HungryBear – real-money Slot Masters Q&A – European Gaming … – European Gaming Industry News

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In the dynamic online gaming sphere, HungryBear stands out as a true trailblazer, spearheading innovation in game design and development with its Slot Masters product. Hailed as the very first multiplayer slot game on the market, it is now set to further revolutionise the online casino sector with an upcoming real-money version, alongside a peer-to-peer mechanic that will allow players to go head-to-head with their friends as they battle for prizes.
Here Justin Chamberlain, HungryBear’s CEO, delves into the development journey behind the upcoming real-money Slot Masters and discusses how it is set to change the face of slot gaming in exciting ways.
Why is there such demand for multiplayer slots right now?
I’d like to think that the buzz and discussion – which there is a lot of – is primarily being driven by us. I’ve seen a lot of people popping up on different podcasts and in different interviews talking about multiplayer being the future, and a lot of people are promising that it’s coming. But, as we sit here right now, we’re still the only multiplayer slots offering in the space.
We’ve established the genre and proved that there’s appetite from the player. We recently hit 1.6 million unique players across our network in 12 months, and they’ve played approximately 1.3 billion spins. I’ve insisted from day one that single-player slots have a limitation – certainly demographically, as younger audiences have grown up playing multiplayer games such as Minecraft and Fortnite. For people up to 25, maybe 30 years of age, all they know and all they want to play is multiplayer, and I think that translates to this space now.
Let’s look at Slot Masters itself as a product. For those who aren’t familiar with it, how does the concept work?
At its heart it’s still a slot, so a slot player is going to understand the game when they first start playing. It’s a set of reels, they spin and you collect points instead of cash, as it’s not real money yet. That was a really important, fundamental piece of bringing this product to market after 20 years of developing slots. One thing I’ve learned is that slot players don’t like a game that doesn’t look like a slot. You can build a game on a slot engine but if it doesn’t look like a slot, typically, they won’t play it. We came to market with that principle at the forefront of our product.
On top of that, it allows for three players to play together and instead of all passively spinning and scoring points upon a leaderboard, Slot Masters allows players to steal points from each other in a timed, typically two-minute window. For example, me, you and somebody else would join a game together, with two minutes to score points. We’ve each got an equal number of weapons available to us – I can bomb your points back to zero, or I can steal your 10,000 points. You can steal them back, raid half your points, or freeze game windows.
Ultimately, it’s still a slot, but it takes those competitive, gamification elements and brings them into play – and that is exciting. Where we’re heading in the future is building a real peer-to-peer game, where I can invite you and a friend to come and play in one game together. That “playing against a friend” element will take it to another level.
What’s the challenge in making that a reality? Does it require a change in the product development process?
It’s in development right now. What we had to bring to market first was a really simplified version of the product. The game was originally designed around ten years ago, but we couldn’t bring it to market then as processing power in mobile phones wasn’t strong enough, and it just wasn’t possible. We took Slot Masters back off the shelf around two years ago and decided right now is the time to do it. There wasn’t a demand for multiplayer ten years ago, but what we had to bring to market was the easiest, simplest version of this product, and that’s what you see on Ladbrokes and other sites.
There’s no risk to the player – they enter for nothing and get the chance to win free spins. The next step of where we’re headed is that product in real money, and peer-to-peer. That’s in development right now. We’ve overcome the biggest challenge so far, and that was just the initial step of bringing a multiplayer product into a live environment. It doesn’t matter how good your product is in internal tests – you don’t know if it’ll stand up until you put it live with an operator.
Today, there will be between 35,000-40,000 people playing Slot Masters. We have to learn how to stand up to that volume, because each one of those players on average is playing 12 times a day. All of these games are happening simultaneously, and our servers can be absolutely hammered by database requests and so forth. Learning how to do that and deliver a stable solution for the operator is the hardest part. Moving that to real money is relatively simple in comparison – the biggest challenge is certification, and then moving that to peer-to-peer isn’t a huge step.
You have a sportsbook version of Slot Masters live with Ladbrokes – Clash of the Day. How is that being perceived by bettors instead of typical casino slot players?
Really well! The original idea behind that product came after the sports betting team at Ladbrokes approached us. They’d seen the success on the casino side, and it was pitched as an opportunity to put a slot game in a sportsbook setting for the very first time, which typically they don’t do. We went into a pretty substantial six-month development period with that team to make the product fit their fanzone system and appeal to the typical sports betting punter.
One of the most unique things about Clash of the Day is that you get to play as your Premier League team. When you become a Fanzone member on Ladbrokes, you tell them what your chosen team is and play on their behalf. We took that a step further with OPAP in Greece, where they wanted a certain leaderboard system – so not only do you play on behalf of your team for daily prizes, you also play on a second leaderboard to help drive your team to the top.
That’s one way we’ve moved our product into a much bigger part of the industry. We’ve only just gone live with these versions, but they’re going to be a very big part of our sales for next year. Football is only one skin of this product, but we’re talking to a lot of people in different jurisdictions about re-skinning it for basketball, American football, ice hockey and so on. I think it’ll be a big one for us next year, because of the amount of permutations we can drive off the back of that.
In terms of a real-money version of Slot Masters, is it a case of working alongside game studios and their IPs, or are you developing your own content around that?
The main deal we have now is with Blueprint, which is just beginning to bear fruit. We’re readying a launch in December with a big tier-one operator who I won’t name yet. The real money version will bleed into those IP deals, but at the moment, the demand we’ve had from operators is purely for the real-money version of the product because it is working so well as a free-to-play acquisition engagement tool. We know the players are there, and we know they engage every day, so the operators and HungryBear are all very confident that once we’ve got a real-money version, they’ll convert to spend on that same product.
We now have the green light from GLI (Gaming Labs International) that the Slot Masters version we submitted to them for testing is compliant with UK regulations, so we now know that we can bring the product to market. We’ve pioneered and led with free-to-play, and we’re still the only offering in the market. We’re now working on the real-money build for this game which is really exciting.
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Ivan, can you share your personal journey and passion for gaming? What inspired you to enter the gaming industry, and are there any particular games or experiences that had a profound impact on you?
My journey into the gaming industry has been a lifelong passion. Starting as a competitive gamer during my university days, I combined this enthusiasm with my studies in big data and analytics. It was the combination of this love for gaming and expertise that led me to co-found Exponea, a customer data & experience platform. However, my true calling came when a gaming studio with 40 million monthly players approached us, eventually inspiring the foundation of SuperScale in 2015. Games like Counter-Strike and Age of Empires profoundly impacted my trajectory, showing me the potential of gaming as not only a passion but also within business and how they can be amazing tools to educate and learn through. For example, playing Age of Empires as a young kid improved my English skills tremendously.
Taking a step back to the inception of SuperScale, what was the initial vision that drove you to establish the company? How has that vision evolved over time, and what milestones have you achieved that align with your original goals?
SuperScale was founded with a vision to merge gaming with data analytics, unlocking the remarkable potential of good games. Initially, we sought to optimize games using data insights, a concept met with skepticism from non-gaming crowds. However, our persistence and intuition prevailed and over time, our vision evolved to seamlessly integrate game marketing and big data with development and game enhancement. We’ve achieved significant milestones, from engaging partnerships with industry giants like EA and Big Fish to leveraging big data analytics and strategic marketing initiatives to optimize mobile games to reach over 2 billion downloads. Our journey aligns with the original goal of harnessing data to enhance the user’s gaming experience and create a lasting impact on the games industry.
Looking at the evolving gaming industry, how do you perceive the current landscape and the opportunities it holds for companies like SuperScale in Europe?
The current gaming industry landscape is incredibly dynamic and, despite recent struggles in comparison to the previous boom years, full of opportunities for European companies. We’ve positioned ourselves at the intersection of gaming and analytics and can leverage our incredible team of experts as well as technological innovations like artificial intelligence to forge stronger strategic partnerships with the creators of great games, helping them manage and grow their games. As the gaming market returns to growth, our expertise in optimizing game performance and enhancing user acquisition/engagement positions us to be a key player in this thriving industry in Europe but also in other key markets such as the US.
Advancements in technology are shaping the future of gaming. How is SuperScale leveraging technological innovations to optimize game performance and engage players?
Technology is indeed a driving force in the gaming industry. At SuperScale, we harness technological innovations such as AI and machine learning to analyze game data comprehensively. Our Game Analysis Technology identifies market opportunities and player segments. In the future we aim to integrate Generative AI and Large Language Models into our team’s workflow to optimize decision-making for developers and enhance the gaming experience. These advancements enable us to offer actionable insights, empowering executives and large game studios and developers of games to make informed choices and unlock untapped potential of the games industry.
You mentioned one of SuperScale’s offerings is a Legacy Game Management service. Can you tell us more about how this service helps game developers manage and sustain their legacy games, and what benefits it provides for both the developers and the gaming community?
Our comprehensive Game Management suite encompasses a range of services, which includes new and live games. A key component of this suite is our Legacy Game Management offering which is designed to breathe new life into existing games, ensuring they remain engaging for players and profitable for studios. For developers, this service offers vital support in maintaining and updating legacy titles, optimizing monetization strategies, and attracting new players. Simultaneously, the gaming community benefits from the continued enjoyment of beloved games with improved features and new and engaging content. By revitalizing legacy games, we create a win-win scenario for players and developers alike, enhancing player experiences and extending the life cycle of cherished titles for studios and publishers.
Addressing the aspect of game monetization, what are SuperScale’s insights and strategies concerning in-game purchases and freemium models, focusing on the current market dynamics?
In-game purchases and freemium models are pivotal in the mobile gaming landscape. Our strategy revolves around finding the right balance between generating revenue and providing players with a rewarding and enjoyable experience. We emphasize value-driven in-game purchases that enhance gameplay without compromising user satisfaction. By understanding player preferences and market dynamics, we tailor our approach to optimize monetization while ensuring players perceive value in their purchases, contributing to a sustainable and mutually beneficial ecosystem.
Reflecting on your journey as the CEO and Founder of SuperScale, what key advice or insights would you share with aspiring gaming entrepreneurs in Europe, considering the dynamic and competitive nature of the industry?
My advice to aspiring gaming entrepreneurs in Europe is to follow your passion and trust your instincts. Embrace risks and challenges as they are stepping stones to success. Surround yourself with a talented team, as collective expertise is key. Building strong industry connections and being patient throughout the journey is vital. Additionally, never underestimate the potential of your game; believe in its success and tirelessly work towards realizing your vision. The video games industry is one that transcends stereotypes and geographic barriers, it brings people together. The enjoyment and passion in the development of a game bleeds through into the user’s experience in playing it, so enjoy what you do to the fullest! Lastly, stay updated with industry trends and technologies, adapting to changes swiftly.
Lastly, looking ahead into the future, are there any upcoming projects or developments from SuperScale that you’d like to share with our European gaming audience?
We have several exciting projects and partnerships are currently underway. Unfortunately, due to our confidentiality clauses, we cannot delve too deeply into the specifics. Nevertheless, we can reveal that SuperScale is actively collaborating with additional partners worldwide, and in the coming year and beyond, we’ll be overseeing an increased number of games across a wide range of mobile gaming genres.
2023 has been another successful 12 months for Evoplay, with the company scooping multiple awards at some of the most prestigious ceremonies in the iGaming calendar. With 2024 looming, we caught up with Evoplay’s CCO, Vladimir Malakchi, who gave his insights around the most pivotal markets for the business and what they have in store over the next year.
Looking back at what has been a highly successful year for Evoplay, what would you say have been your biggest highlights?
Throughout this year, Evoplay has achieved remarkable success and earned recognition at some of the most prestigious industry award ceremonies in the calendar. Most recently, we were crowned Best iGaming Supplier and Best Mobile Gaming Provider at the EiGE Awards and earlier in the year, we won the Innovation of the Year category at the SBC Awards and Innovation in Mobile at the EGR B2B Awards.
This success speaks volumes to the consistently impressive quality and performance of our games. For instance, Penalty Shoot-out: Street has had a significant impact in LatAm, where it represents 60% of Bet Sum, 55% of GGR, and 70% of users from the overall traffic across all regions.
Additionally, we’ve not only strengthened industry alliances by 34% but also achieved an 84% increase in GGR and an impressive 104% surge in betting rounds. As we maintain a solid foundation for continuous growth, we eagerly anticipate equally positive results in 2024.
Italy has proven a mainstay for Evoplay in recent years – are you seeing plenty of success in acquiring new players, and would you say the balance is beginning to shift between land-based and online?
Italy, with its vast potential, offers an incredibly attractive market for the growth and promotion of our innovative games, with an abundance of engaging mechanics. We’re actively forming new partnerships and have already onboarded one-third of the market’s operators. Additionally, we’ve recently partnered with BetFlag, a renowned Italian iGaming and sportsbook provider, expanding our audience and strengthening our presence in the country.
Regarding the balance between land-based and online casinos, there is no significant decline in the former, while the latter is witnessing a substantial surge in players. Interestingly, this surge in the online realm doesn’t negatively impact the land-based sector but they coexist harmoniously. I believe this trend will continue throughout 2024, strengthening our position in the iGaming industry.
Looking at key markets for 2024 and beyond – the Balkans is certainly being seen as one of the continent’s biggest growth regions – would you agree, and do you see plenty of potential here?
The Balkan audience warmly embraces our games, showing a preference for classic and trending features like Bonus Buy. Earlier in the year, we had quite a buzz around our instant games and our slots, including The Greatest Catch Bonus Buy and Hot Triple Sevens, really stole the spotlight. As the year progressed, classic titles including Fruit Nova and the timeless table game European Roulette, gained more traction.
As part of our research into the region, statistics have revealed the growing interest of Balkan players. In the third quarter of this year, when compared to the same period in 2022, we witnessed a significant increase in Bet Sum by 29.3%, a substantial 50.3% surge in GGR, and a 17.6% expansion in the user base. It’s clear that our game portfolio effectively caters to the local audience’s preferences, and we anticipate even more productive results by the end of the year.
Evoplay went live in Portugal back in August, how have the first few months been, and how would you define the market’s characteristics?
We’re delighted with our progress in Portugal, primarily due to our exclusive partnership with, which has got off to a strong start. We’re actively pursuing our development strategy there, consistently analysing the local audience’s preferences.
While it’s too early for specific metrics, our commitment to delivering an exceptional gaming experience for Portuguese players remains unwavering. We see their interest now in our classic slots, such as Inner Fire, and we’re also exploring new ideas and innovative solutions to leverage our strengths while ensuring strict regulatory compliance in this market.
Last but not least – what can we look forward to from Evoplay for SiGMA?
I’m really looking forward to the upcoming SiGMA Malta event, and I’m sure our partners and attendees will be in for some fantastic surprises from Evoplay. We’re launching a bold marketing campaign to unveil a groundbreaking flagship product that promises to redefine iGaming industry boundaries.
Our partners can anticipate an exclusive upgrade of our product, which will be revealed in Malta next week, so an exciting event awaits for all at Evoplay.
In addition, I will be delivering a keynote address on the topic of Gamification in Casino Games. As always, I am open to engaging in insightful discussions and eagerly anticipate meeting with all friends, partners, and media representatives!
SOFTSWISS has been a prominent player in the iGaming industry. Based on your experience, what are the top three success strategies that betting operators should adopt to thrive in today’s competitive market?
First of all, sportsbooks should extend their offerings beyond football. We highly recommend operators explore low-season sports and those traditionally underestimated by the industry, such as basketball and Australian football. SOFTSWISS supports its partners by delivering informed recommendations and comprehensive reports on diverse sports events. The strategic diversification of bets across various sports and events serves to mitigate risks effectively.
The second recommendation centres on increasing betting volume by prioritising live and imminent events, given their tendency to attract higher stakes. Notably, in Q3’23, live bets surpassed pre-match bets by almost two-fold. Consequently, it is imperative for operators to provide a user-friendly platform with live broadcasting capabilities to facilitate a seamless betting experience. Additionally, promoting the placement of parlay or combo bets emerges as an additional strategy to enhance revenue, given their inherently higher profit margins.
Player engagement is another key to igaming success. Surely, you’ve heard this many times. But it is. Otherwise, it wouldn’t get so much attention. Recognising this, SOFTSWISS provides a diverse array of engagement tools, encompassing exclusive bonuses and jackpots. At the same time, we advise operators to meticulously evaluate the value of bonuses, ensuring they reward players judiciously without excess. Finding the right balance between bonuses and odds is critical, and we help our partners with that.
With the rapid evolution of technology in the betting industry, how does SOFTSWISS leverage technological advancements to aid betting operators in achieving success? Can you share a specific example or case study?
The most buzzing technology for the last year is artificial intelligence (AI). I believe that using such a powerful tool is a revolutionary shift in an operator’s approach. We have a dedicated team working with AI. Currently, we utilise AI-based tools to personalise content within the SOFTSWISS Sportsbook. This involves tailoring event displays according to individual player preferences, gathering real-time data on player activity, and implementing various advanced functionalities. Our system is designed to discern and present the most attractive options for players, enhancing their overall gaming experience.
All these tools help operators engage players more and influence metrics like the number of bets or the average bet. When a player is presented with a match involving their favourite team, the likelihood of them placing a bet significantly increases. This contrasts with the scenario where they have to navigate through the feed to find something of interest, highlighting the significance of personalised and easily accessible content in driving user engagement and betting activity.    
Regulations play a crucial role in the betting industry, especially in Europe. How does SOFTSWISS assist betting operators in navigating the complex regulatory landscape, and what strategies do you recommend for staying ahead of regulatory changes?
Our commitment is to simplify the operator’s journey from a legal perspective. One of the most challenging things is licensing. We strive to offer the highest quality product that adheres to international standards. It’s not just words. Recently, we received GLI-33 certification for Event Wagering Systems, which marks a huge advancement for us in securing country licences. This certification reflects the substantial effort we’ve invested in meeting standards, encompassing a significant portion of local software requirements worldwide.
Also, we carefully monitor gambling regulation news and share our expertise with current and potential partners. SOFTSWISS experts have experience in the licensing process for a number of countries, so we work closely with every partner to provide optimal support on the legal aspects of their business. Our flexibility and customer-centric approach enable us to tailor solutions that benefit all parties involved.
In response to your second question, a key strategy involves selecting an experienced partner with high-quality software. This decision significantly streamlines the operator’s journey into the legal aspects of the business, providing a foundation for a smoother and more successful operational landscape.
Engaging and retaining customers is vital for any betting operator. What innovative strategies or tools does SOFTSWISS offer to help operators enhance customer engagement and loyalty?
Within the SOFTSWISS Sportsbook, we feature a range of unique bonuses that stand out in the industry. These bonuses, including the Hunting and Lootbox Bonus, Hunting Tournaments, and Freebet Booster, are pivotal in significantly enhancing player engagement.
As I said earlier, operators often struggle to determine the right amount of bonuses to offer players without overdoing it. Tailoring bonuses to match individual betting activity is crucial, creating an incentive structure that resonates with players and encourages sustained engagement.
Our Hunting System is an excellent example of how to achieve this balance. It operates automatically, guaranteeing that players who bet larger amounts receive proportionally sized free bets while those with smaller bets receive more modest bonuses. This approach prevents scenarios where players making, for instance, two or three thousand euros in bets receive bonuses that may not align with their preferences. Conversely, the system also caters to smaller bets, avoiding the presentation of bonuses that might be disproportionate for such betting amounts.
In addition to tools, SOFTSWISS provides engaging systems like the SOFTSWISS Jackpot Aggregator. It offers a variety of different jackpot types designed to capture the interest of diverse players. For example, the recently launched Prime Jackpot is a new type of progressive jackpot. Its uniqueness lies in its connection to a broad network of multiple online casino brands. Through Prime Jackpot, iGaming brands wishing to participate in a network jackpot campaign contribute a proportionate amount based on their overall betting volume. Once a jackpot is won, the reward is disbursed from this shared pool which continues to grow progressively through player bets. This gamification strategy enhances player interest and entices former players to return to the platform.
As you prepare for SiGMA Europe this November, what are SOFTSWISS’ main objectives for the event? Are there any specific success stories or strategies you’re eager to share with attendees?
SiGMA Europe presents a valuable opportunity to forge connections with both existing and potential partners within the industry.
Our presence at the exhibition comes with a fresh concept celebrating the tenacity and resilience of iGaming businesses. Inspired by the diverse Maltese wildlife, our theme focuses on the resolute grip of local crabs and lobsters in their natural habitats. 
Just as these creatures tenaciously cling to rocks and reefs, SOFTSWISS is committed to assisting our partners in achieving their goals, even in the face of challenges. Our comprehensive suite of solutions provides the foundation for success in the ever-evolving iGaming landscape.
I am confident that our presence at SiGMA Europe will be valuable for industry professionals. Using this opportunity, I invite you to visit our stand 2129 to meet in person.
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