The ICE Pick: Gamevy

In February it was announced that online games developer, Gamevy, had taken the largest share of the public vote to win the inaugural “Pitch ICE” competition. The employee-owned company was judged to be the start-up with the most potential after it received 32% of the 741 votes cast. As winners, Gamevy gained entry to the GamCrowd Incubator service – a program designed to help start-ups secure investment, fill skills and expertise gaps, and provide valuable introductions to operators in the industry for testing and distribution. Gamevy was represented at ICE Totally Gaming 2015 by co-founders Paul Dolman-Darrall and Helen Walton [the third founder is Dan Rough], who pitched the company’s Bornlucky Gameshows mobile and tablet app, which allows players to be the star of their very own gameshow.  “The number and strength of Pitch ICE entries shows just what an achievement it is to win the competition,” said Gamevy’s Dolman-Darrall. “We received fantastic exposure just from taking part – being announced winner will take this to another level and it endorses the faith we have in the product.” The three founders originally met in 2011 while creating an IT education product (which is now the BCS Agile practitioner qualification, used by leading companies around the world). Having found that they worked well together, they decided they wanted to set up a company. It took another six months of research and discussion before they felt sure that they’d spotted a possible gap in the market. The company really began in September 2013 when the three founders were joined by their first developer. Since then they’ve grown into a company of eight full-time and two part-time staff. They’ve launched a game on facebook, created BornLucky Gameshows and received their UK Gambling license. Casino International caught up with the team post-ICE to find out more about the company and its products… Casino International Online [CIO]: Who are the key team members of Gamevy and can you tell us something about their backgrounds? Gamevy: All Gamevy’s team members are key! We have three brilliant developers who each specialise in a different aspect of the work: backend, front-end and mobile, and prototyping. Our designers work with a 3D animator and artist to produce all of our games. We even employ a composer who creates the unique soundscapes of our games. The leadership team have complementary skills. Helen’s background is in marketing having worked for Unilever and Boots as well as running her own creative agency working with brands including Channel 4, the Daily Mail and the National Trust. Paul has worked with start-ups as well as launching brands such as Ocado and Banana Republic. He is an award-winning private investor and has worked as a consultant with many leading companies. Dan is our technical and development guru, having headed up development teams in the BBC and built leading software capability for 7digital. With a proven track record of working together, we’re looking forward to growing Gamevy. CIO: Tell us a bit about your approach to games. Gamevy: People love TV gameshows – they remain one of the most popular formats on TV with over 10 million fans in the UK alone. Yet the only versions that can be played on phones or tablets are either ones without prizes or a few that have no skill. Our games combine luck and skill with huge cash jackpots and with all the entertainment quality of TV. We believe that real fun comes from a combination of skill and luck – and our games allow players to find the ideal balance for them. There’s always a shot at the jackpot, and our players have fun even if they don’t win. CIO: How will the gameshows products be different to the online games available right now? Gamevy: No gambling games currently require a skill element which affects the game. Powered solely by RNGs, the result is predetermined in advance. In our games however, the ability to answer questions or solve puzzles has a huge impact on a player’s ability to win. The closest comparison is the pub quiz machines known as ‘skill with prizes’ which offer low prizes between £20-50. Although they’re fun, they lack the real excitement of life-changing jackpots. CIO: Can you talk at all about some of the different types of games you’ll be releasing? Gamevy: We’re launching with two games – The Heist and Gears of Fortune. The Heist asks players to take 10 steps – without setting off alarms – to reach the prize in the vault. Every time you step on a question, you must answer correctly or set off an alarm! Gears of Fortune is about spinning the gears and collect matching sets of symbols. Question symbols unlock the high jackpot gears, but players must beware the hazards – five will end the game. We also plan to launch Buzzword very soon. The faster you find the buzzword the more lucky numbers are picked – and the bigger the prize will be. We have dozens of other games in prototype and testing – with plenty of classic gameshow skills ready to launch! CIO: You’ve talked about licensing popular TV show brands old and new; how tough/expensive is working with existing brands versus creating your own formats? Gamevy: That’s not a question we know the answer to yet. There are lots of TV gameshow brands that we love and we’d love to work with. But we also want to develop our own IP and formats. In all honesty, at some point our plan will probably involve a mix of two. CIO: I know you also aspire to bring vast crowds together in one massive gameshow – what are the difficulties faced making something like that happen? There are huge technical challenges. There are also huge marketing challenges related to getting a large number of people together at the same time. We’re not underestimating the problems. On the other hand we think the evidence suggests people do want play these games – just as the success of XBox’s 1 v 100 showed. CIO: When you introduce value prizes to online ‘quiz-based’ gaming how do you protect against groups of cheats and serial Googlers? Gamevy: At the moment our games are single player – one person playing on just their own skill. We are already planning and developing sophisticated systems for when we do move to multi-player and we also have plans for ungooglable skill tests! We take players’ security seriously. Of course we also have to protect ourselves against cheating. There’s a healthy dose of luck in our games that means even a perfect player won’t win every time, but we also protect ourselves from professional cheaters. CIO: How do you as a business make your money with this model? Gamevy: We act as the house – that means there’s a small house edge on our games. Players can read the probabilities of winning if they answer all questions right in our terms and conditions. CIO: Can you tell us a bit about the experience at ICE? Gamevy: ICE is an exciting, busy and slightly crazy experience! We enjoyed the opportunity to pitch, but mostly we found it was a great way to set up lots of conversations all in one place with possible mentors and partners. We worked really hard to generate a buzz and get our message across – we were certainly exhausted after three days! CIO: What has been the immediate ‘fallout’ of winning the ICE pitch competition? Gamevy: It’s been good to see some coverage of Gamevy and it has helped kickstart a number of conversations. We have several options and some interesting decisions to make in the next few weeks and months. CIO: What will the rest of 2015 look like for Gamevy? Gamevy: We need to launch! We know there will be lessons to learn from our customers. There are tweaks we want to make, lots of improvements and extra mini games to add in. Then of course we also want to develop and launch more of our prototypes. There may be partnership deals as well – who knows. We’re launching with a £10,000 jackpot. If we could do well enough to raise that to £1million – and pay it out – that would be really exciting! CIO: Tell us about Gamevy’s ‘unique and interesting culture’. Gamevy: Gamevy is employee-owned. If we succeed everybody wins, not just the founders. We believe that companies succeed better when everyone acts as an owner and partner, not an employee. Because we only ask talented, self-motivated people to join us as partners, we also have no bosses, lots of freedom and total transparency. As part of our unique way of managing ourselves, we also run an annual conference called Spark the Change – helping other businesses see the benefits of radical management.