Today we have the pleasure to introduce you with one of the most innovative people in the industry, Alexandre Tomic, the co-founder and CEO of SlotsMillion Casino. The path to success is always difficult. It’s not easy to run a decent online casino, let alone develop the world’s first state-of-the-art Virtual Reality Casino. Keep on reading and don’t miss out on this amazing opportunity to learn more about how this ingenious idea became reality, as well as what other sunning innovations SlotsMillion has in stored for us.
1. Hi Alexandre, how are you? For starters, please tell us a bit more about yourself and how you got into the online gaming industry in the first place.
My adventure in the igaming industry began twelve years ago, when ALEA.com’s other co-founder Charles Gross and I started out as affiliates. Our main affiliate website was called Casino Lemonade, and though multi-platform casinos seem obvious and common now, ten years ago back in 2006, when we had the idea, it was the first website of its kind. Our philosophy was to include all games as free games from all software providers inside an affiliate website, and from there we thought it would be cool to become an operator and have our own platform. That’s how the concept of SlotsMillion began. Four years ago we set up ALEA.com, and SlotsMillion developed from there.
We initially wanted to branch into the international market with something that looked similar to Casino Lemonade, but at the time it was the period of flat, less-is-more design, and it wouldn’t have matched the market. We still think Casino Lemonade would have been a great concept as an online casino, though, so you may see ALEA.com one day pushing an art deco website.
2. So after years of hard work, SlotsMillion is one of the leading brands in the industry. In your opinion, what makes it such a unique place to play online slots?
Firstly I would say the variety of games that we have. Beyond the large selection of slots, we have also developed a filter, allowing players to sort games in terms of theme, software providers, paylines, features and type of slot, which was unique on the market and is now used by other people in the industry. We are actually planning to launch a new version of our filter within a few weeks and we are also working on a recommendation engine, which we are hoping to release by the end of the year. We want to be able to recommend games to players via more advanced methods, based for example on the way the slot returns the money, the hit frequency, the max bet and win, and the slot variance.
Lastly and perhaps most obviously, the main aspect that makes SlotsMillion unique is the VR casino. We are one of the most innovative online casinos in the industry and we are fully dedicated to making sure our players have an amazing experience when they play with us, which makes us keep working and developing new elements to stay at the forefront of the industry.
3. By now, you’ve actually added well over a thousand online slots from a number of different software providers. Does your strategy perhaps include growing into the casino with the greatest number of games in the market?
We currently have a selection of more than 1000 slots on desktop and around 400 on mobile and tablet. It’s not a question of number, though - it’s a question of different sources. Our philosophy at SlotsMillion centres around providing the best possible gaming experience to our players, and that involves offering the best games. Each provider has their strong points, and in each provider we find very good games, and it’s for that reason that we want to include a lot of providers. Not every game is good, but every provider has amazing games that our players will enjoy.
4. How many providers have you integrated so far? Whose games can we hope to see at SlotsMillion soon? Will you continue to add only online slots?
As it stands right now, we have integrated approximately 25 software providers. However, we’re still missing some very important ones, such as Novomatic, Scientific Games (WMS, Bally, ShuffleMaster, Barcrest, etc...), and IGT just to name a few, and we hope to finalise the situation with these providers before the end of the year.
Today SlotsMillion is only focused on slots, but we are thinking of adding table games, video poker, blackjack, roulette, and even live dealer games in the near future.
5. In April you added Quickspin games to your collection. What were the players’ reactions?
We’ve had an amazingly positive reaction. Quickspin’s games are fun, innovative and cool, and as a provider they really match who we are. We are very happy to be able to include their games as a part of our portfolio.
6. Will SlotsMillion be expanding into the UK market any time soon? Or are you perhaps focused more on some other market?
Yes, absolutely. We are targeting several new markets at the moment and the UK is definitely one of them. We started the licensing process a while ago and we should have it by the end of the summer. Initially we started out with Sweden, Finland, and Norway as our main markets, and we are also now looking into becoming licensed in Portugal, Germany, Holland and Denmark as well, so we’re excited about expanding into so many new areas and are looking forward to seeing what opportunities this will bring us.
7. SlotsMillion is quite popular with AskGamblers members. Actually a number of our players have even reviewed it. How valuable do you consider their feedback?
All feedback helps us improve, of course, so we’re grateful for any information we get from players. We especially value what AskGamblers’ players have said about us, though, because SlotsMillion and AskGamblers are built from the same DNA, and that DNA is innovation. It’s not a coincidence that myself and AskGamblers’ founder Igor Salindrija are friends.
We’ve been really overwhelmed by the comments left on your website; all the feedback was very good. One of the only complaints was about the RTP of the slots, which as you know we can’t do anything about, as that comes from the provider. We have seen people complaining about the fact that we only have slots, though, but that has simply made us reevaluate the original concept as slots-only site and consider offering table games and more.
8. As you already mentioned another thing that makes SlotsMillion unique is that it is the world’s first Virtual Reality Casino. Tell us more about the development process.
In October 2014, we discovered Digital Cybercherries’ New Retro Arcade game, where old Nintendo video games are emulated in a virtual reality environment, and were inspired to think about doing the same with slot games. Unfortunately, the project fell through, but we continued looking for a way to develop our idea and eventually did so in collaboration with Lucky VR, who had been developing a blackjack virtual reality demo game. We have just released a new version of the VR casino, including a TV screen upon which the Cash Game Festival in Malta was broadcasted to those at the iGaming Super Show in Amsterdam, and are planning to release another version in a few weeks with new avatars and more information about the games, where players will be able to see each other’s wins displayed onscreen.
9. What are the biggest challenges you have faced so far?
The biggest challenges of developing the VR casino have been related to the fact that it’s a new medium. Motion sickness, for example, has been a difficult aspect to conquer, but we have made progress since the first version and are continuing to improve it in order to provide the smoothest experience for players.
Another problem is that most people don’t have the goggles yet, which means that we mainly only have users playing in 3D. It’s currently hard to predict whether we should develop quickly or slowly, but from feedback at shows and in other areas where VR is used, it’s easy to see that VR is becoming more and more accepted. For example, people will be able to use the Samsung Gear device to experience the upcoming Euro 2016 football championships as if they were really there in person. This is the real beginning of VR.
10. How did your players react at first? Are they generally open to the use of new technologies? Do you already have people playing in VR?
Unfortunately, it’s too early to say at the moment. The Oculus Rift goggles are still not widely available in Europe today - actually we were one of the first to order the consumer version and we still haven’t received it. The consumers who have received it are based in the US, and to date only developers have received them in Europe.
We do have users playing in the casino in 3D, but it’s only a small part of the experience - people will have to play in VR to really feel the immersion. But we have taken the VR on the road and showcased it at four shows so far - SIGMA in Malta, EiG in Berlin, LAC in London and iGaming Super Show in Amsterdam - and the feedback has been really amazing. In our booth at these shows, we have two headsets and two computers, and neither of them were ever empty - people were astonished by it and were queuing up to try it. The biggest response we received was in Asia during the G2E conference in Macau; it’s clear that the Asian market is already showing a lot of interest in VR.
As those trying out the VR at shows were mainly from the industry, we’ve had a lot of PR and exposure on affiliate websites as a result. People are generally very enthusiastic and the industry is responding well, and this was reinforced a couple of days ago when we won the Innovation of the Year award at the eGR Marketing and Innovation awards in London.
11. Do you think that there will be a big difference between players who will stick to playing classic casino games and those who will be eager to experiment with Virtual Reality games?
Even though it’s too early to say at the moment, we have seen via communication from our support team that the most enthusiastic players belong to the millennial generation. This is logical, though, as for every new technology, younger players are the first to pick it up and it will take longer for older generations to accept it, especially at this early stage.
12. Where do you think the online gambling industry is headed next?
VR is going to be big. It’s going to revolutionise the gambling industry - not only for the players, but also for those who work in the business. It’s very likely that players and employees will one day occupy the virtual space together, with a large part of the population working inside the VR world. Virtual casinos will allow managers to meet with affiliates, suppliers, partners and consumers, and affiliates will be able to physically bring players inside the casino, as well as managing them once they’re there. But this is only scratching the surface - there is so much potential for VR, and we can’t wait to see how it develops.
13. And what’s next for SlotsMillion? You have mentioned at the beginning that you’re working on a recommendation engine?
Yes, as previously mentioned, we’re currently working on developing a recommendation engine. Our main interest here is slot variance - we want to discover players’ appetites for risk, because this is the point at which it’s very easy to lose players. If a user enters the casino with the desire to play something high-risk and ends up with a low volatility slot, they will be bored and disappointed, and the same is true of the reverse - both types of players will be unhappy and both will walk away. It is very important that consumers get what they want - even when they may not even know themselves - and so we have to be observant and pay attention.
To do this we have two options: to ask players directly, or to observe their behaviour. For example, we could give them a choice between two types of bonuses; one which multiplies the possible win on the next spin by ten, and another which would allow them to double their potential win on the next five spins. The choice made here would help us understand the player’s preferences for volatility, which would allow us to direct them to the right slots and therefore help us keep our customers happy and engaged right from the beginning.
14. Thank you Alexandre for this exclusive interview. We wish you the best of luck and hope to see these new and exciting innovations very soon.
Thank you and thanks for the opportunity to chat with you today!