Q&A with Lana Meisak, VP, Business Development and Marketing, Gismart
Give us a quick overview of your entrance into the games industry and what made you decide to join it?
Before entering the gaming space, Gismart had earned a name as a top music entertainment app developer for an array of popular gamified music products such as Beat Maker Go, Piano Crush and many others. Looking for ways to grow and diversify our company portfolio, in 2019, we decided to add another business vertical and established an internal studio called Flime by Gismart. We dived deep into the development and publishing of mobile lightweight games, focusing on trendy hyper-casual genres and instant games for social platforms. The hyper-casual market was on the rise, not that saturated yet, so we saw it as a good opportunity to utilize our expertise in hypothesis testing which is crucial for this genre. Besides, we appreciated the simplicity of its mechanics and relevantly quick production so we had more room for trial and error. Within two years, we released a couple of dozen games for mobile and social platforms with many of them reaching the top gaming charts (ex. Cool Goal!, Body Race, Foil Turning 3D, etc.) and generating over 450 million downloads overall. Working in the hyper-casual market, the team built effective processes in a very short time, as well as tested a large number of hypotheses. In 2021 we made our next step moving towards the casual genre and decided to explore puzzle games. It is a busy and challenging market with some strong competition. However, we have had success with our first game Cross Logic and are now actively working on new titles. We consider puzzle games to be a better investment in the long run. We also recently established a new business related to blockchain gaming projects and NFTs.
What does your role as VP of Business Development and Marketing at Gismart entail?
I focus on sourcing, negotiating and executing strategic partnerships across Gismart business verticals mainly related to product branding and marketing. I also build and develop long term and quality relationships and lead communications at Gismart. My role includes mobile product marketing and monetization, app distribution partner management (Apple App Store, Google Play, Facebook Instant Games, Snap Gaming, TikTok Gaming), product branding, PR and HR branding. Some of my proudest milestones include nurturing flagship partnerships between Gismart and household name entertainment brands such as UMPG, Sony/ATV and Warner Chappell, as well as the collaboration between The Chainsmokers and Gismart’s hit Beat Maker Go music app.
Women remain largely underrepresented in the global games industry. How does Gismart approach this, and what advice would you give to women who want to work in the industry?
It is an issue especially if we talk about senior ranks of companies. I am glad that this subject is constantly raised in the media as it helps the change to happen faster. I believe there are two things to fight – stereotypes and company practices. However, speaking of the Gismart gender ratio it is very balanced. The ratio between males and females is 1:1.
Gismart is perhaps best known as a publisher of mobile games. What’s the recipe for a hit mobile game in 2022?
I can’t give a recipe but I can say how we approach building high-potential products at Gismart. We have an expert R&D team to explore global trends and conduct in-depth marketing research. Understanding the niche to find a gap for something fresh and exciting for users is an important task. After making sure that the game concept is relevant, we move on to creating a basic game prototype and perform a market test to understand the metrics. There are three key factors that most likely indicate that a game has a high potential – low CPI, high LTV and product scalability. The data-driven approach is what we stand by. Gismart has several analytical tools for in-depth market research, quick idea tests, and advanced product analytics that help us make a final decision.
How did Apple’s changes to marketing on iOS in 2021 affect Gismart?
Similarly to the rest of the market, we have been affected by the changes related to IDFA. This has significantly affected the traffic buying on iOS, and it has certainly become more difficult to evaluate the effectiveness of advertising campaigns. It also made it harder and more expensive to run product tests on Facebook. On the positive side, these changes forced us to delve into other purchasing channels, and change and improve approaches to testing new product ideas. We also definitely go for more technological experiments on the marketing side related to user acquisition through web traffic.
Many of your games are available on social media sites such as Snap and Facebook. Why do social networking apps want gaming content in general?
Social platforms have an undeniably huge audience and games are a new form of communication. We saw an opportunity for growth in this business and some of our team members who are now leading Flime by Gismart had the experience of building one of the first games for Facebook. Today we have over ten social platform games available on Facebook and Snapchat. Color Galaxy on Snap Games became one of the most successful games on the platform quickly after its launch and after two years still holding its position.
In general, social platforms see games as one of the instruments to entertain and retain the audience, increasing the time they spend on the platform. Besides retention, having quality games provides the platform with other benefits, such as improved user experience, new forms of communication and interaction between users, and, of course, additional monetization for social platforms.
Gismart also makes and publishes wider entertainment apps such as music and wellness. Why did the company decide to diversify its focus from mobile games?
We started with entertainment music apps. Alex, one of the company founders’ is a self-taught guitar player and the first Gismart app was a guitar app. After the successful launch of the first product, our portfolio of music entertainment apps has grown to over 15 different apps over time. Then came our expansion to games. Wellness, as well as the pet care vertical with flagship product Woofz, was established about a year ago. Both businesses are relatively new but already established their name on the market and have a substantial number of users. All of the verticals operate as independent businesses and Gismart provides them with consulting and mentorship, all kinds of resources and tools and infrastructure. So in a way, today Gismart operates as some sort of business incubator with some of the verticals having already outgrown the startup stage.
Last question – what can we expect to see from Gismart and from yourself during the remainder of 2022?
Gismart has very exciting and challenging plans across all verticals. Speaking of casual games, we’ll continue expanding our portfolio of HTML5 games on Facebook Instant and Snap Games. We also plan to introduce our mini-games on new major social platforms. Also, we plan to soft-launch our new blockchain project.
Speaking of apps, we will continue to upgrade and develop our products in music entertainment. We are working on expanding our music partners’ circle to bring more unique, fresh music to the table. As for wellness and pet care verticals – the focus is on product and working on features to enrich the user experience and facilitate product growth. We hope to see a few new products earning their spot on the top chart.
Exclusive Q&A with Paul Sampson, CEO of Lickd
One quick thing that came to mind after conducting the interview was: this man knows the industry. So Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Paul Sampson, CEO of Lickd.
For starterrs, Lickd is a micro-licensing and music solutions company that caters to the creator economy. If that sounds obscure, jump straight to the interview, where Paul Simpson talks in simple terms about Lickd and the present and future of the online music industry.
Q. Let’s start with a brief personal profile. Tell us about your background and career?
A. I’ve been working in music licensing since 2005. I’ve worked specifically with stock music, commercial music, and more recently, exploring ways of strengthening the creator economy.
For around five years, straight out of university, I worked in television at a small production company, climbing through the ranks. Throughout this time, I encountered the difficulties of licensing music several times, and so began to take an interest in understanding the nuances and problems that needed solving.
I’d gotten to know several renowned music licensing companies, and in 2005, one of them, Extreme Music, offered me a job in New York and with that, I followed my passion and began my career jump into the music industry. Within about two and a half years in the role, they relocated me out to Los Angeles as the Head of US.
In 2010, a new role brought me back to Europe and I was a key figure in launching the European arm of another U.S. music licensing company. This time, it was not just stock music, but a focus on more commercial music, and unsigned independent acts.
After this, I knew it was time to start acting on the music opportunities that were becoming more prevalent with the boom of the creator economy, and so following that channel, Lickd was born in 2017.
Q. Now let’s move on to Lickd. What led you to found Lickd?
A. Two words led me to found Lickd: Creator Economy. As social media became more prevalent in everyday life in the late 2000’s, the opportunities for music and creators were plentiful and so Lickd was born. A few years later, as the effects on the media landscape following the pandemic have increased the creator economy twofold, we see even more opportunities to continue to seize the moment, and the market.
Lickd is the first music company to ever develop a major music solution for content creators of all kinds. We licence music from major labels and publishers, including current music that’s in the charts and make it available for licensing, legally. Our unique software protects our users on the platform that they place music on, for example, YouTube and Instagram. Platforms like YouTube have built in music recognition software that identifies popular music being used in content, and presumes that all music uses are some sort of infringement of copyright, therefore, persecuting the creator and attempting to police them out of earning revenue.
Lickd’s software is really the magic solution that the platform sits on top of to ensure that not only can creators licence the music but that they’re taken care of and we’re protecting their revenue all the way through to the end of the content journey.
Q. What is Lickd’s specialty?
A. What sets us apart is that we are unique in our offering. We’re working with 10,000+ labels and publishers that are linked to the Lickd platform, including Universal, Warner, Sony, BMG and Kobalt. To engage labels and publishers like that and to preclear their music for any content vertical is something that was once largely thought impossible, but Lickd has made it happen and is helping to secure new revenue streams for creators globally.
Q. Could you talk about your work with key gaming powerhouses?
A. Gaming is obviously an enormous industry, bigger than music and film combined. Any content vertical with that sort of reach has a huge platform, a huge audience to work with and promote music too.
In terms of how Lickd got together with Fortnite and Epic Games; essentially music became part of their engagement strategy, and they started paying more attention to it. Senior teams were asking key questions like: ‘how can we work with artists’ and ‘what sort of artist does our audience want to hear within a game’?
With this comes complexities around licensing and demographics. Gamers who are also content creators often live stream their content or create highlights videos for YouTube. At Lickd, we already know that in-video music on YouTube is an issue and so we collaborate with Fortnite to bridge that gap so that gamers can enjoy the wonderful events that are put on for them, while also being able to then promote and share that content in the ways that they normally would.
Whether this is for ancillary income or additional income on top of a salary, if content creation is a full-time job, Lickd protects creators on those platforms, to enable a more effective creation and lifecycle process for the content they’re publishing.
Q. Could you briefly narrate the content deals you have with music companies and bands?
A. Over the past five years we’ve built a platform that is made up of popular music from 10,000 labels and publishers, including Universal, Warner, Sony BMG and Kobalt. We also work with lots of independent distributors. There’s around 1.4 million songs on Lickd, and another 6 million delivered and waiting to go live. The vast majority of them would be emerging acts and we certainly do our best to help and encourage discovery on the platform.
Q. In what ways does Lickd help creators to monetise their content?
A. I think it’s important to outline that wherever there is opportunity for the music industry online, it will require some sort of micro licensing commercial model, and some sort of proprietary tech, either to enable the licensing or to protect the end user.
That’s where Lickd is perfectly positioned. Our mission is to democratise music for the world’s creators. Our first product looked at creators as video content creators, but as the world changes and the digital landscape evolves, creators will also include builders in the metaverse and big brands on social platforms.
Q. How do you see the possibility of an AI text-to-background-music generator?
A. There’s various ways that AI will impact music. It’s something we’re following closely and it would be foolish for anyone to suggest that any part of the music industry isn’t already seeing some element of business being affected directly by AI. So far we’ve seen AI generated songs, well known songs of one artist being sung in the AI voice of another, and the fact that chords and melodies can be created by simply inputting into an AI, and we’re always expecting more.
The uptake of AI in music creation won’t be instant, but at some point, creators will become of faith with smart tools that allow them to generate music through these new means for use in videos. Although, once created, that music will still need to be licensed, and there will be commercial models that give users access to the tools and/or licensing opportunities for the music created by said tool.
In the metaverse, there will be music collaboration spaces and music production event areas or venues. Generative AI is useful for creating ‘music stems’, and building a sort of catalogue of music elements that can then be used by people collaboratively to start making an entire song – something that was not happening in the past.
An AI can continuously keep churning out new beats and new melodies and new riffs and new instrumental sounds, and people will get together to create music on the fly, and that will require AI generative tools at some scale. I think you’ll see things like musical skins, where Avatars might want their own soundtrack or music identifier. How do I know someone entered the room? Well, I just heard their music handle to signify they’re here. Like boxers have ring walks, there’ll be a version of that somewhere in the metaverse.
We know that there are music metaverses and venues, and metaverse platforms based around music creation already, and there are others on the way. A good example of this is Pixelynx, Deadmau5’s music based metaverse platform. He founded the platform, one that was completely based around the music, but then was acquired by Animoca Brands, a brand with a broad portfolio of web3, blockchain and traditional games, which is a huge web3 holding company, so from launch to exit, Deadmau5 did very well out of the partnership.
Artificial Intelligence and online poker: will technologies change the future of the game?
Today we sat down to talk with Igor Terebinov, Deputy CEO of PokerMatch International, about whether artificial intelligence could kill the future of online poker
AI can launch a new era of poker
The world’s coding geniuses have always considered poker to be the most complex game. Whereas, for example, all pieces are clearly visible on a chessboard, and the strategy itself is calculated for many moves ahead, in poker, the cards of all opponents are closed, so the winning options were selected based on incomplete data. Nevertheless, the machine with a specially launched program managed to master the methodology of using the well-known bluff. Before that, it was believed that machine intelligence was incapable of deliberate provocation and that only a human could bluff in poker.
Speaking about the beginning of a new era of poker, we can say that we are all already in it. Poker is a game that never stands still and is constantly evolving, and we can already see how much it has changed since its creation or over the past few years. However, it’s too early to say that AI will replace human speaking skills. It can be argued that artificial intelligence can make a significant contribution to the development of poker and change its dynamics, but it is a mistake to believe that it will start a new poker era. The game of poker is a challenging task for AI as it requires decision-making based on uncertainty and incomplete information. Thus, AI can help players make more informed decisions and improve their game strategy, but it cannot completely replace a player.
It is expected that the development of artificial intelligence will have an impact on poker as the technology improves over time. Currently, artificial intelligence is not flexible enough in terms of strategies and is very expensive to use. Therefore, it is not yet used in real online games.
How artificial intelligence is used in poker
I have to admit that artificial intelligence can be a useful tool for poker players, helping them to make more informed decisions and improve their game strategy. However, it is important to understand that the use of AI in poker does not guarantee victory at all, as the game of poker depends primarily on random factors and the intellectual and psychological skills of players.
AI in poker can perform the following functions:
- Game strategy development: AI can be used to develop optimal poker strategies that can help players make more informed decisions during the game.
- Data analysis: artificial intelligence can analyze large amounts of data that can help determine optimal strategies and predict game outcomes.
- Probability analysis: AI is able to analyze the probability of a particular combination of cards appearing on the table.
- Predicting opponents’ actions: analyzing the behavior of opponents and predicting their actions during the game.
- Determining the opponent’s level: analyzing the opponent’s gaming style and determining their level. This can help players adapt to the opponent’s playing style.
Ethical and legal implications of using AI in poker
First of all, it should be remembered that the use of artificial intelligence in online poker is illegal in many countries and can lead to serious legal consequences. As I have already mentioned, the game of poker is based largely on human skills, such as reading facial expressions, making strategic decisions, and understanding the game and behavioral characteristics of other players. Using AI to influence the outcome of the game contradicts the ethical principles of the game and may harm the experience of other players. If you personally want to improve your poker skills, artificial intelligence will not help you in this, but will only harm you. After all, over time, you may lose your intuitive abilities and skills of behavioral characteristics of your opponents.
Moreover, the use of AI can lead to a threat to player privacy, as some of them can access poker players’ personal data and use it for their own purposes.
Can AI “kill” the future of online poker?
I would say no, it is almost impossible. Yes, artificial intelligence can harm gaming in its classic sense – users will play for money, not pleasure, using AI algorithms and tactics. Players may stop improving their skills by trusting artificial intelligence. Some argue that AI may kill the original spirit of the poker game, as the winner may no longer be the one who can read opponents and calculate everything in advance, but the one who can memorize the most patterns and apply them in the game.
That is, AI can harm online poker, but it does not mean that it will completely replace human intelligence in this game. After all, poker is a game that requires not only computational abilities but also intuition, experience, and the ability to read other players.
In general, the prospects for the development of artificial intelligence in the field of gambling can be useful if they are used to create fairer and safer conditions for the game.
The future of the poker industry in general
The poker sector has long been one of the most popular and profitable gambling industries. In recent years, the online poker market has expanded significantly thanks to innovative technologies that continue to be constantly introduced into the game. Therefore, all indicators and favorable development conditions point to an increasing demand for online poker among users.
Gamification will become a separate development vector. Gambling will increasingly move towards gamification, become faster and more interesting. We can already see trends when users choose a platform to play not because it has the best conditions, but because it has some unique feature, you can boost your level, character, get achievements, etc. To some extent, our niche competes with games, video hosting, and other entertainment platforms where users come to get their own kind of dopamine.
Let’s not forget about artificial intelligence. In the future, AI will definitely be used to create interesting and dynamic gaming situations that will adapt to the player’s level and style of play. Also, AI can be used to create more realistic virtual opponents using VR technologies that will take into account all possible game development options.
The use of blockchain technologies in poker will also grow rapidly. Blockchain will be used to store and exchange information between players, such as game history and results. This will help to increase the transparency of the game and reduce the possibility of disputes.
Q&A w/ Justin G. Farrugia Aretonet CEO
Can you give us an overview of what AretoNet does as a business and its background in gaming prior to the launch of Betintel.ai?
AretoNet is a gaming-focused organization led by founders with extensive experience in various B2B and B2C roles across operations, product and engineering. We launched with the aim of addressing the common issue of the industry trying to understand its data. Our initial product was designed as a lead tracking and nurturing tool, but quickly evolved beyond user acquisition to focus on CRM and player engagement. Since our MVP launch in 2019, we have been actively gathering feedback and pain points from industry stakeholders to ensure our product is based on industry requirements. While there are several verticals within the gaming space, such as casino, sportsbook, lottery and others, our focus has been on retention strategies, which can differ in some ways.
To address the issue of understanding data mentioned above, we launched our first version of the BI tool two years ago, which provided users with a way to slice and dice data and view information from different perspectives. While we currently have around 140 static gaming-specific reports, we understand each business user has their own unique questions and ideas.
At AretoNet, we believe that while AI and automation features are useful, humans still crave an element of control and understanding in their business. That’s why we are investing further effort into our BI product, which has led us to conceptualize Betfinal.ai. This tool will help businesses gain a deeper understanding of customer preferences, acquisition sources, financial KPIs, and answer any query about their data. We are excited to continue to innovate and improve our products to meet the evolving needs of the gaming industry.
The gaming industry appetite for the adoption of new technology is growing daily. What key points should operators consider when evaluating whether a new technology provider is a suitable fit?
In the past, AI has been a significant driver for users seeking any product. Similarly, other technologies such as crypto, metaverse, web3 and others tend to influence user opinions when evaluating a product. However, it’s important to note user opinions are sometimes influenced by the media or the masses, rather than driven by their own pain points. When evaluating a potential technology partner, businesses must first consider their own pain points before considering external factors.
Another crucial factor to keep in mind is the provider’s vision and future focus. Nowadays, some form of integration is always required between systems when working with a technology partner. This necessitates a significant investment and a long-term collaboration. While considering current pain points, businesses must also look to the future to ensure the technology provider can accommodate their future needs.
It’s crucial to remember technology providers must be evaluated based on their ability to address specific business pain points, rather than just adopting a new technology trend. By carefully evaluating and selecting the right technology partner, businesses can not only solve their current challenges, but also set themselves up for long-term success in the constantly evolving technological landscape.
What can Betintel.ai provide that operators might not be able to develop in-house?
Our mission is to help gaming operators meet their unique challenges by developing technology solutions that address their specific pain points. By leveraging our expertise and knowledge in the industry, we can help operators improve their customer engagement, increase player retention, provide them with easy-to-use tools to understand their data and trends, and ultimately drive revenue growth and provide the ability for operators to be more proactive.
It’s essential for everyone to focus on their core competencies. While operators are focused on generating value for their customers and shareholders by strengthening their brand and increasing their product offerings, at AretoNet, we are dedicated to providing the gaming industry with innovative products to help them achieve their goals.
Betfinal.ai was developed to address a fundamental pain point that affects every aspect of a business and every decision-maker. The speed at which questions are answered and data is understood, without any barriers, is critical to achieving business objectives.
Our focus on this aspect of BI enables businesses to make data-driven decisions without delays, which can help them gain a competitive edge and improve their overall performance. Our goal is to help businesses overcome the challenges they face when it comes to data management and analysis by providing them with the tools and insights they need to succeed.
What particular types of player behaviour can the platform be used to track?
Betinel.ai has the ability to natively track and provide business users with various datasets, including player behavior. The system can effortlessly track and support various aspects such as wagering, product preferences, acquisition channels, bonusing and more. We understand each operator has unique requirements and may require specific data to be tracked and made available to their business users.
We believe our customers should have access to the data they need, and we are committed to providing a customizable solution that meets their individual needs. If operators require other specific data to be tracked and made available, we can easily add this to our system. Our flexible approach allows us to tailor our solution to meet the unique requirements of each of our customers.
How challenging is it to overcome the complexities of building a multi-faceted system such as this?
I would say it’s a natural progression. When a product is initially launched to address one or more industry problems, those problems can change and evolve over time.
In a similar vein, the product itself may need to evolve to meet the changing needs of the industry. We began with a multi-channel CRM product that offered segmentation capabilities. Today, our comprehensive product includes automation features, CRM, content management, and BI. The reality is the more uses a system has, the more complex it becomes to maintain and keep up with industry standards. There are various parts of the system that require constant evolution to ensure our customers succeed.
While the challenge of remaining current is ongoing, we are always on the lookout for ways to address the primary issues of the gaming industry that align with our mission. We have learned data accessibility and the ability for business users to receive direct answers to their questions without requiring technical expertise is essential to any business process. Therefore, this is our current focus.
How do you see this system developing over time? Where do you think the industry can improve in this area?
We have a significant roadmap which will elevate Betintel.ai to new heights, but the core principle will always remain the same. Business users are eager to understand their data, achieve results, and use their data to enhance efficiency and progress. Predicting the future is challenging, particularly with the accelerated progression of Artificial Intelligence. Our mission for Betfinal.ai in the near future is to concentrate on data discovery and providing business users with the ability to effortlessly query and comprehend their data at any moment.
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