Last week, social casino developer Win released its first title with Slots Craze. While it might be tempting to dismiss the title as yet another entry into a genre crowded with extremely similar games, Slots Craze marks the online gambling group bwin.party’s first official step into the social games market following its $50 million commitment to do so last year. Win CEO and Founder Barak Rabinowitz recently took some time to chat with us about what bwin.party wants to do with social games and what we can expect to see from his company in the near future.
Rabinowitz started his career working at financial firm Morgan Stanley before going to Harvard to earn his MBA. After that, he went to work for Yahoo! in London in 2006 and subsequently co-founded the skill gaming platform Amuso, which he later sold to the BBC. After that, Rabinowitz ran MyTopia, which focused on the gambling genre and created Bingo Island, which then acquired by 888.
“Nobody was talking about social games yet, but everyone was talking about community games,” Rabinowitz explains to us. “We saw the huge rise of social media and saw the attractive business model of skill games where users could play for small amounts of cash. Because these games were determined by users skill instead of chance, they were legal to distribute in most places around the world.”
Rabinowitz was tapped to lead Win at the time bwin.party announced the studio’s formation. Although bwin.party is financially backing Win, Rabinowitz describes the relationship between the two as being like how a startup company would report its funder, even though Win is the social games arm of bwin.party.
“We’re a startup, but we’re on the shoulders of giants,” he notes.
Currently, Win is pursuing two different tracks of game development. One, Rabinowitz says is the track of traditional social games, like Slots Craze and Cheeky Bingo (which is launching this week); while these types of casino games often don’t bring anything new to the genre, they’re reliably profitable. Aside from Cheeky Bingo, Win is working on a sports-betting game with developer Nordeus, “another casino application” and a poker application for next year.
However, Win also has an incubator track the studio is using to test out new ideas, one of which is in development and a couple of others have been shelved. “That’s where we like to experiment, innovate new features and new concepts to put something out there,” he explains. “It’s very binary: It could be a big hit or it could be a dud.”
Since the social casino genre is becoming increasingly crowded and difficult to thrive in, how to drive traffic to its games is a challenge Win has to carefully consider. Rabinowitz acknowledges bwin.party promoting Win’s games to its existing audience is certainly an option, but “when we set out with Win, we realized bwin.party is late to the party.
“We wanted to ensure there’s a real competitive advantage before we mobilize. One of the assets is the dormant or bounce traffic that hits bwin sites because it’s such a powerful brand… but we don’t rely on that. I wouldn’t say it’s a significant competive advantage. I think it’ll help us to scale, but we’re relying on the in-house expertise of the experts in each vertical, sometimes using specific brands that already have awareness to attract customers at a lower CPI than our competition.”
Win’s already put Slots Craze out for iOS, and we’re told the next step for the studio is to bring it to tablets. “Eventually our goal is to be cross platform for all our games,” Rabinowitz says.
One thing Rabinowitz points out, though, is that he wants his company to be known for creating titles that are both profitable and capable of innovation.
“We’re approaching this business by making sure we have our bases covered and then we very much want to innovate over time,” he says. “But as a new company, I don’t want to bet the house on something creative but risky. Despite being up against a crowded marketplace, I think we can cut through and then use that position to innovate out.”