Our CEO catches up with SlotsCalendar, discussing about his long and exciting journey in the iGaming space, and how it all led to him running Spearhead Studios, his biggest and most rewarding adventure yet.
Hello Mathias, please tell us a bit about yourself. What makes you, you; and why have you chosen to work at Spearhead?
My journey in the iGaming space began with several consultant roles for live casino companies, and, so far, it’s been a whirlwind adventure across two continents, Asia and Europe. This exposure to very different cultures allowed me to accumulate a multicultural iGaming experience. And it also gave me the knowledge and skills to build my first start-up in Hong Kong, XIN Gaming, which was acquired by Asia Gaming in 2017.
At that point, my family and I decided to return to Europe. It so happened that around the same time, Gaming Innovation Group wanted to open up their own game studio. We got in touch and it led to the inception of GiG Games.
We spent the next 1.5 years building a solid team for our gaming studio in sunny Marbella, Spain, and had a lot of fun and learnings in the process. In 2018, GiG decided to close down the studio. But things worked out for us as we partnered with the EveryMatrix Group and went on to purchase and rebrand the studio. And that is how Spearhead Studios came to be.
Can you please describe your daily routine in the workplace?
We have something that I like to call a ‘dynamic’ routine. And although I have daily calls with business partners and colleagues from Spearhead and EveryMatrix, we have different projects to work on which can be fun and challenging.
Our workplace is a space for creativity revolving around our games, and on any given day we can brainstorm ideas for new exciting titles, analyse the performance of what’s already on the market, fine tune what we have in production, come up with marketing strategies and so on.
Please tell us a bit about the challenges a studio is facing when creating a new slot game.
There are two main things you really need to focus on. First of all, the gameplay needs to be fresh and exciting. This is key if you want to engage players and keep them in the game. The competition is insane in the slot space, with thousands of titles seeking the players’ attention. And your gameplay needs to be a differentiator.
Then comes the mathematical model of the slot game, as this is what makes or breaks your business in the end. You need to find the perfect balance and come up with a fair, responsible model that is also capable of increasing casino revenues. Usually, we try out different models to see which one works best for what we have in mind.
We would love to hear more about the slot creation process. Can you let us know which is the most exciting part of the entire process when creating a new slot?
It’s definitely the initial part, the brainstorming, when we put on the table all our ideas about gameplay and graphics. At that point, the game is a blank slate, and we can come up with the wildest notions and see what sticks. It’s exciting to have the chance to create something brand new, see your ideas on the drawing board, then prototyped and finally released on the market.
What game-mechanics do you like the most in an online slot machine?
I’m a fan of random or triggered in-game features. I believe these add real value to the game, on top of the classical free spins that everyone expects. These smaller features have the capacity to wow players, and they act like unforeseen rewards. And what’s better than to be surprised with an apparently random reward?
Movies with scenes featuring a casino; Did you watch any? Have you got a favourite scene?
Just recently I re-watched Casino Royale, the 2006 version of the James Bond series. With my favourite scene being, of course, Bond’s big win in the high-stake Texas hold’em tournament.
Switching our attention to casinos, with so many options out there, can you let us know which are your top 3 casino preferences?
In all honesty, as a player, it’s hard to pick just three favourite online casinos. I’ve just mentioned the fierce competition, and this leads to having a lot of great casino brands. Players really have a lot of good ones to choose from. As an insider in the industry, I can easily spot some key features that make casino brands stand out.
First of all, diversity of content coupled with precise targeting, either per market or per player. It’s important to give players plenty of choices, but it’s equally important to offer them titles that interest them in the first place. Then, we’ve got device-responsive design and navigation, both essential for the overall user experience. And bonuses, either in-play or across vendors. Off the top of my head, and to limit myself to just three examples, I can name Wunderino, Casumo and Tipico as great casinos that tick all the right boxes.
Continuing with casinos, do you have any stories to share from a “brick-and-mortar” venue?
Land-based casinos are a micro-world by themselves, with their own etiquette and an unrivalled social component. And I was lucky enough to have worked in one of the world’s gambling capitals, Macau, as a consultant for HoGaming. The energy of the casino floor can only be described as a descent into pure adrenaline and adventure.
What are your hobbies?
Golf is a passion of mine, and I only wish I could dedicate it more time. But we are lucky to have some great golf courses around Marbella. It’s just one of the many advantages of going to the office on Spain’s Costa del Sol.
What has been your biggest challenge and your most significant success in the gambling industry?
So far, XIN Gaming has been both my biggest challenge and significant success. It was truly a wild ride to build a gaming studio from the ground up, and the measure of that success is the fact that a company of the size of Asia Gaming deemed it as an asset worth buying.
But I am setting new challenges for myself every day, especially when it comes to Spearhead Studios. We are aiming high with this business, and just for this year we’re planning to increase our portfolio with 40 more high-quality titles. So I’d love to hear your question again in a few years and see what I can add to my current answer.
If you weren’t in the gambling industry, what other industry would you want to work in?
My first professional love was the aviation industry. At first glance, it couldn’t be more different from iGaming. And it distinguishes itself in one fundamental way: it’s very difficult to reach profitability in aviation.
But everyone working in aviation ends up with a set of skills that are easily transferable to any industry. For me, the biggest learning was that you have to prepare rigorously before every launch and leave nothing up to chance. And this was paramount for me in iGaming as well. From the biggest to the smallest business goals and actions, everything needs to be carefully planned and developed, and systems need to be tested before ending up in production.
Any future releases our readers (players) should look forward to trying?
They should keep an eye on all our new releases, 2021 will be a year packed with surprises. The most recent one: Blue Diamond Book, a slot that was released on the 23rd of February. And the best part is that it’s a tried-and-tested piece of exclusive content: Wunderino had a three-month exclusivity for this title, and we’re more than proud to say it made it to their Top 5 games during that time span.