- Legal States
Fiona Simmons February 6, 2023 11 min read
A Look at the Team Behind Casinolytics
Meet Sebastian Khalighy and Johan Sandén – the two remarkable gaming industry specialists who founded Casinolytics
The duo’s data science company uses machine learning and AI to power the world’s only tool for measuring the performance of influencers, casino games and game providers on live streaming platforms such as Twitch, YouTube, and kick.com. The two professionals’ goal is to provide Casinolytics’ partners with AI-powered data, insights and knowledge that help them to further explore, research and benchmark the growing live streaming space.
Sandén and Khalighy founded Casinolytics in 2020 and have worked hard to scale the company and enhance its solutions. The two visionaries always seek to improve their company’s AI model, aiming to provide only best-in-class data to their clients. We spoke with Sandén and Khalighy about their vision and expectations.
Q: What inspired you to explore the live-streaming space?
We are both problem solvers at heart and creating something new has always been something that we both have been very passionate about. The first time we met in 2013, we instantly felt a shared passion for developing new and improved ideas.
We have also always been curious about new innovations and tech from a very early age and are blessed to be part of the very start of the PC, Internet, Social media, and now ML & AI. It’s kinda cool in hindsight once you think about it.
As avid gamers, justin.tv drew our attention early in the 2010s, and once it was bought by Amazon in 2014, things started to happen, and people found their way and started watching others play video games. So did we.
Collectively we have been in the industry for almost 30 years now, and we’ve also been very passionate about gambling and slots in particular for the past 10 years. We are firm in our belief that to fully excel in an industry you really need to understand the product.
With that said, in a world where data is king, we started understanding the power of casino streamers around 2018. Johan started trying out streaming slots for fun, and Sebastian did a thorough analysis of the impact that streamers had. At this time there was no data that measured the impact casino streamers had, but we saw the potential of having such data and started brainstorming ideas on how that could be done.
Since there is no categorization of the different slot providers on Twitch and Youtube, it’s impossible to know what slot games are being played. All the data is collected in a category called “Slots”. So for us to be able to solve this, we released our first AI that identifies slots on Twitch “Slots” channel in 2019, a year before we founded the company in 2020. That was where it all began.
To sum it up, we would say that our devotion to problem-solving and our passion for streaming, data and slots made us create Casinolytics in the first place.
Q: How do you believe streaming will benefit the gaming industry as a whole?
We think so, yes. It gives the viewer the possibility to be part of a community where like-minded people can share their passion and also enjoy the entertainment of watching streamers playing slots.
We guess everybody has seen a reaction video sometime in their life. That’s exactly what slot streaming brings to the table – with the power of the RNG – it generates a very unexpected outcome, whether positive or negative, and it’s something that people love to watch. And be able to take part in those moments with other people. And at the same time, streaming demonstrates how a game’s RNG works – if somebody has been playing a slot over several thousands of spins you will get an idea of how that slot actually works.
Live streaming is a part of many industries; whether it is live shopping or playing video games, it’s clearly here to stay in the iGaming industry. Ever since the inception of the first casino streamers in 2015 on Twitch, the live-streaming scene has grown at a rapid speed with over 100% growth in viewers year on year. To put this into perspective, in 2022 we tracked almost 17 billion minutes of watched casino content.
Q: As analysts, you have tried many of the hit titles the iGaming sector has to offer. What makes a game successful?
Absolutely, you have no idea how many games we try in demo play. It’s almost crazy. We should perhaps start making games also, haha! An important note though, it’s very hard to judge a slot in general since it’s based on random outcomes, especially if not played with your own money.
Making a really successful slot is a combination of many different factors that need to be taken into account. It’s not just about great mechanics, a nice theme and excellent sound – it’s much broader. The overall user experience needs to be solid, since we demand more from the digital products and services that we use today than ever before. We want things to be easy to understand on what actions you are about to make. Especially if there is money involved.
Besides this, one of the key things is to understand your target audience and what type of player you are designing the game for. It’s also no secret that the market is oversaturated and the games need to stand out somehow and get the game in front of the players – and one way of doing this is to get your product in the hands of streamers. From what we have seen in our data, there is a strong correlation between the most popular titles among streamers and what you see at the top of operator lobbies.
Q: What kinds of games are the most popular among streaming audiences now?
For streamers, it’s very much about the potential of the game. We need to keep in mind that they are influencers and they are in the entertainment business, and they want to choose slots that are exciting to watch and entertain their audience. That’s basically why you don’t see Starburst on stream since its mechanics are simply not that fun to watch.
Streamers have also played a big part and intensified the trend of bonus buys and increased volatility in games that we have seen over the last couple of years. These two factors are important to point out why we think these are important for players today. First, bonus buys give the players the possibility to control their time better when playing slots. We keep on saying that we humans are busier than ever, and I think this is very much true when looking at the speed that technology is being developed and impacting our behavior. We evaluate and prioritize our time more on how we choose to spend it between work, family, friends, hobbies, and entertainment. Sometimes you don’t want to spend two hundred spins on seeing the bonus – you just want to fast-track directly to the bells and whistles.
Secondly, as mentioned previously, we think the result of higher volatility is just a natural development of our behaviors when playing slots. Many people just don’t have the time to spend hours and hours spinning.
Now you might think that we are going to say that the key to making a successful slot for streamers is to add bonus buy and max out the volatility. One common misconception that we hear is that the higher the volatility, the more interesting it will be for streamers to play. Looking at the top five most-watched slots in 2022 the average max win is below 10,000x. The game certainly needs to have potential – and we usually say that creating a great slot game is not about reinventing the reels; it’s about perfecting the reels. Key components like solid mechanics with potential and a great user experience that helps players to control the slot are key today we think.
Q: Many people were let down by Twitch’s new rules on gambling content. However, many others supported the changes. What are your opinions on that? How do you think the changes will affect casino streaming?
We support the changes. Ultimately, there has been a lot of debate around this question which has had a negative public effect on the industry in general. There will always be two sides to the coin when things are changed – some people will support the changes, and others not. That’s just how things are.
In our data we saw a big decrease in the total reach overnight when the Twitch gambling policy was enforced on October 18, prohibiting four different gambling sites from being promoted on Twitch, whereas Stake being one of them. This resulted in many streamers playing on Stake and the other casinos disappearing from the platform overnight, and also one of the biggest variety streamers like xQc stopped streaming slots. However, the numbers have been growing again in the past months almost to the level before the new rules.
Just by looking at the numbers, it’s impossible not to say that the viewers have a big appetite for casino streaming. Twitch is still the top dog of casino streaming, but we are also seeing new platforms like kick.com which is currently in the beta stage of its development.
Q: Do you think the growing popularity of streaming will change how slot games are developed? And how will this popularity affect Casinolytics?
Absolutely. I would recommend everyone in the industry that haven’t watched casino streamers to at least take a look. It’s the best form of feedback. Feedback is a crucial part of innovation and product design in general; it’s an iterative process and for that feedback is a must. Casino streamers give that out for free.
Usually, if streamers think that something is shit, they will say it. Equally, if they think something is great, they will also tell their audience. To perfect a slot is very much in the details, so those tiny fractions of feedback are essential.
The expertise we’ve built around influencers with our data and binge-watching casino streamers over several thousand hours have resulted in us helping our customers’ besides delivering a unique SaaS analysis tool. And also to support them in their commercial strategy, influencer marketing, brand and relationship building, and product development.
Q: Speaking about Casinolytics, what is your experience with working with companies within the gaming sector? How has your AI-driven approach helped your partners so far?
It’s been great, and I hope they think likewise. We are an independent data science company where our data and insights are based on the ML/AI technology we built.
I think in general our partners appreciate our flexible approach and like what we are doing. Our AI-powered SaaS service has definitely helped our customers to; explore and get an understanding of the live streaming market, measure and analyze the impact of marketing campaigns but also organic growth, feeding BI and product teams with key insights for future RND, and last but not least also measuring product, influencer and brand performance.
The fun part is that many of our partners are in different stages in the lifecycle of the live-streaming market. Some are just scratching the surface and want to explore it, whereas others have been working with influencers for several years. This demands more from us to adapt to their needs. We believe that in business and to build successful relationships over time, you need to adapt and be very flexible to cater to your clients’ needs. Our approach is always to start to listen, and you need to be a good listener because the world is changing, and so are we, both as individuals and as businesses.
Q: What is your long-term vision for the company? Where do you hope to be tomorrow?
We are the only company in the world able to offer actionable AI-powered live-streaming data and insights and our intention is to strengthen that position by delivering new exciting products. As the streaming market, in general, is growing, so will the importance of having access to data.
Today, we are mainly partnering with game providers, but our strategy for tomorrow is to grow into other verticals like casino operators, influencers and also the capital market. We have a jam-packed roadmap planned for 2023 that includes products and services for all these verticals. It will be a very exciting year that we very much look forward to.
Although Fiona doesn't have a long-spanning background within the gambling industry, she is an incredibly skilled journalist who has built a strong interest in the constantly growing iGaming network. The team at GamblingNews.com is glad to have her on our roster to help deliver the best stories as soon as they hit. Aside from writing, she loves to dabble in online casino games such as slots and roulette, both for her own enjoyment and also as research to better improve her understanding of the industry.
Insider February 6, 2023
Insider February 6, 2023