This week, we’re at the Prague Gaming and TECH Summit 2023 – one of the more unique events in the events calendar.
It also happens to be quite a (dare I say it) poignant one for me as the 2020 edition was the last event I was fortunate enough to attend before the first Covid lockdown – time certainly flies.
This Summit focuses on in-depth panels and keynotes, focusing on the technicalities of different jurisdictions, legal aspects and a more pointed approach to quizzing tech and gaming personalities.
The first standout session from day one was organiser Zoltan Tundik’s interview of GR8’s CEO Evgen Belousov.
While drawing on extensive experience and technical foundations from Parimatch, GR8 is ultimately a new brand trying to make a new case for customers as a platform provider and services partner.
Evgen made the point that while their priorities are facilitating client priorities and supporting launches in target countries, this takes the form of a more substantial commitment than a shallow ‘onboarding’ period.
Shared business plans, a mutual roadmap and a more extensive approach to integrations is one way to not only maximise growth, but minimise risk.
Evgen made the point that changing software is always painful – and local solutions can have a limit in terms of their growth potential, the markets they can accommodate or even the number of transactions they can handle.
These technical limitations are things we see at ICS across a wide range of industries – and similarly, we also encounter brands who hit a ceiling in the abilities of their agency partners, particularly when it comes to multilingual provision.
The other standout session from Day 1 for me was the Blockchain in CEE Panel which tackled the development of the regional ecosystem from Bitcoin making an impact in 2009 through to Defcon 2018 being held in Prague, which has clearly spurred more local connections that are now maintained through Prague Blockchain Week.
The discussion included commentary on the need for practical and local solutions and the seeming consensus that while some brands have struggled with regulatory challenges and even scandals that have reached the mainstream media, greater legal certainty and logic in the market is ultimately beneficial to a mature ecosystem.
Of course, this session deserves a summary of its own as it featured Chris Mawson our Head of SEO holding forth on all aspects of technical SEO alongside other industry experts from across the industry.
Drawing on agency, affiliate and operator experiences, the panel gave highly specific and actionable insights that were as much about minimising challenges and risks as about fuelling growth.
While affiliates often ask how they can compete with operators who frequently have massively higher budgets and headcounts, Chris made the point that the often restrictive platforms operators are wedded to mean that they frequently cannot make rapid (or effective) technical changes or even add timely content to capitalise on SEO opportunities.
Affiliates in contrast have agility, flexible websites and fewer/no layers of bureaucracy to hold them back from taking confident steps to capitalise on opportunities.
More than this, affiliates often find that they can maintain focus on a couple of core sites. Aurimas Marcinkevikas who leads SEO initiatives at Betsson, commented that with 25 domains across Europe and Latam, maintaining scale can be challenging even for well-resourced operators, and moderator Ivana Flynn concurred – “the bigger you grow, the more complex things can get”.
The rest of the session was another example of the value of in-person events where experts can speak frankly, with topics covered including DDoS, the prevalence of black hat attacks past and present, brand protection strategies and the relative benefits of headless/decoupled CMS platforms for tech and gaming brands.
This level of depth – and conversational access to experts – is another reason why physical events are here to stay.
The International Masters of Gaming Law Masterclass on day 2 (today!) is another example of the special focus of this Summit.
While other technology or industry-specific conferences can naturally lean towards rapid-fire insights about exciting emerging technologies, this Masterclass moderated by Dr. Joerg Hofmann didn’t shy away from the technical, legal, ethical and social aspects of technology and gaming.
Paula Murphy from Mindway AI commented that making special effort to get regulator insights is key – with a “real onus and duty” on suppliers to communicate plainly for consumers, and regulators alike.
At ICS, this is a key consideration for us not as a developer of tech solutions, but as a provider of marketing and localisation services that need to be described responsibly and realistically.
The second – and understandably well-attended - session focused on opportunities and challenges in the developing US iGaming market.
Vikoria Soltesz made a grounded point – that though there is much positivity around newly regulated jurisdictions, tech and gaming companies may still struggle to access banking facilities who make their own assessment of risk.
In these cases, it’s worth considering of market expansions as an ongoing battle rather than going from one binary state to the other.
Bill Pascrell of Princeton Public Affairs Group was as bombastic as ever, identifying some of the massive financial missteps of big-money operators on the road to regulation.
A common theme of this panel was a recognition of the real competitive challenges in the US market, without shying away from the problems and obstruction caused by industry operators themselves.
What is behind these challenges? A lack of industry experience in some corners, a (potential) lack of critical thinking and misguided approaches to lobbying where more collegial and practical approaches could speed up the path to success.
Claire Osborne of Inspire Entertainment noted that a robust approach to customer insight is fundamental to understanding what the market opportunity is in the first place.
Claire identified first-mover advantage where providers have offerings that new audiences can become familiar with, and similarly being first to develop meaningful partnerships – and this is true in the US, Latam and beyond.
The Prague Gaming and Tech Summit has been thoroughly enjoyable for the ICS team so far – with a refreshing focus on the detail of tech innovation, new market entry and the legal/regulatory/technical/social hurdles to overcome in order to make a meaningful impact.
ICS-digital and ICS-translate team members attend many industry events each year of all shapes and sizes and it’s gratifying to have more targeted, detail-driven events like this Summit in the calendar.