Odobo on a roll - but what's next?

Odobo on a roll - but what's next?

Monday, November 24, 2014

With four of the largest gambling companies in the world having signed up to its marketplace in just 13 months, Odobo might seem something of an overnight success.

Bet365 became the company’s very first operator in October of last year, and since then developers and operators have been lining up to agree partnerships with the HTML5 gaming specialist.

However, patience has been a virtue for the Gibraltar-based firm, which was founded more than two years before Bet365 came on board.

Founder Ashley Lang had spent the greater part of his career in the regulated gambling industry, but had also amassed commercial expertise in the development of games for Facebook and Apple’s IOS.

Lang, originally from Vancouver in Canada, but resident in Europe for much of his working life, felt that compared to those two slick behemoths, gaming in the gambling industry was disjointed and insular.

Some order and standardisation of service would be beneficial to developers, operators and the consumer.

Secondly, he believed that the gaming industry was metaphorically putting all its chips on one option. While players were moving from desktop to mobile services in their droves, gaming was still obsessed with Flash and failing to put its investment into the multi-platform HTML5.

“It was a very difficult time for the development of games,” Lang told TotallyGaming.com. “There were maybe only 40 or 50 studios for the entire industry, and low participation meant less of interest for consumers.

“There was very little crossover from the social and casual gaming industry to the gambling market. It was inward-looking.

“Development was also an issue because there was a real lack of expertise in HTML5, and you couldn’t move for Flash specialists. This was at a time that gambling consumers were migrating in their droves from desktop to mobile devices.

“Subsequently there was a very poor user experience because some games were desktop only and would not work on an iPad.”

He added: “I saw a gap in the market, due to my experience of game development and my years in the gambling industry. Having worked with Facebook and iOS developers, I felt there was a proven marketplace model there that was transferable.

“What was missing was a canvas for developers to see that their work could be integrated. They needed a platform that would set standards of quality, authentication, security and currency exchange, and they would then be free to concentrate on creating great games.”

Two years were spent working through the framework of the business, beginning to collaborate with developers and trying to get some products. The phone calls in the Odobo offices were always outgoing ones.

Towards the end of last year, a milestone was reached when Bet365 became the first operator to sign up. Lang has been a non-executive director of Bet365 since 2008, but he was far from certain of success during negotiations.

“When companies did answer the phone to us or met us at conferences they appreciated the elegance of our solution but they suggested it would be difficult to roll it out,” he said.

“We needed developers and to get at least some actual content. Our focus was then on attracting big operators, not small ones. They would have high standards and that would benefit us.

“We couldn’t have been more fortunate than to get Bet365, a company that is so highly thought of, as our first operator.

“I do have a relationship with them, which was a start, but there was no way they were not going to be at least as demanding of Odobo as they would have been of anyone else.

“When they signed it was an endorsement of our product and a real breakthrough.”

Sure enough, partners have followed Bet365’s lead in the subsequent 13 months. Industry giants Betfair joined in May, Unibet in October in August and Coral in October.

On the other side, 28 developers are now active with Odobo, with 48 approved and around 200 having applied. The company now has 35 live games. The phone rarely stops ringing in the Odobo office now.

However, Lang is not taking success for granted and is expecting competition to be fierce in the coming years. In response, Odobo wants to get better at what it already does and look for new opportunities to expand its business model. 

“We have surprised ourselves in finding a place in the market that has not been occupied before,” said Lang. “Our model is not unique, but in our market we have gone further than others in the technology and service we offer.

“I must anticipate competition because that is natural if you are successful. You don’t have Burger King without McDonald’s or Pepsi without Coke.

“Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery and competition is not to be feared. I am always looking forward.

“Anyone that wants to duplicate our model would not concern me because we are already planning new ventures and will have moved on by the time they catch up with us.”

The future is an expansion of Odobo’s list of blue-chip operators, and new offerings such as the Odobo Play iOS app, which was reported on TotallyGaming.com last week.

Lang also sees the benefits of developing different relationships with different clients.

Lang explained: “We have our own ideas about the future, but we are in the middle and listening to our operators and developers to see what more we can do.

“We are involved with our developers and operators as much as they want us to be. For some that will be a full service, but others may want to exclude us from some of their dealings with the other side.

“Some developers are going directly to operators now, and maybe using us as a host with reliable tools for payment or commission rates. We are happy with either role.”

He added: “The challenges we are facing today were anticipated and are not surprises. It has been a very busy year, but that has been satisfying not any kind of problem.

“We are delighted with our operators so far, but other leading operators will also join us in the coming months.”

Three years after starting up Odobo, Lang looks to have backed a thoroughbred when he bet on HTML5’s place in gaming and the possibilities of a mature marketplace for the industry.

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