Tell us about your career to date and how you came to join Worldline? (highlights and stories)
I’ve always been in customer-facing roles, moving into the world of banking & finance straight out of College. I started out at Complex Telco and Private Network companies including BBVA and AT&T When the telco bubble began to burst I decided to explore other industries and opportunities. Following a six-month sabbatical living in different cities across Europe I returned to the world of finance in 2011 when e-commerce was really beginning to take off. The tech innovation made it a hugely exciting time and I began my long but fun and enjoyable journey into the world of M&A. Lots of hard work has led to proven success which landed me in the fast-paced and challenging but rewarding role I’ve found myself in at Worldline.
What does your role as ‘Director of Gaming and Media’ at Worldline entail?
I lead a global team that engages with customers in the Video Game Industry. Our platform allows video game publishers, distributors and vendors to accept online payments wherever their player base is located, however, they like to pay through a single technical integration. Our overriding focus is to help our customer base increase their reach and optimise their revenue streams.
What drew you to the games industry?
I was part of the first generation of video gamers. I started playing and even developing 8-bit games at a very young age. This led to an interest in PC gaming and eventually consoles. I’ve always tried to stay as connected as possible to the gaming community. I’m a naturally creative person so I am attracted to the huge wealth and diversity of universes you can find in video games.
Are you a gamer in your downtime/what do you play?
I don’t get as much time to game as I would like to. I currently only play games on Nintendo Switch, mostly with my daughter. We play games like MarioKart, Lego Star Wars, Lego Marvel Superheroes, Spyro or Splatoon. When gaming on my own I revisit 8bit games on ATARI 50 which is the compilation designed to celebrate their anniversary and has an archive of over 100 classic games.
Worldline is a payment and transactional services company. What does this mean in practice?
It means we help millions of businesses of all sizes to realise their ambitions in a much faster, simpler, more efficient and secure way. We provide advanced payment technology that helps deliver seamless payment experiences.
What are the benefits of in-app purchases for developers and players? How will the impending alternative payments regulation affect this?
As it becomes more and more difficult for developers to monetise through ads, in-app purchases provide an additional source of revenue. For players, in-app purchases can allow for frictionless gameplay as an alternative to viewing ads.
We are currently seeing small shifts in control from the app stores in preparation for regulation across the EU and the US. We have already seen the positive effects on the games industry that have taken place in regions like South Korea where a law was already passed in 2022 allowing game developers to implement alternative payment systems.
In-app purchases via third parties outside of the app stores can ultimately provide developers and players with more control over the user experience and flexibility in how they make and process payments. There are far more payment options and different ways to process credit card transactions allowing lower costs and higher authorisation rates.
With the EU Digital Markets Act due to be implemented in March, how will European gaming shift in 2024?
I’m expecting to see most developers and publishers taking a patient approach to see which major developers will go first and wait for the result. As soon as this becomes clear many other developers and publishers will gradually make adjustments, switching to a 3rd party payment processor like Worldline and making adjustments to the in-app payment pages. In the longer term, people will see a major impact on the profitability of mobile games and we might see an increase in investments in this market.
Paving the Way for Regulated iGaming market: Will India See the Rise?
By Dr Aruna Sharma, Practitioner Development Economist & Retd Secretary GoI
Could you provide insights into the current market potential for iGaming in India, and what key challenges do you anticipate the industry facing in the near future?
The popularity of online gaming as a form of entertainment in India has surged with the widespread availability of inexpensive smartphones and affordable internet access. Global investors, developers, and other industry stakeholders are keenly watching the growth story of the Indian online gaming industry which has witnessed a 28% CAGR between FY20-23 and holds a market valuation of ₹16,428 crores.
However, instead of direct contribution in the economic growth story of India the online gaming industry is contributing in terms of increasing revenue (direct and indirect tax) collection (year-on-year). Additionally, the sector has attracted budding tech developers and entrepreneurs by providing them employment opportunities and fueling innovation to keep up with the rising demand for AI and other such immersive gaming experiences.
After some crucial and elucidative changes in the regulatory and taxation policies by the government in 2023, one can hope that 2024 for iGaming will thin the clouds that are shadowing accelerated growth of iGaming in India. 2024 holds promise for iGaming in India. While full regulation may take time, positive court ruling and increased focus on non-RMG segments could cause a casual gaming boom, potentially unlocking a multi-billion dollar market. However, regulatory uncertainty and potentially high tax rates remain a hurdle for attracting investments and interest of other stakeholders in this growing market and industry.
What are the main challenges facing Indian iGaming and how different are these challenges within the different regions of India?
- The government is focusing on reducing threats like false information, mental health problems, money laundering, and financial losses for users by bringing rules and regulations such as the IT Rules, establishing SROs and SRBs.
- Adequate regulation, that is conducive to doing business, is needed, first of all, to protect the Indian players. Because in the current situation, Indians are being abused by countless nefarious parties. Checking and curbing the illegal gaming platforms and enhancing mechanisms to ensure increased user awareness and behaviour while indulging in online gaming.
- A pressing concern that requires governments urgent attention is to put in place parameters that differentiate between games of skill and chance for taxation.
- As a fallout of high and retrospective taxation the industry is facing job losses, advertising and spending cuts and reduced investments in research and innovations.
Additionally, policy and regulatory compliance for the platforms have become increasingly complex with both center and state governments legislating on the same subjects and multiple ministries regulating the industry.
Delve into the necessity for a regulatory framework that is both balanced and adaptable.
Unregulated framework where user base is large leads to spread of iGaming in gray market with all its vices. By regulating the iGaming industry, the government can unlock other positive outcomes, such as increased tax revenues, economic growth via attracting more foreign investment, job creation, and better consumer protection. A thorough regulatory framework will enable transparent parameters to distinguish and license the game of skill accordingly and rest will fall under game of chance.
Regulations always bring in transparency and ensure there is no misleading advertising or non-payment of legal taxes. Additionally, regulations such as the IT Amendment Rules, 2023 have ascertained a robust grievance redressal mechanism by setting up of the SRBs and SROs.
Further a balanced and stable regulatory framework could provide assurance and confidence to the international iGaming companies in paying taxes while doing business in a regulated and transparent market, create jobs, and invest in the country and its people. Thus, comprehensive regulations, that are conducive to doing business and protect the Indian players, who are being abused by countless nefarious parties are necessary in the current iGaming landscape.
Consequently, foreign iGaming companies operating legally have consistently demanded that the Indian government establish an adequate and stable regulation and taxation regime. Instead, the government has consistently chosen to unwisely prohibit it, thus pushing this whole industry underground. Furthermore, iGaming companies face unfair persecution and baseless lawsuits from India.
The new 28% GST on online gaming has produced divided opinions about the industry’s future in India. How has the industry reacted to it?
Industry initially panicked at the 28% tax, fearing slow growth and reduced investments. The partial relief, clarification on the regulatory compliances have brought cautious optimism. Smaller firms remain anxious, fearing the high rate still discourages players and favors larger businesses. Long-term impact depends on pending Supreme Court judgment on game classification and potential tweaks to the tax structure.
The applicability of a flat 28% tax on the total value of bets placed in online gaming, irrespective of whether they are games of skill or chance has upset the applecart that was moving smoothly with the evolution of agreed principles among SROs and the oversight by SRB with clear distinction of the regulatory body between Games of Skill (permissible games) with that of Games of Chance.
The matter is now being reviewed by a Group of Ministers (GoMs) comprising of officials from ministries such as the Home, Finance, MeitY, etc. to reconsider the GST and how to counter episodes of money laundering and other such scams and frauds.
Finally, what can we expect from Indian iGaming as a whole this year, if you were to sum it up in three key points?
It is expected that 2024 will set pace by bringing in clarity in rule making, consistency of rules, inculcating a more stable policy environment that enables India to not miss the bus of becoming a hub for developers. The iGaming industry is expected to tighten its grip for filling the digital divide, enabling learning of cognitive skills and enhance conscious citizen messaging to further tap into the positive side of iGaming.
Additionally, iGaming industry should leverage technologies like blockchain to further the purpose of transparency and tracking of digital payment as a technical solution and for permanent storage of records to curb money laundering. Alongside formulation of regulatory policies, a stricter implementation of policies such as IT Rules (establishing SRBs), mandatory KYC, and compliance with Advertisement Standard Council in India (ASCI) norms for iGaming industry need to be inculcated in ensuring safe and secure gaming platforms.
The future of the gaming industry holds promise of growth, however, there is still a hazard that due to absent market regulation and destructive policies, international iGaming companies shun India, sending an unwelcoming signal to many other potential foreign investors.
Software is complex and success hard to achieve, Q&A w/ Max Francis Founder of Black Cow Technology
Online gambling operators continually engage with different software projects but the rate of failure remains incredibly high. This is usually due to time pressures placed on the project. To learn more about software development, and some of the pitfalls operators need to be aware of, we spoke to Max Francis, founder of Black Cow Technology and 25 year veteran of software development. Max also talks about Agile and Rapid Application Development, and how by adopting these approaches, and working with a specialist software developer, operators can hugely increase the chances of success of any software project.
What are some of the main challenges operators and suppliers face when it comes to software development?
Software development is about solving a problem and the very nature of this means that we don’t know how long it will take. This is one of the biggest challenges operators and suppliers face when it comes to software projects. They struggle to understand that software development is a creative process and that we are trying to solve a problem we haven’t tackled before and we simply don’t know how long it will take to do this. This doesn’t reconcile with the date-based mentality of most organisations when it comes to deadlines and completion. This often sees projects rushed and hurried to meet an arbitrary deadline and this usually results in the project falling short of the mark or failing completely. It’s much less painful for all involved if there is a universal, upfront understanding that we can never know how long a software project will actually take.
What do companies need to consider if they are to complete software projects successfully – on time, on budget and in a way that effectively solves the issue?
Operators and suppliers need to make business commitments of their own and they need to be able to rely on the software provider they are working with on the project. To be able to do that, both sides need to accept the project is going to vary and evolve over time, and that they will have to trade off three crucial dimensions if it is to be delivered successfully: features, quality and timescales. It is impossible to secure all three and at least one will have to give. So, if a project needs to go live by a certain date, that might be fine, but functionality can’t be fixed for that date. If the project needs certain functionality, then you can’t set timescales. If certain functionality is absolutely required by a certain date then the quality will have to give. Most projects try for all three – features, timescales and quality; and this is why they fail.
It seems that being realistic about what can be achieved is key.
It is indeed. When it comes to it, a software development project ends up in one of three places. Good with all the features but not quick; good and quick but not with all the features; or all the features and quick, but not good. The latter approach, perhaps surprisingly, can be useful for prototyping and proof-of-concept projects but care must be taken when developing without quality. All too often, trial projects end up seeping into mainstream production and people wonder why the quality is so poor. In my experience, it’s much better to be realistic about what can actually be achieved rather than trying to run a project with blindly perceived “needs” that just can’t be met. This doesn’t mean scaling back ambitions, it just means understanding the compromises. That said, to be able to predict what can be done, we need to understand and deliver small useful chunks of what we know rather than failing to deliver based on what we want. It’s always best to be realistic, and Agile and Rapid Application Development principles help us to do this.
Can you tell us more about Agile and Rapid Application Development principles?
At Black Cow we have the mantra “something useful to someone, sooner”. It’s essentially about partnership-oriented iterative delivery. Satya Nadella of Microsoft put it quite nicely: “set and repeatedly meet short-term goals”. The central idea of any Agile development practice is that we don’t know what we’re going to eventually need, so expect change and collaborate to deliver for the biggest difference to the business now. Think vertical slices rather than layers: do some of it fully rather than lots of it partially. Everything flows much more easily in our projects once our partners understand that it’s ultimately about delivering to their imminent business need. For me, the most important aspect is the partnership – all parties are delivering this project. We’re not trying to ruin your day by telling you that it can’t all be done; we’re trying to help you plan! Choose the compromises before they choose themselves.
Can you give a few real-world examples of what these approaches look like?
So, it’s good to have a plan but make every effort to base your plans on what can actually be achieved now rather than what you ultimately want to achieve. Then you need to recognise that plans always change. It’s important to tackle small enough chunks to allow yourself a better chance of success by predictably delivering, then delivering to the imminent business need. And be sensible about what that need is. To determine this, look to solve today’s problems and not the problems you might have tomorrow (unless that is in itself today’s problem). Recognise that there will always be compromises.
Think progress and not perfection. Success comes from delivering as consistently as both sides can manage and seeking to optimise at all times. Adjust the process based on the progress you are making. Don’t believe anyone who tells you they will deliver on time – they are only saying this and can’t guarantee it. This includes the customer providing material to the software developer such as specifications and responses – this is also a form of delivery.
Finally, always treat timescale requirements with suspicion. You must ask if time really is of the essence or whether it is just a desire to get something done as quickly as possible. A real deadline means the project fails completely if it’s missed. This is usually not the case.
What do operators and suppliers need to look for in a software development partner? And what should the working relationship between both parties look like?
Working effectively and with the right software provider is mission-critical. The supplier and the customer need to deliver, support and commit to each other. There are no sides here, this is a partnership of equals. It’s a relationship that works best when the customer keeps the supplier focused on the requirements and the supplier keeps the customer focused on what’s technically possible. In this way both parties converge on a solution and are equally committed to the shared goal. “I’m the customer and this is what I want” doesn’t get software delivered. A more intelligent approach is needed.
Software projects are highly complex interactions between several parties with requirements that change on the fly. Projects also continue well after delivery – it’s never about providing a fixed bunch of requirements as a package and then you’re done. That’s why we ensure we take the customer on the journey with us, acting as a true partnership. This is why non-software businesses should engage good software experts for their software projects, allowing both sides to get on with what they do best and allowing the project to succeed.
How has 3 Oaks Gaming’s Flip to Win promotional tool set the market alight
In 2023, 3 Oaks Gaming enjoyed a breakthrough year, with its powerful portfolio of slots and promotional tools resonating with players worldwide. With 2024 still in its infancy, 3 Oaks’ Flip to Win tool has proven to be one of its most successful released, with impressive stats showcased across a number of facets. We caught up with 3 Oaks Gaming’s Promo Marketing Lead, Maria Osyka, about how the tool has put the distributor on the map.
Promotional tools still have a hugely important place within the market. Much like a new slot game, a successful promo tool needs to be unique and stand out in a saturated environment. Numerous tools will keep being churned out with no outstanding differentiator, and this is what makes Flip to Win so distinctive – an emblem of how a tool can entice players by keeping it relevant and fast-paced.
How Flip to Win works
Flip to Win is a proprietary in-game bonus engine, guaranteeing randomly generated prizes to reward players throughout a gaming session.
A trio of cycles takes players on a rapid adventure, returning to the main game after the initial flip, repeating the sequence twice more, with the ability to enhance player retention and acquisition. This provides the ultimate gaming experience. Since being introduced to the market, the tool itself has gone from strength to strength, enjoying spectacular results since launch.
Positive results across multiple indicators
Within two hours of the campaign going live, the Average Bets and Average Rounds indicators of the promo winners showed an increase of 127% and 143% respectively.
When we compare a player’s session to the following week, with the same number of hours by the Average Rounds indicator, we can conclude that participation in the Flip to Win campaign has a positive effect on the length of the spin session, exhibiting a 45% increase.
With the Flip to Win tool to the fore, the average session duration indicator shows that the length of time participants play for is extended by approximately 25%, ensuring that retention dramatically increases.
Thanks to these results, the effect of the Flip to Win promo tool has reached its goal in terms of retention, extension of sessions, and bets placed.
It has shown that it primarily affects important KPI indicators as short, three-hour campaigns can influence these parameters, which means a win-win situation for both the operator and us at 3 Oaks Gaming.
The quality and unique nature of promotional tools has never been more important!
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