7 minutes

 

Ivan Lebeau is a gnawed veteran in the gaming industry, having worked for over 25 years in video games and technology  development. Ivan founded Gamestream in 2015 with an ambition to create the most advanced global cloud video game solution for professional industries.

Here he talks about Gamestream and what it offers. Perhaps, the most illuminating things in the interview are two-fold. First, Gamestream’s rare business model of B2B2C in the gaming industry. Second, its proprietary technology that allows seamless game streaming at internet speeds as low as 4mbps.

He also explains Gamestream’s “magic recipe” of technology. Let’s jump straight to the interview.

Q. We usually begin our founder interviews with a stock question. Here it is: What motivated you to found Gamestream?

A. My key motivation in founding Gamestream was to democratise the joys of video game experiences. I see this as making console-quality gaming available for everyone, anywhere, at any time. Gamestream’s proprietary cloud gaming technology can thrive with relatively low internet speeds, meaning it has great applications in developing countries where expensive gaming hardware and connections aren’t always realistic.

Another strong motivation is to bring video games to the hospitality and healthcare fields. Inspired by the game Re-Mission, which has been shown to help young people navigate their cancer diagnoses and treatments, we at Gamestream firmly believe in the healing power of video games. As such, we work closely with partners such as BePlayer One, which aims to make gaming more inclusive for disabled people, and L’École des Héros, which helps teenagers overcome social anxiety through games. The Gamestream platform is also compatible with the main gamepad adapted for disabled people.

Q. What is the business model of Gamestream?

A. Gamestream is a world leader in cloud video game streaming solutions that provides console-quality gaming experiences on the devices that most people already own, including smartphones (iOS and Android), TV (OTT and Smart TV), PC, Mac and tablets.

We offer our partners a complete end-to-end cloud gaming service. While they are in charge of marketing, billing and hosting, Gamestream supplies our technology, our own highly cost-effective servers, and premium content – AA and AAA titles provided by leading video games publishers – as well as sophisticated data reporting.  We help our partners reduce customer churn and increase average revenue per user by enhancing their market position and entertainment hubs.

Following the proven business models of Spotify and Netflix, Gamestream’s partners offer this cloud gaming service to their customers through an affordable multi-device subscription (usually approximately $10 per month). Our customers revert a percentage of this monthly revenue to Gamestream, which we in turn distribute a proportion of amongst the games publishers that populate our catalogue. Aside from this revenue share model, we also receive a non-recurring fee from our telecom partners to adapt, integrate and maintain our service on their network.

Gamestream’s service has been deployed under both white-labelled brands across Europe, the Middle East and Asia through partners in telecoms and hospitality. Examples of this include Telekom Slovenije’s NEO Gaming and Telkom Indonesia’s GameQoo. Customers can also choose to use our consumer brand, Pleio. With Pleio we offer the same proprietary tech and gaming experiences, but under a Gamestream brand which means we take on the community management of our customers’ users who sign up to the service. Bouygues Telecom, one of the largest telcos in France, has been using Pleio since its successful launch in late 2020.

Q. How is Gamestream different from other cloud gaming services e.g. XBOX Game Pass?

A. Unlike many other cloud gaming services which still rely on specialised gaming hardware or purchasing games individually, Gamestream offers console-quality experiences that are entirely cloud based. There are no additional downloads or purchases for our users, and no advertising. Our service is also available on the six main types of device – more than any other operator in the market.

We are one of only two companies in the cloud gaming space that provide a cloud platform with a games catalogue on a B2B2C basis. This means that we typically do not have a direct relationship with the end user – they tend to be customers of our industry partners.

Gamestream’s proprietary technology allows us to offer amazing gaming experiences using internet speeds as low as 4mbps – compared to the 10-15Mbps recommended by other cloud gaming platforms. Unlike other cloud gaming services, we reduce the burden of extra bandwidth usage on telcos by closely integrating with their server infrastructure. By integrating our servers in clients’ data centres, we can offer a much more cost-effective and profitable solution than other providers. It also means our service performs excellently in markets with less developed network infrastructure – but imagine also the incredible experiences we will be able to achieve with 4K, VR and AR as the 5G rollout gathers pace!

Q. In what ways do game publishers benefit from associating with the Gamestream platform?

A. Gamestream currently licenses games from more than 60 publishers including Disney, Capcom, Deep Silver, Codemasters, Focus Home Interactive and many others.

First of all, we provide a welcome additional income stream for them, with both brand new and popular legacy games being a good fit for our catalogue. We make this incredibly simple by porting a single version of their games onto our service and allowing users to play it on TV, Android & iOS Smartphones, PC, Mac, and Smart TV.

In addition, we open up exciting new markets for them. This includes emerging economies in Asia, the Middle East and Eastern Europe – and soon India – as well as hospitality (starting with hotels, which is a brand new stream of revenue for games publishers).

Q. You have formed partnerships with several telecom operators. How important are these partnerships for Gamestream’s growth?

A. We started our white label deployments in 2019 with major telecom operators in Indonesia and Dubai, then in Taiwan, Europe (2020) and very soon in India.

These partnerships are a key part of our growth, providing ready-made access to millions of potential subscribers and existing marketing and billing infrastructure operated by the telcos themselves. The reach of our service will hit 80m potential users by the end of 2021 and 400m by the end of 2022 – how else could we reach so many potential subscribers so rapidly?

Secondly, launching in these markets helps us to better understand the local gaming trends. We add local games to our catalogue, and have a growing expertise on local usages as well as the best marketing strategies for user acquisition.

This global understanding of markets and user bases is allowing us to launch dedicated cloud services for video games publishers themselves. High-quality content is vital to creating successful cloud gaming services – so who better to launch them than the content creators themselves? Using Gamestream’s technology, developers can offer demos of their games in the cloud, or even start their own cloud gaming service to become media brands in their own right.

Q. Gamestream also caters to the hospitality industry, for instance hotels and cruise ships. How has the response of the hospitality industry been, especially during and the aftermath of Covid 19 pandemic?

A. Much of the hospitality industry has of course been negatively impacted by the Covid-19. However, with the wider growth in gaming we have seen throughout the pandemic, it has become even more pressing for hospitality providers to find ways to integrate gaming into their offer to customers.

We have a number of growing partnerships with innovative brands such as Accor, which requested that their cloud gaming services be reactivated immediately after reopening, and expect to cultivate more throughout 2021.

Q. What are the benefits and advantages a business – a hotel, hospital or a cruise ship – can gain from Gamestream?

A. Innovation is a key topic in the hospitality and tourism industries to recover from the global pandemic. We travel to escape, to socialise, to boost our wellbeing. Increasingly, people and families do this via the medium of games. Likewise, encouraging millennials and Gen X to choose a hotel or resort over an AirBnB means catering directly to them.

We’ve already seen brands such as Atari plan gaming-theme hotels. While it isn’t possible for most hospitality companies to tear up their business model and start again, it is very simple to integrate a world class cloud gaming offering for their customers. The upshot is retaining customers and attracting new ones, as well as boosting spend in communal areas.

At Gamestream we can do this for our global customers via data centres or local installation, meaning it’s possible for them to offer a cloud gaming service even without fibre optic broadband. We can integrate the service directly with Samsung, Phillips and a large selection of Android Smart TVs, or via a discreet plug-in where TVs have not recently been upgraded. As with telcos, there is no capital expenditure on the part of the hospitality brand.

As well as in-room we have seen great demand in communal areas such as lobbies and kids’ play areas. Our service is likewise perfect for resorts, holiday camps, cruise ships, ski areas – the list is limitless. We are also exploring how our service can be used to provide esports experiences in shared spaces.

Q. In which countries do you operate now? Any immediate plans of expansion?

A. Our cloud gaming service is available on three continents already. From France and Switzerland to Taiwan, Slovenia, Indonesia, the UAE and soon India, people are enjoying unlimited access to our catalogue.

In terms of expansion, we have tripled our revenue over the past year and are on our way to doubling the size of the organisation this year. We expect to continue growing our global customer base in telecoms, hospitality and healthcare – our cloud gaming service can be deployed rapidly in any territory!

Cloud gaming is the best use case for 5G, and you can expect to see us grow particularly in Asia and the Middle East where 5G is rolling out.  According to Newzoo, the value of the cloud gaming market is on track to exceed the five-billion-dollar mark in 2023, demonstrating the sheer scale of opportunity available.

Q. Finally, could you share some insights into the technology on which Gamestream platform is built?

A. Gamestream’s magic recipe is a combination of tried and tested, industry-grade technology with a seamless modern interface, leading games catalogue and multi-device strategy.

What enables us to provide such a high-quality experience even on relatively slow connections is our ability to compress and scale graphics using a video compression standard called H265. We also go into the very code of the games in our catalogue to define the processing power they need and are incredibly agile at distributing server load. In essence, we use cloud technology to inject the processing power of the most powerful computers into the ordinary, everyday devices that people own.

Interviews

Time to get into the gamification game

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Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Tomer Baumel, Founder at CEO of Solitics, talks about why personalised gamification is the best way for operators to differentiate and bring tremendous added value to their players

Differentiation. This is something that operators strive for but, in reality, is very hard to achieve. If you take a look at the online betting and casino experiences available to players in any given market, it’s hard to come across many brands that truly stand out.

Most offer the same welcome bonuses, similar games/odds, the same payment options and deploy the same tactics for fostering loyalty once the player has signed up and deposited for the first time. But loyalty must be earned, and right now, casinos and sportsbooks are not doing enough.

For many, retention is a tick-box exercise based around level-up loyalty schemes, offers sent out via email and SMS, and the occasional generic pop-up message that aims to keep players engaged with the sportsbook or casino – usually with free bets or free spins.

The majority of players will be familiar with these tactics and are sufficiently smart and savvy to know the sportsbook or the casino brands do this to encourage them to play for longer.

There is nothing wrong with operators taking this approach, but it is boring at best. Retention should be fun and exciting, and there is a lot that casinos and sportsbooks can do to be different to their rivals and add tremendous value to the player experience – value that will ensure they stick around.

How? Personalised gamification.

Gamification has been an industry buzzword for some time now, but few operators have yet to truly incorporate it, and personalise it using data, into the overall player experience. Personalisation is how how operators will unlock the huge potential gamification offers for both acquisition and retention, and ultimately differentiation.

Not only can gamification be used to transform the user experience across multiple touch points, but it can also be used by operators to drive certain player behaviour such as making a deposit or continuing to play even after a run of losses.

Gamification comes in many forms, but at Solitics, we have just launched a new Gamification Module that includes Gamification Widgets with highly customisable mini-games that operators can use to elevate the player experience to boost both acquisition and retention. Mini-games are the perfect gamification tool. They can be combined with promos and bonuses to help the brand connect with the players and build trust.

Because the experience is gamified and highly customised to players’ preferences and playing patterns, operators can guide users’ behaviour in a way that is authentic, allowing them to generate a much higher life-time value from the players than when they are incentivised by traditional or generic offerings.

So long as mini-games can be customised and configured, operators can be smarter in how they bonus and run promos that are far more effective while avoiding overbonusing and overspending.

For example, if you would like a player to log-in each day to claim a daily surprise, instead of offering £5 bonus upon log-in, the operator can engage the player with daily challenges such as ‘login and get a daily surprise’.  During this mission, player will get to spin the wheel to determine his daily prize, and also see an interactive map of his progress. From managing the bonus economy point of view – since the widget is entirely customized by the brand. This actually adds excitement for the player while reducing the bonusing cost for the operator.

Positive, fun experiences also generate advocacy, with players recommending the brand to others.

Personal gamification widgets are also a powerful driver of acquisition, especially when deployed as part of the onboarding journey through game introducing carousels, or spinning a prize wheel to determine the welcome bonus they receive.

Of course, operators need to be able to differentiate through the mini-games they offer to their players otherwise players will once again find themselves swimming in the sea of sameness. This is why we have ensured our mini-games offer unrivalled opportunities for customisation and personalisation including brand colours, content, bonuses configuration, all of which are easy to change.

With Solitics, marketers can choose from a pre-set library of games and customise them, or they can create their own games from scratch, all from a single UI, with no need for heavy development resources.

That said, it’s still important for the right games to be delivered to the right players at the right time and this requires the use of data and segmentation.

Our solution is built on top of the operator’s data house which allows marketers to be incredibly granular in terms of who gets the game, the accompanying bonus, the communication that goes with it and the channel via which it is deployed. This is all done through a single platform and UI.

Despite the potential personalised gamification offers to take the entire player experience to the next level, and for brands to be heard above the noise being made by the competition, the majority of operators have yet to really get behind it.

We believe that our solution is a game-changer here and those that get in the game will be surprised by just how effective gamification can be when it comes to acquiring and retaining players at scale while offering a strong USP for their brand or brands.

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Interviews

Exclusive interview with Steve Rogers – Founder and CEO at Playbook Fusion

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Reading Time: 4 minutes

We recently sat down with Steve Rogers – Founder and CEO at Playbook Fusion and talk about several important aspects that shape the game studios industry.

What made you want to launch a game studio given the incredibly competitive nature of the market?

Because we have identified a gap in the market in which we can offer something truly unique. There is a large audience of players who enjoy sports-themed video and mobile games, and the ownership and skill required to master titles such as FC Ultimate Team, and who also like to place a bet on their favourite sports, teams and players. Right now, there isn’t a game format that brings these two worlds together, but Playbook Fusion is allowing them to collide to provide an entirely new experience that these consumers will absolutely want to engage with.

The addressable audience for our games will be broad but it is currently one that operators are struggling to engage. This goes beyond those who bet on sports to include those who are simply sports fans, gamers who enjoy management format titles and who are light-touch gamblers, virtual sports players looking for ownership over their teams and fantasy sports players seeking round the clock action.

In all instances, our strongest appeal will likely be among the next generation of players – those who are unlikely to walk into a retail betting shop or have a bet on the Grand National, but who are engaging with mobile and video games, social media and streaming.

 

How will you leverage your industry experience to lead Playbook Fusion to success?

I have more than 20 years of experience in the industry, and this has enabled me to amass a deep understanding of key factors required in bringing successful betting products to market, such as regulation, compliance, content deployment and ultimately what goes into making a hit game. I have been delivering RNG sports games to operators for various companies for a long time now and have good relationships with the right people within most of the major tier one and tier two brands, opening up a clear path to deploying our games with the biggest operators in the business. My experience has also taught me what a good game looks like and has allowed me to identify the gap in the market that Playbook Fusion has an ambition to fill.

Where I lack experience or in-depth understanding, I have brought in experts including video and mobile games veteran, Santiago Jaramillo. Santiago has more than 13 years of AAA gaming experience and has previously worked as Creative Director for EA Sport’s FIFA Franchise and was Executive Producer of MonopolyGo! He was also Head of Sports at Dapper Labs where he conceived and created NBA Top Shot, an award-winning, first-of-its-kind product anchored in blockchain technology.

Our complementary skillsets will absolutely be key to ensuring the future success of Playbook Fusion.

 

How will you stand out from your rival studios? How will your content offer something new to operators and players?

The level of ownership, the persistent progression within the games and the ability for skill development that each of our titles will offer will set Playbook Fusion apart from its competitors. We are working on a range of innovative mechanics that will allow players to boost the capabilities of their teams, which in turn will increase the chance of them winning. Gameplay will include acquiring or earning packs that players can open to strengthen their lineup before they decide what kind of contest they want to engage with. There’s really nothing like this in the sports betting space at this point and this strong, clear point of difference is what is already allowing Playbook Fusion to stand out and catch the attention of sportsbook operators.

 

Bringing together the worlds of gambling and video/mobile gaming is a tough task. How have you approached this? 

It comes down to building a team of the brightest minds and creative talents from both industries. From the gambling sector, we have sought to hire dynamic individuals with a passion for sports and who understand what the next generation of sports bettors are looking for. Then, from the gaming sector, we have Santiago and a growing team of designers and developers who have an in-depth understanding of the mechanics behind successful video games. We are bringing the edges of these industries together and creating an environment in which everyone can learn from each other. I truly believe that we have a game-changing concept and with the team we have in place, we can bring it to life and disrupt the industry.

 

Can you share some insights into your first game? What will it look like? How will it play? Who has it been developed for?

Our first game will be a football title. Football is the biggest sport globally and will allow us to hit the ground running with a game that has mass market appeal. It will take the football manager format, with players able to build a team by acquiring and trading players. They can also do things like buy packs and reveal cards that all help in strengthening their team. They then compete with others across several game types including seasons, player vs player and in contests with friends. Players earn points based on the performance of their team, which are posted to a real-time leaderboard. The more points players accumulate, the more league levels they clear and the more rewards they earn. Betting is a core part of the game loop but, unlike more traditional virtual sports games, the bettor will have a much greater sense of ownership over the team they are betting on, just like in real sports betting. We plan to replicate this format for other sports including basketball and cricket.

 

Why should sportsbook operators partner with Playbook Fusion?

Our games will enable operators to generate incremental revenues from existing player groups, particularly Virtual Sports and Fantasy players, by offering a more engaging betting experience on a 24/7/365 basis. Also, our games will allow them to tap into a new, lucrative but hard-to-reach audience. These are not traditional sports bettors, but rather the next generation of customers looking for social, fast-paced gameplay where they can improve and display their skills and strategy with the chance of winning money – the YouTube, Fortnite, tech-savvy generation that will become a sportsbook’s core player base in the coming years.

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Interviews

Exclusive Q&A w/ Vladimir Malakchi, CEO and Managing Partner at Xanada Investments

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Exclusive Q&A w/ Vladimir Malakchi, CEO and Managing Partner at Xanada Investments
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

From a C-level perspective, what inspired the founding of Xanada Investments and how does it distinguish itself from other investment firms?

Xanada Investments was founded with the goal of creating a unique, high-value investment ecosystem. We wanted to build an investment firm that provides not just capital, but a thriving, interconnected community of visionary leaders and entrepreneurs.

What sets Xanada Investments apart is our holistic approach. We don’t just invest in businesses; we build an ecosystem where each venture supports and enhances the others, promoting mutual growth. We focus on creating long-term value and success for our partners.

We offer more than funding—we provide expert guidance, operational support, and access to our extensive global network. This helps startups navigate challenges, scale effectively, and reach new markets.

 

What specific projects does Xanada Investments focus on?

We believe in creating a diverse and interconnected ecosystem. Instead of limiting ourselves to specific sectors like casinos or providers, or geos, we invest in a wide range of projects. This diversity helps eliminate internal competition and fosters a more collaborative environment.

We see our investments as “smart money” – funds that bring more than just capital. Investing in a variety of companies allows us to offer tailored support and valuable insights to each one. This approach not only broadens our horizons but also ensures that each project benefits from our extensive network and expertise.

We seek leaders and companies who share our values of innovation, collaboration, and excellence. By embracing a holistic investment strategy and fostering a community-driven approach, we aim to build a thriving, interconnected community where every venture has the potential to succeed.

 

What strategies does Xanada Investments employ to help startups scale and enter new markets?

We use a holistic approach based on our core values of collaboration, innovation, and excellence to help startups scale and enter new markets.

First, we provide strategic operational support tailored to each startup’s needs, refining business models, optimizing operations, and developing go-to-market strategies. Our deep market insights help startups navigate fluctuations and seize opportunities.

Our extensive global network connects startups with industry leaders, potential partners, and key market players, facilitating strategic alliances and new opportunities. We also enhance startups’ visibility through comprehensive PR and media strategies, ensuring they gain the attention and credibility needed to enter new markets.

By combining these strategies, we not only offer financial backing but also provide the strategic support, resources, and visibility startups need to scale successfully and enter new markets.

 

What do you look for in potential investment opportunities and partners?

We prioritize the potential of the people behind the projects. Our ideal partners are those who have experience building businesses, regardless of whether successful or not. Experience in successful companies and a deep understanding of their market are crucial traits we look for.

Preparation is key. We value those who present well-structured portfolios and comprehensive project presentations. This initial impression is a great start for our deeper evaluation process, where we focus on several critical aspects:

First, we assess the team dynamics, looking at their cohesion, expertise, and experience. A strong, knowledgeable, and well-coordinated team is essential for overcoming challenges and achieving success. We also seek individuals who not only understand their market but can also anticipate trends and navigate market fluctuations effectively.

We are drawn to visionary leaders who bring innovative ideas to the table. Their ability to think outside the box and drive industry changes is a significant factor. The project must also align with our broader ecosystem. We seek investments that complement and enhance our existing portfolio, fostering collaboration and mutual growth.

 

How do you see Xanada Investments evolving in the next year?

In the next year, we’re planning to invest in about 10-15 projects, with each investment averaging around $1.5 million. Our main focus will be structuring deals and getting everything in place. We want to establish solid processes, get to know the key players in our field, refine our strategy, and build a strong network.

We’re also looking to create a diverse portfolio and boost their visibility through smart PR and media engagements. A lot of startups struggle with media relations, PR, and events, so we’re going to connect with media outlets and PR firms to give these startups the exposure they need.

On top of that, we plan to sponsor and participate in events like startup pitches and industry conferences to help promote our portfolio companies. We’re also excited about creating our own competitions and events to support and showcase innovative startups.

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