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NEWS 7 January 2019

Company Focus: Ganapati's Impressive ICE 2019 Game Portfolio

By Gambling Insider
Japanese iGaming supplier, Ganapati, always aims to go big at ICE, and 2019 is no different. With a combination of well-loved favourites and brand-new content, the Ganapati ICE 2019 portfolio contains more than a few highlights, from the following featured titles.

CrypBattle The first game to be presented at ICE is one of the most popular Ganapati games of 2018, CrypBattle. To begin, players select three out of five possible characters in this uniquely interactive game, in the same way as the original Cryptract – the well-known Japanese video game upon which CrypBattle is based. The game is set in the mythical land of Centrea, where the ruling wizards are trying to preserve their sovereignty by conquering armies of menacing beasts. The anime-style graphics, multi-layer feel and Selectable Volatility element, in particular, are what makes this game stand out.

Great Beauties Next up is the relatively new, yet incredibly popular, Great Beauties of China. This slot differs from the rest of the Ganapati portfolio in that it is Chinese, not Japanese themed. However, the story of the Four Beauties is not just legendary in China – it has also historically inspired Japanese Noh and Kabuki plays. The ancient tale tells of four exceptionally beautiful women, each from different dynasties, whose mesmerising beauty held great power and eventually brought about devastating consequences. This enticing game is set against a beautiful backdrop of the Great Wall of China and offers exciting features such as an Expanding Mystery Wild and the Heart Collection feature, in which a Free Spins Retrigger is activated if any of the Beauties collect all five hearts.

Wild Sumo Also in the running for most played Ganapati game of 2018 is the interactive, progressive slot, Wild Sumo. Returning to Ganapati’s unmistakable Japanese flavour with full-force, Wild Sumo boasts high quality graphics and immersive features, which culminate in a Grand Sumo Tournament in the form of a suspenseful card game between player and sumo. In reflection of the game’s truly progressive nature, every winning pay-line with a Wild symbol is accumulated in the collection bar which, when filled, triggers the Grand Tournament finale. The collection bar represents the player’s rising position in the ranking hierarchy, known as the Banzuke – a tradition still prevalent in Japan’s iconic national sport.

Ukiyo-e Based on the distinctive Japanese artform Ukiyo-e, the high-volatility slot of the same name centres around the most celebrated works of art of the genre, including the infamous wood-block print, The Great Wave by Hokusai. A tasteful and aesthetically pleasing game, Ukiyo-E is about as authentically Japanese as they come. The game’s features include a fun target shooting bonus in the form of ancient Japanese mounted archery, Yabusame. The bonus game begins with a gamble feature in which players win or lose spins depending on whether they hit or miss the targets. While Ukiyo-E is clearly going for a traditional look, feel and sound, it also features some hidden elements of Japanese comedy to keep an eye out for.

Neo Tokyo As for new titles, Neo Tokyo is the big one for 2019. Ganapati’s soon-to-be-launched flagship game is the inspiration behind this year’s ICE booth and really embodies what the company is all about. Featuring a futuristic Cyberpunk theme throughout, the game’s striking visuals are sure to draw players in. The backstory is just as absorbing – Jin and Hana are in love and fighting to be together against a sci-fi, Neo Tokyo setting. Their main obstacle to overcome is that of evil mobster, Deadspin, who tries to abduct Hana in an intense three-level bonus game. The Random Wild feature and the Flower Blossom feature are similarly unique yet rewarding, offering multiple pay-outs to players who get the right combination of Scatters on the reels. Neo Tokyo is a captivating Cyberpunk love story which is hard not to want to play.

Samurai Girl The next new release, Samurai Girl, is just as original and distinctly Japanese. The game follows Chiaki, a beautiful female warrior, on her mission to rid Japan of a zombie samurai army led by an evil Shogun. The player’s task is to assist Chiaki in her quest to stop the virus from spreading. Samurai Girl is also set in Tokyo, this time Shibuya – the fashionable district popular with youngsters. Against this setting, zombies appear at random which are slashed by Chiaki’s sword – adding to the Multiplier each time. Features include the Pandemic Free Spins round, in which the green virus must be touched three times to kill it and reveal the number of Free Spins awarded. Along with this, the Wild Reel feature and the Boss Battle feature – where the Samurai Girl takes on the Shogun for Free Spins and possible extra cash, the eye-catching animation and detailed design are particularly noteworthy.

Onmyoji Last but definitely not least is another new title called Onmyoji, which offers equally engaging gameplay. Named after the spiritual guides and practitioners of the art of Onmyodo (a mixture of astrology, divination and exorcism based on the Chinese philosophies of Yin and Yang), this cascading slot game tells the story of Seimei and the Fox Spirit, who come together to protect the Imperial City from malevolent demons. In addition to the colourful, anime-style graphics and true Ganapati-style backstory, highlights of Onmyoji include the Fox Mask bonus game, whereby three Fox Mask Scatter symbols trigger an additional 10 Free Spins in the subsequent Free Spins round.

With all this and more in store from the Ganapati Group, not to mention some surprises planned for the exhibition itself, the Japanese game providers are once again going to be getting noticed at this year’s ICE.
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.