Wednesday May 30, 2012 : BWIN.PARTY'S SOCIAL GAMING PLAN UNVEILED
Acquisition of Ukrainian content developer announced
The impatiently awaited detail on Bwin.Party digital entertainment's promised entry into the social gaming field was finally provided by the online gambling giant in an announcement Wednesday.
Highlights of the announcement include:
• Investment of up to $50 million (Euro 40 million) over the next two years
• Establishment of a new social games studio called ‘Win’ with its own dedicated development teams
• Development and launch of a number of new social gaming applications
• The purchase for up to $23 million (Euro 18 million) in cash (of which $17.25 million (Euro 14 million) has already been paid) of a number of assets from Velasco Services Inc. and Ukrainian games developer Orneon Limited which will accelerate market entry and includes several existing B2B social gaming contracts and significant software engineering resources
• Strategy focused on leveraging existing group assets and skills as well as those of partners to deliver long-term value
• Launch of first applications in Summer 2012
• Commitment to secure meaningful market position expected to result in additional costs of Euro 5 – Euro10 million in 2012 and 2013
The company acknowledges social gaming as a sector with the potential to generate billions in revenues. Although it is "…very different in many ways to real money gaming on the internet and through digital channels", several of the assets and skills required for success in the social gaming world are the same as those required by successful companies in the real money gaming market, namely:
• Proprietary gaming content
• Excellent CRM and business analytics
• Online marketing expertise
• Partnerships with leading brands
With many of these and other assets already in place, Bwin.Party intends to compete in the sector and to this end has introduced a new social gaming business unit with its own dedicated management team and infrastructure, branded "Win" and based in Gibraltar.
The unit is headed by Barak Rabinowitz , a graduate of Georgetown University and the London School of Economics who spent three years working in the Mergers and Acquisitions and Global Technology Groups at Morgan Stanley before joining Yahoo! in 2006.
Following an MBA at Harvard Business School, he was engaged in social gaming start-ups before being appointed CEO of Mytopia where he was instrumental in growing revenue and has extensive experience in the management and development of social gaming companies.
Rabinowitz may be better known in the industry for his involvement in the failed Amuso internet bingo project.
Rabinowitz heads an executive team that includes:
Alex Usach leading a new technology development unit dedicated to social games development. He has over 20 years of management experience in software development having qualified with a Ph.D Degree in Computer Science from Vinnitsya Polytechnic University. He previously led Eastern European branches of Flextronics International (until 2006) and more recently of Aricent Group, a software services company owned by Kohlberg Kravis Roberts. Usach is known to a number of the world’s top gaming companies as a partner in developing new content for both real money and social games.
Dan Matkowski, is lead Game Producer. Previously Matkowski was a leading games producer with Electronic Arts, the US interactive entertainment software company and has extensive games production experience across multiple platforms, developing products through the concept and discovery/ prototyping, pre-production, production and finalising phases.
Tilli Kalisky is head of Publishing. Previously Associate Partner with Greylock Partners, a leading US Venture Capital firm, Kalisky is a graduate from Massachusetts Institute of Technology – Sloan School of Management and has extensive experience of working with a number of social media companies including mysupermarket, PLYmedia and VocalTec.
Dennis Hettema is in charge of prototype development. Previously co-founder and head of incubator at Hettema & Bergsten, a social gaming applications company, Hettema developed the Group’s Aces Hangout application that is now running on Google+.
Bwin has contracted in significant development resources for Win Interactive from Eastern Europe through software developers and engineers experienced in delivering social gaming solutions across all key technologies including HTML5, iOS and Android. These resources will be deployed to develop and launch a variety of social gaming products on the web, mobile and social networks.
Drawing upon the group’s extensive games portfolio as well as through the development of new content, Win will operate on a ‘freemium’ business model based on the sale of virtual credits for users to play and advance in the games, as well as to purchase virtual gifts and other consumables. Win may also seek to exploit advertising opportunities that can provide additional revenue through offers, banners and search.
The company notes that Mobile is an important channel for social gaming and by drawing on the experience of newly engaged developers, many of whom were integral to the development of an application platform for operating multiplayer-social games and gaming networks on iOS and Android devices, Bwin group intends to launch games through this channel.
Commenting on the new social gaming initiative, Jim Ryan and Norbert Teufelberger, the Co-CEOs of bwin.party, said:
“We have chosen a ‘build and partner’ strategy, one that provides us with both the resources and additional management expertise to execute our planned extension into social gaming – an exciting and fast growing area of digital entertainment that is the latest addition to our business strategy.
"We are focused on building a meaningful stand-alone enterprise that will operate outside our core real money gaming business but which will benefit from the Group’s significant resources and assets.
"Our investment will enable us to launch Win, our dedicated social gaming studio with its own development centre that will increase our speed to market both for social as well as mobile games. Intent on securing a meaningful position in the marketplace, we expect a Euro 5 – Euro 10 million impact to clean EBITDA in 2012 and 2013.
"We believe we can deliver attractive returns in the medium term through relatively modest investment, funded from operating cashflow over the next 18 months.”
The acquisition of Vinnystia-based Orneon – a title derived from the Greek word "bird" – is especially interesting.
The Ukrainian company creates social games for several platforms, such as PC, Mac, Web, iOS and Android, and is respected for major fantasy-style games it has developed such as Secrets of the Dark: Temple of Night and Echoes of the Past: The Citadels of Time (http://orneon.com.ua/about/social-games.html?lang=en)
The relatively small company has worked with major online gambling groups like Mytopia and Playtika, which is now a subsidiary of Caesars Entertainment.