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HOLD GAMING


SEO, community management… As we grew, we took people on and I was able to delegate some of that responsibility; In that time we went from a couple of thousand daily active users to over 1million daily active users.


GIO: It sounds… busy. PR: It was insane. People would say, ‘is what we are doing legal? Are we going to jail, will it stay legal?’ There was legislation in Australia that said it was gambling in every sense and we argued that it was not; in emerging markets like that you are always wondering, is the rug going to be pulled from under us or will this continue to grow? Being able to do that with some really good friends made it all the better.


GIO: What was the germ of the idea for Hold Gaming? How did it grow, what was the process? PR: I consulted internationally for a while after the acquisition of DoubleDown and coming out of my non-compete clause I put together some me-too products in the market. I’m not a product person by nature, I’m really a marketing person. Through that process I learned not just about getting a game to market but also developing what people are actually looking for. It was a real learning curve for me and I was tired of this market hyper-saturation. Leveraging one of the biggest assets that I have – expansion time in this market, and seeing a lot of customer service queues and complaints – the number one complaint in this space (apart from can I have more free chips) is, why would we spend money in a game where we get nothing out of it? Putting money in to win fun, or entertainment value. What if we could take these casino games and mechanics and truly make them into skill-based products where people could play for free to win real money, as well as have cash buy-ins with cash prizes?


Through the growth of Skillz, which shone a light on this industry and showed people love to play these competitive games; e-sports started its meteoric rise in 2016, and in 2017 I said we need to take a serious look at this… In 2018 we went into development, and launched before the end of the year. 2019 has been about toggling the game, what do people really like here? What’s going to get them to spend money and play?


GIO: In terms of the player experience, are we talking all proprietary titles? PR: The first release, Blackjack Fire, is proprietary to us. But we are looking to further leverage this style of gameplay across additional titles.


GIO: Blackjack Fire is an individual app, yes? As an offering of yours, when you achieve huge success with it, do you then offer the game to an iGaming website? Is that the path you are following? Will there be Blackjack Fire tables somewhere one day? PR: The initial process was to prove we could do this in the United States. We needed a first game to show we could actually do it. We would love for someone to license us, of course. We provide great reach in the US, we can operate and distribute the title in so many states; we would love to be able to sync up with an aggregator or go directly to an operator themselves. I wouldn’t say no to it becoming a game on the floor, but right now we are really looking to make a game that allows people to play in the three minutes where they have a little time.


GIO: How do you publicise a game from scratch, as a new company? PR: My experience in social media has given me a little bit of an edge here on how to find the right players, having extensive player databases from other games we have launched… I’d say the past nine years of buying media specifically for casino games means that getting the word out is probably the least of our worries.


GIO: You have some imminent launches regarding new channels and territories I believe… PR: We recently launched in Australia and we are actively looking at the Canadian market as well. The Australian version of the game, though, is mildly different to the US version. The majority of Australian players can’t put up a cash buy-in for a cash payout, but they can play our free to play games where you can play with virtual currency. Through your wins you may climb the monthly leaderboard where cash prizes are available. We can still leverage the social gaming cash payout that we can use in the US version, but we can’t allow players to deposit cash with the intention of using that for a cash buy-in game with a cash prize.


GIO: That’s an interesting approach. PR: I refer to DraftKings a lot, I’m a huge fan of what they have accomplished in the US; it’s not until someone shows up and says ‘hey, I want to do this’ that people really start to think about it. It’s going to give us an opportunity to establish that we are an


Fundamentally we are the DraftKings of iGaming


GIO FEBRUARY 2020 105


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