Thomas Wendt, Apparat: you don’t start a company to stand at the back of the queue
Thomas Wendt, Co-founder and Director of Apparat Gaming, elaborates on the opportunity rather than hurdle presented by the German online gaming market, why sometimes less it more when it comes to online slot development and having to be loud to get noticed.
CasinoBeats: What difficulties did you encounter in establishing a slots studio in what it could be argued is already an overcrowded space?
Thomas Wendt: If the figure we found of over 25,000 currently available games from 500 different content providers is correct, then ‘overcrowded space’ is still a harmless understatement. And to claim to be better than the 499 others is a bit arrogant. But on the other hand, you don’t start a new company if you want to stand modestly at the back of the queue.
But being a so-called industry veteran also means that you already have one or two scars and don’t need to make the same mistakes again. Along with our scars, what we have brought with us, in our rucksack, to use the German accent, are contacts. And a lot of product experience in one of the bigger markets in the world, Germany.
And yes, it is poorly regulated. But that’s not only a hurdle, it’s also an opportunity. A hurdle for many competitors since they are not simply able to publish their thousands of games in the German market – once again, one of the biggest ever.
“And yes, it is poorly regulated. But that’s not only a hurdle, it’s also an opportunity”
And opportunity, because it means that the one who knows and understands the market better than the others will prevail here. And here we are now becoming self-confident: That’s us! Certainly not only us, but rather us than 498 others. You see: We remain modest. There is always room next to us.
No, just kidding – but seriously again now: What we had to bring along as a new provider in order to be perceived and taken seriously was a distinct positioning, expressed very clearly in our slogan of the ‘German Accent’, and the credibility that we actually bring along and uphold the associated values such as German quality standards, reliability, but also knowledge of the market.
CB: How important was the investment received at the end of last year? How did this help drive Apparat forward further still?
TW: Of course it was important for us. But not only because of the money, which now enables us to grow faster, but also because of the partner itself. Yolo is quite simply the best partner you can imagine.
When I read the description of Yolo’s dream partner on their website – ‘burning passion, constant evolution and never afraid to step into the unknown’ – I almost paid money to be part of it. Ok, let’s not overdo it with the German humour – Tim [Heath] and Julian [Buhagiar] will read this and want their money back.
But seriously, it was simply a match. And Yolo has built up a network that is unique. The speed with which they feedback on our questions is simply unbelievable. Especially Tim, who always responds immediately, even in the middle of the night. I wonder if the man doesn’t need to sleep.
“Our release schedule provides for one game per month. That’s ambitious for a start-up”
CB: You state that you have a “packed production line” of slot launches, where do you stand on the quantity versus quality debate that is so familiar across the industry?
TW: Our release schedule provides for one game per month. That’s ambitious for a start-up. And keeping it up for the next 12 months was a challenge in view of the size of our team, even beyond the amount of money we had to invest. And to have pulled it off so far is something I’m really proud of for our team.
Of course, there are also less feature-heavy games. But it is a truism that a higher production value does not automatically guarantee more success. If quality were so easy to define, the world would be simpler. It is much more the case that you have to offer the player added value with the games.
And this does not necessarily increase with the number of paylines, features or the amount invested. Sometimes less is more. Reduced to the essentials. That can be true of a supposedly simple fruit game. Especially in the German market, there are taste-preferences where market success does not automatically correlate with higher production values.
I don’t want to give evasive answers here like a politician. We tend to push our feature-heavy games into the period after the weaker summer season, and of course we have not reinvented the genre either. But we are convinced that our approach of mixing tried and tested features in new recipes to create a new taste experience will be successful. The games are simply fun. And they look good anyway – that is not necessarily a question of money.
“But as a newcomer, sometimes you have to be loud to get noticed”
CB: It is also said that slot launches will “take the market by storm,” how is this so? How will they differ from the tens of thousands of games already saturating the market?
TW: I admit that marketing statement was a bit loud. But as a newcomer, sometimes you have to be loud to get noticed. Because, of course we haven’t developed the next ‘Starburst’ yet. Not yet. But what we have managed to do is to win over the most important aggregation partners in our industry, such as Relax, EveryMatrix and Pariplay, to name just the biggest ones. That is definitely part of the market, and an important one at that.
As I said, our games do not reinvent the genre. That would be insane in our current phase of company development. But being typically German, we have a step-by-step plan. At the moment, we are at stage one, gaining visibility in the market with a portfolio of proven winners, permanently verifying our quality standards, and continuously expanding our partner portfolio.
In the process, as we said, we are combining familiar ingredients into new recipes, always with the gaming experience in mind. And who says that the market is saturated? Once again, neither the sheer quantity of games nor their production costs say anything about the market.
What I am convinced of, almost religiously, is that games will not remain as they are now in the long term. And I’m not talking about even higher multipliers, even more animations and even more features. But that’s stage three or four. We still have a lot to learn before we venture into that. And prove a thesis or two.
“…to have achieved this is more proof of quality”
Until then, take a look at our games and compare them with those of our competitors. Especially against the background of our focus on the German market. You can see where they differ.
CB: How important was securing a Malta Gaming Authority licence? What doors did this open up and how do you plan to capitalise on them?
TW: With regard to German regulation only, our MGA licence could be considered dispensable. But on the one hand, we aim beyond the German market with our games, and the deals with have with operator partners demonstrates. On the other hand, the MGA licence was an important seal of quality, especially as a newcomer compared to big partners like Relax or EveryMatrix.
I don’t want to say that the market expects it, but to have achieved this is more proof of quality. And if you look at how many licences were awarded to content providers like us last year, we are definitely proud to have made it. And last but not least, we learned a lot in the process. And isn’t that what life is all about?