GMB - Tell us which services and products Oulala offers and what is the position of the company in the market?
Valery Bollier - Oulala is multi award-winning Daily Fantasy Football management game, launched in August 2013 by OulalaGames, which Benjamin Carlotti and I co-founded. Its highly innovative and advanced fantasy football scoring system involves the use of 70 different statistics, which are then converted into fantasy points in real-time accordingly.
A monetised version of the site, launched at the end of 2015, is now used as a case study to demonstrate the game's efficacy to B2B partners. They can opt for API, Iframe and Turnkey solutions.
We have already signed into significant partnerships with iGaming companies (Marsbet, Safaribet, Bravio Gaming… and many more to be announced soon) in most continents such as Australia, Africa, Asia and Europe, allowing them the possibility to offer our game to their own customers. We are interested in being present in every country where football is a popular sport, as long as our activity there is legal. With the growing number of hot prospects that are now willing to offer DFS to their customers, we are more than confident that 2018 will see a massive extension of DFS and of our network.
What is your vision and what is Oulala's potential in Latin America?
Initially we launched our monetised version in the UK, however our plan has always been to become the leading Daily Fantasy network for football on a global scale. Therefore, the expansion to other continents and countries seems logical.
It is a known fact that the most passionate football fans in the world come from Latin America, so when it comes to fantasy sports, this market has enormous potential.
Also, LATAM markets are incredibly competitive, with very few operators, and with the World Cup arriving, I believe that now is the optimal time for iGaming operators to offer something new and appealing to their customers.
The company still does not have a presence in Brazil. Are you working to enter this market? Do you size it in terms of numbers?
Compared to other neighbouring markets such as Argentina, Mexico or Colombia, Brazil has great potential to become the largest regulated gambling jurisdiction in LATAM, and potentially one of the largest in the word.
When it comes to Daily Fantasy Sports (DFS), a study carried out by Technavio in 2016 found that the growing market of DFS in Brazil could reach $1.5 billion by 2020, with a Compound Annual Growth Rate (CAGR) over 20%. Daily Fantasy Football contributes roughly 60% to the industry of DFS in this country.
Since football is so deeply ingrained in Brazilian culture, so much that it could even be considered the second national religion, I have no doubt that it will transform into the success of Daily Fantasy Football.
We are already talking with various potential partners in Brazil and there is no doubt that, as soon as the legislation changes, we will deploy white label versions of our game.
What are the main advantages and disadvantages that you see in Brazil as a potential market?
Brazil is demographically a young country (it's perfect for us as our customers are between 18 and 35), it's a huge market (we need volume), football is more than a sport (Oulala is specialized on football) and the current offer is not qualitative (because there are illegal operators). So the Brazilian market is full of promise for Oulala. The main disadvantage is of course the current lack of legislation of our activity.
The prohibition of gambling and the lack of regulations on betting conspire against your activity? Are you following the process of legalization?
I would like to emphasize that it is very important for our sector to be properly regulated, thus separated from gambling activities.
Sometimes the market moves at a far quicker pace than the legislators, meaning that the national regulators have to adapt to the new reality coming into place. This is exactly what has happened with DFS - not only in the US, but also in Europe. For instance, before we launched the monetized version of our game in the UK, we had to acquire a pool betting license from the Gambling Commission in order to operate legally. It doesn't really make sense, as our game is a game of skill, not a chance.
However, things are moving to the right direction, especially in the country where we are based. As you may already be aware, Oulala was the first company to receive a controlled skill games licence from the Malta Gaming Authority (MGA). I believe that other regulators will eventually follow suit, including the countries from other continents.
The fact that DFS does not yet have proper regulation in LATAM is a challenge that needs to be resolved as soon as possible.
As "fantasy sports", have you spoken with the CBF or with Brazilian football clubs?
We already had some contacts with a few Brazilian football clubs, as DFS is a great opportunity for them.
Let me explain this further. Up to now, the digital strategies of sports clubs outside of USA haven't been very efficient. They all want to improve it but none of them know how to do it. American sports teams know how to do it, the NBA in particular being very impressive.
So you have everyone wanting to engage digitally better, but no one knowing how to do it. One of the first things they need to do is to get better content, and that is where we come in.
If they use our game then they have something that brings people every week to their site, but it goes further than that. It's all very well sending out emails to your database that say come to our website, come to buy this shirt, come to look at this sponsor's adverts, but consumers expects more than that now, and that is where we came in. We can offer their fan database our game in white label, which means that their customers will regularly come to the clubs site to play, but we can also use the big data we collect to give them great content on insights into player performance.
We offer them the opportunity to stop using transparent adverts to bring people to their site, but instead send them some cool infographics about real football insight, that is generated from our use of big data.
When the club sends this insight out, the fan is more inclined to come to the website and then once they are in they will engage more with products. It is a more organic customer acquisition. I think advertising really is dead.
Additionally, our game gives football fans the opportunity to challenge fellow supporters in head-to-head fantasy battles, with the aim of winning money with their successful teams.
We've had partnerships with Leicester City FC and Monaco AS so we have a fair amount of experience working with football clubs.
Do companies and local media consult Oulala to use its products in the country? Do you find any competition?
As said earlier, we already have contacts with potentials partners but the initial step is to have a clear legal frame in Brazil for DFS. Without this, it will be difficult to develop our industry on solid basis.
It has had a strong international repercussion the warnings to the market about the growth of the videogame industry against igaming ... How do you see this situation?
Last year I predicted that the video gaming industry will colonise our sector and it looks I was right. We have already seen the decisive first step of the video gaming industry in our direction with the launch of a loot box system in Star Wars Battlefront II. More importantly, GTA VI will start offering an online real money poker and casino game.
It's simple: the video gaming industry perfectly understands the expectations of the 18-35 age range market, dominated by millennials, and by introducing elements of luck in their skill games, they begin to offer the best of both worlds. By doing so, they are erasing any competitive advantage that our sector could possibly offer.
The future of this battle seems murky when pitting ourselves, at our current level, against a competitor that holds an enormous customers base, power, budget, and talent.
Do you consider it is dangerous that video games make money with players at such an early age? In fact, there are several countries that have directly classified as games of chance to videogames with "loot boxes"...
Electronic Arts (EA), the publisher of Star Wars Battlefront II, has stated that the "mechanics of Star Wars Battlefront II are not gambling." Regardless, investigations into these loot box reward systems are diligently being carried out by, for example, the Belgian Gaming Commission.
The industry saw much discord and raging pandemonium over the loot boxes issue in 2017, making it the most noteworthy debate of the year within the industry. With billions of dollars hanging at the balance, the issue requires treading carefully, especially since legislators and regulators around the world have begun to say their piece on the matter.
During a recent press conference, Hawaiian state representative Chris Lee described loot boxes as ''predatory gaming,'' and has a legislation in the works that aims to ban minors from purchasing them. In a later Reddit post, he added that these ''loot boxes and micro transactions are clearly designed to prey upon and exploit human psychology in the same way that casino games are designed.'' Over in the Australian state of Victoria, another regulator is also in agreement that the loot box system ''does constitute gambling'' and that the gaming regulatory body is "engaging with interstate and international counterparts" with regards to policy changes.
We are yet to see what will come out of this, but of course there must be adequate protections and safeguards in place to protect against underage and problem gambling.
From Oulala, how do you think you can stop this movement of videogames? Can you reverse this trend?
I think the situation is becoming critical, but I believe that iGaming companies can still overcome this colossal challenge by making massive reinvestments in their current offer to lock in their existing customers, understanding the needs of potential younger customers and adapting their offer in order to attract them. At Oulala, we believe that adopting DFS is not the only move required since reshaping one's entire offer is also necessary, however it is a highly significant step in the process. Oulala would thus be the perfect partner. We understand the challenges operators face and we have customizable solutions that were built specifically for the industry. Oulala is creating a solid long-term bridge between the younger generations and iGaming operators.
The Russian World Cup is coming, what did Oulala prepare to capitalize on this event?
This year is an important year for DFS and World Cup will help because it is actually the first main event that is happening in the football sector whilst fantasy sports are known in Europe and elsewhere.
Oulala will of course add the World Cup matches to its list of football competitions available to its clients. Without disclosing any names yet, some new B2B partnerships will also be deployed for the beginning of the tournament.
During the last Euro 2016 tournament, we successfully tested our game for this type of knockout competition that was later used for the inclusion of the Champions League to our least of leagues. After that we have made some improvements and put the user experience on a higher level.
Finally, I would like to point out that World Cup will offer a lot of fantasy sports action during the time when national championships are usually at a standstill.
Which was the company’ strategy during ICE 2018?
Oulala was represented by our business development director Oliver Niner and myself. We’ve been keen to speak with operators interested in hearing more about the way iGaming companies can capitalise on the World Cup by offering their clients DFS.
Source: Exclusive GMB