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IN-DEPTH 1 July 2019
Bringing Blockchain to the Masses
Sophie Morris, PR & Communications Manager at GanaEight Coin, discusses how blockchain technology can take its much-anticipated next step into the mainstream
By Gambling Insider

Mainstream adoption of blockchain across multiple sectors is arguably still a way off. While we hear of the plethora of benefits the technology can bring to finance, healthcare and education, in reality, long-established systems are not so easy to overhaul.

Despite essentially being a household name at this point, blockchain is a concept not yet fully grasped by many, and therefore not everyone is on board. Until it is plain to see how the technology can benefit certain areas, it is not necessarily going to be welcomed with open arms. Rightly so – while blockchain clearly has its advantages, they certainly won’t be beneficial to all.

One purported area which may help initiate blockchain’s foray into the mainstream is gaming. Blockchain and gaming are a match made in heaven, meaning gamers may be the key to propelling it into widespread acceptance.

Typically tech-savvy and eager to embrace new technical innovations, it is not hard to see why gamers are being cited as a potential catalyst for bringing blockchain to the masses. Gaming, as well as online gaming and e-sports, are all seemingly clear-cut use cases for blockchain.

When it comes to gaming in general, crypto-currencies have been used within the sector for some time now. Gamers were among the early crypto adopters, which can partly be explained by their pre-existing familiarity with in-game virtual currency payment methods, and therefore their ability to recognise the benefits of this ahead of the pack.

Once the concept of crypto has been accepted into a community, it is surely not long before blockchain follows, and for purposes other than just payment solutions.

Apps such as CryptoKitties have taken the gaming world by storm in the last year or so, soaring in popularity and appealing to a much wider audience than just regular gamers or blockchain enthusiasts.

Video games are also getting in on the action, with French gaming giant Ubisoft reportedly exploring the introduction of blockchain-based virtual in-game content to give its games a competitive edge. Digital currency Ripple has also announced its intention to establish a $100 million fund to assist developers in integrating blockchain into video games; with the purpose of accelerating the technology’s mainstream adoption.

With all these developments underway within the blockchain gaming space, the obvious next area for blockchain to make its mark upon is online gaming.

At GanaEight Coin Limited (G8C) – blockchain subsidiary of international online gaming supplier Ganapati, the aim is to facilitate this progression by developing an online casino platform underpinned by blockchain technology; as well as a corresponding stablecoin with which to bet.

This quest to solve the online gaming industry’s infamous trust issue with a transparent approach to online casino even reached the House of Commons earlier this year, in a G8C blockchain event held in UK Parliament.

While things are clearly moving in the right direction, issues of scalability and user adoption are being raised as proof mass adoption of blockchain technology is not on the cards just yet. For this to happen, a strong incentive to use it is essential, with its usability another important consideration.

Games are comparatively easy to incentivise – as long as a game contains a certain element of interest or looks relatively appealing, it will have players. This applies even more so to gambling, where the issue of scalability is nowhere near as prominent.

Blockchain is certainly not the answer to everything, but where it does fit – such as making transactions transparent and accessible to all in online casinos – it appears to be an almost-perfect solution.
DISCUSS THIS ARTICLE
IN-DEPTH 16 August 2019
Roundtable: David vs Goliath – Can startups really disrupt the industry?

(AL) Alexander Levchenko – CEO, Evoplay Entertainment

Alexander Levchenko is CEO of innovative game development studio Evoplay Entertainment. He has overseen the rapid expansion of the company since it was founded in early 2017 with the vision of revolutionising the player experience.

(RL) Ruben Loeches – CMO, R Franco

Rubén Loeches is CMO at R. Franco Group, Spain’s most established multinational gaming supplier and solutions provider. With over 10 years working in the gambling, betting and online gaming industries, he is skilled in operations management and marketing strategy.

(JB) Julian Buhagiar – Co-Founder, RB Capital:

Julian Buhagiar is an investor, CEO & board director to multiple ventures in gaming, fintech & media markets. He has lead investments, M & As and exits to date in excess of $370m.

(DM) Dominic Mansour – CEO, Bragg Gaming Group:

Dominic Mansour has an extensive background of nearly 20 years in the gaming and lottery industry. He has a deep understanding of the lottery secto,r having been CEO at the UK-based Health Lottery, as well as building bingos.com from scratch, which he sold to NetPlay TV plc.

What does it take for a startup to make waves in gaming?

DM: On the one hand, it’s a bit like brand marketing; you build an identity, a reputation and a strategy. When you know what you stand for, you then do your best to get heard. That doesn’t necessarily require a TV commercial but ensuring whatever you do stands out from the crowd. Then you have to get out there and talk to people about it. 

AL: Being better than the competition is no longer enough; if you’re small, new and want to make a difference – you have to turn the industry on its head. Those looking to make waves need to come up with a new concept or a ground-breaking solution. Take Elon Musk, he didn’t found Tesla to improve the existing electric cars on the market, he founded it to create the industry’s first mass-market electric sports car. It’s the same for online gaming; if you want to make waves as a startup, you have to bring something revolutionary to the table.

JB: Unique IP is key, particularly in emerging (non-EU) markets. As does the ability to release products on time, with minimal downtime and/or turnaround time when issues inevitably occur. A good salesforce capable of rapidly striking partnerships with the right players is vital, as is not getting bogged down too early on in legal, operational and admin red tape.

How easy it for startups to bring their ideas to life? How do they attract capital?

AL: It depends on the people and ideas behind the startup. Of course – the wave of ‘unicorns’ is not what it used to be. Some time ago the hype was a lot greater in terms of investing in startups, but that’s changed now. Investors now want more detail – and even more importantly, to evaluate whether the startup has the capacity (as well as the vision) to solve the problem it set out to address. That’s not to say investors are no longer interested in startups – they certainly are – but now more than ever, it’s important for startups to understand their audience as well as dreaming big.

JB: To get to market quickly, you need a great but small, team. If slots or sportsbook, the mathematical engine and UX/UI are crucial. Having a lean, agile dev team that can rapidly turn wire framing and mathematical logic into product is essential. Paying more for the right team is sometimes necessary, especially when good resources are scarce (here’s looking at you, Malta and Gibraltar).

Building capital is a different beast altogether. You won’t be able to secure any funding until you have a working proof of concept and, even then, capital is likely to be drip fed. Be prepared to get a family and friends round early on to deliver a ‘kick-ass’ demo, then start looking at early-stage VCs that specialise in growth-stage assets.

How do you react when you see startups coming in with their plan for disruption?

RL: We welcome the innovation and fresh thinking startups bring. This is particularly the case in Latin America, with a market still in its infancy. One area we’d especially like to see startups making waves is in the slot development sector. Latin America is a young market that needs local innovation suited to its unique conditions – especially in regard to mobile gaming.

Operators eyeing the market have Europe‐focused core products, which creates a struggle to work to the requirements of players and regulators. To succeed there, it has become more important than ever to work with those with a knowhow of the local area to adapt products and games to besuitable from the off; we welcome the chance for local talent to develop and grow.

Do you think it’s easier for established companies to innovate and establish new ideas? 

AL: From a financial perspective, yes. It is without a doubt easier for incumbent companies to establish a pipeline of innovation via their R & D departments, as well as having the tools to hand for data gathering and analysis.

But it stops there. Startups hold court in every other way. Not only are they flexible, they can easily switch from one idea to another, change strategy instantly as the market demands and easily move team members around. Established companies know this – and this is why we’re seeing an emerging trend for established companies to acquire small, innovative online gaming start-ups. They have the right resources and unique ideas, as well as the ability to bring a fresh approach to businesses’ thinking.

RL: For me, it’s always going to be established companies. Only with the resources, industry experience and know‐how can a company apply technology and services that truly make a difference. Of course there are exceptions. But when it comes to providing a platform that can be approved by regulators across multiple markets – as well as suiting an operators’ multiple jurisdictions – it is simply impossible for a couple of young bright minds with a few million behind them to get this done.

DM: I actually think it’s harder for established companies. It’s key to differentiate between having a good idea and executing one. That’s where the big corporates struggle most. They’re full of amazing people with all sorts of great ideas but getting them through systems and processes is nearly impossible.

Is it essential to patent-protect innovative products?

AL: It’s a very interesting subject. If we take IT for example – patents can actually become a block to the evolutionary process within the industry. Of course, getting a patent future proofs yourself from the competition copying your concept but, having said that, if you’re looking to protect yourself from someone more creative, smarter and agile, you’ve probably lost the battle already!

In our industry everything is moving faster and research takes less time than the development itself. No matter how good you are at copy pasting, you can’t copy Google or Netflix. The most important thing is not the tech itself but rather its ‘use-case’ – or in other words, does it solve what it’s meant to solve? Competition is healthy and the key to innovation. If you spend your whole time looking behind you, you’ll never be able move forwards.

JB: Tricky question, and one that depends on what and where you launch this IP. It can be difficult to patent mathematical engines and logic, mostly because they’re re-treading prior art. Branding, artwork and UX is more important and can easily be copied, but the territories you launch will determine how protectable your IP will be once patented. US/EU/Japan is easy but expensive to protect in. But China/South East Asia is a nightmare to cover adequately. Specialised patent lawyers with experience in software, and ideally gaming, can help you better.

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