Interview with Sami Kurvinen from Hero Gaming
“When you reach a certain level and have traffic to work with, make sure to earn CPA and other short term deals from the operators that you might not believe in long term, but are willing to pay you a good price for the traffic.” We caught up with Sami Kurvinen, Affiliate Manager at Hero Gaming.
Hello Sami, hope you are well in this festive season?
Hi Marius, very good thank you. Good thing that the Maltese summer lasts until November as they pass too fast otherwise.
I had been working in a land based casino in Sweden for a few years when I discovered poker. I managed to learn the game in a good way and eventually left my job and then played poker professionally online for about 2 years. By coincidence I came to Malta and was planning to stay here for a few months. Now I been here for 8 years and I been working in the online gaming industry and within affiliation since then.
Can you tell us a little about the company that you work for and why you started working there?
I’m really happy to be part of Hero Gaming and to represent the successful sites CasinoHeroes.com and Betser.com. I worked for different size companies in the past and after working with smaller size projects for 2,5 years I really wanted to get back on track and join one of the best igaming companies in the industry. After going through my options I decided that Hero Gaming was the only company that I wanted to join and applied for a position here. I had been following Hero Gaming from the distance since their launch in 2014 and I really liked what they were doing. With the increasing competition and amount of websites out there, you really need to be re-inventing new features all the time and have a concept that different you from everyone else. Hero Gaming really does this and I’m happy that they wanted me aboard on their project and to be given the opportunity to work with some of the brightest people in the industry.
HeroGaming operate 3 different websites today. Our flagship brand is CasinoHeroes and it was launched in 2014. One of the things that makes CasinoHeroes unique and stands out from the crowd is the gamification part of the site. While you are playing your favourite casino games, you simultaneously advance in the adventure part of the site. Once you fill your progress bar, you are challenged by one of the bosses in a fight. When you beat the bosses you are rewarded with free spins and different bonuses. You also collect rubies that you later on can exchange to different rewards in the ruby store. So more than just another casino it’s also a fantastic adventure.
Our Japanese online casino called CasiTabi was launched in 2015 and have the same concept as CasinoHeroes but with a Japanese feel and twitch to fit that market.
Betser.com is our Sport/Casino brand that was launched recently in November 2016. While you are playing you collect Balls and Brains depending on your game play. These Balls and Brains can then be exchanged towards free bets, free spins and bonuses in the shop. On top of this we have a Betser league where you compete against other players in 2 week leagues. The winner of the top division is rewarded with €2,000 in free bets or €1,000 in real cash every two weeks.
With the recent wave of consolidation, mergers and acquisitions of affiliate sites, are you surprised at all of the changes happening in the industry?
In the beginning I was taken a bit by surprise as some of the now bigger players in the industry started to make these moves. This industry moves so fast so nowadays everyone is used to this though and it’s just part of the evolution. It’s definitely an interesting industry that we are part of and you see people coming and going. There have been many success stories so far and I’m sure that there are many more to come in the future.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
Our main markets for CasinoHeroes and Betser are Sweden, Finland, Norway and Germany. We plan to go live in the UK with CasinoHeroes in October as well as we recently were granted with the UK license. For CasiTabi its Japan.
We are not really looking at other markets at this stage as we have our hands full with where we are operating at the moment and the coming UK launch. This can for sure change quickly as with everything else in this industry.
How do you find Scandinavian market and competition?
This is the market that I personally know best and the market that has been my main focus since the start of my online gaming career. As everyone know it’s a very good market and the people in the Scandinavian markets are many years ahead of other countries in Europe and the world when it comes to using the internet and the trust in using different payment methods online. People in Scandinavia also like to gamble and have a good average income so that they can afford to do so. One example that I still find amusing is that the Christmas gift in 2006 in Sweden was a poker set! The most popular Christmas gift in the whole country that year was a poker set that includes cards and chips to play with. That’s just amazing and even though the interest of poker has pretty much disappeared today among the average population, other games like online casino have taken up the interest instead.
The competition has of course increased in a rapid pace during the last years. When there is money to be made, more people will be interested. The competition will continue to increase and its more important than ever to offer your visitors something that stands out from the crowd or have some specific skills that gives you an edge.
Are there any exciting plans in the works that you can tell us about?
Yes for sure, a lot! One of the benefits with working for one of the best companies is that they always thrive to keep inventing new things and improving their products.
We have been working on a new updated version of CasinoHeroes that is planned to be launched in mid-September. This is the biggest update of the site since the launch in 2014 and will include new Bosses, a new world to play on, an improved gaming experience especially on the mobile version and more. We are very excited about this launch as we see ourselves as leading when it comes to gamification in the online casino industry and this updated version will prove that once again.
What is the main things that you’d like SiGMA readers to know about your brands?
We believe that we do things really well and different from other operators. Our player value and the life time length of active players also show that we are doing great things. We will continue to invent new features and take the industry forward and we are of course always looking for new partners that are interested in joining our mission and want to promote quality brands to their visitors.
What challenges and opportunities has the move to mobile presented you with?
A few years ago it was difficult to find really good mobile versions of online casinos as so much focus was given to the desktop versions. Today however, especially in the Scandinavian markets the percentage of game play through mobile phones is so high so operators have no choice than to put more focus and effort on their mobile versions if they want to be able to keep up with the competition. Today we see a different player experience on most operator mobile sites and also on mobile versions of affiliate sites.
The opportunity is that it’s easier than ever to play online casino games wherever you are and at any time through the mobile phones. Pretty much everyone has a smart phone today so you don’t need to physically sit down in front of your computer and this creates interesting opportunities.
What do you see as the biggest challenges ahead for your business and the wider affiliate sector in 2017?
It’s understandable that the amount of casino operators increases as there are money to be made but a negative side to this is that there are more people in the industry bombarding customers and future customers with offers and adverts. This can get to a point where people start to get a bit fed up and it becomes a negative spiral that gives the industry a bad feel that will affect us all in the end. Of course there are different strategies as some are in it to make a quick buck and others think more long term but we should all make an extra effort to not spam customers and try to do better adverts an advertising when we try to acquire new customers.
One effect of this is that the cost of acquiring new customers will increase even more and at the same time the average player value will decrease and this will be a challenge for many operators in the future.
Future legislations can also present some new challenges but also some new opportunities.
What two pieces of advice would you give to any new affiliate starting today?
My advice to new affiliates would be that when you reach a certain level and have traffic to work with, make sure to earn CPA and other short term deals from the operators that you might not believe in long term but are willing to pay you a good price for the traffic. Then on the other hand focus on building up revenue share traffic and player pools with the casinos that you believe have a good long term focus and a healthy player value as those rev share pools can continue to bring you good income for years to come.
My other advice is that when you become a huge and successful affiliate, stay nice!
Do you play slots and what would you do with 1 million Euro from jackpot winnings?
I play occasionally and most times to try new games and to keep up with the industry and to understand which games that are good and why they interest our players. I believe that it’s important to have some knowledge about what you are selling even though you might not work directly with games and the developing of games.
If I won 1 million Euro I would make sure to spend most of it on my family and with my friends. Hopefully I would save or invest some of it for a rainy day as well.
Are you ready for SiGMA17?
Yes very ready! It’s really impressive to see what Eman and the rest of you guys have done in these few years regarding the SiGMA events. From quite a small event the first year to the massive conference that we will experience this year.
I always wondered why we were travelling around Europe for the conferences and no one thought of organizing one on this beautiful island since a big part of the operators, affiliates and industry are based here.
I’m happy that someone thought about it and made it real and most importantly, in such a good way as it has turned out to be. Very impressive and I’m looking forward to be part of the event again and in many years to come.
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