Published with the permission of EGR.
Simon Hammon of Relax Gaming reflects on the company’s growth and the reasons behind its awards win.
EGR: What aspects of Relax’s proposition do you think earned the title of casino software developer of the year?
Simon Hammon: Based on our commercial growth and feedback, we’d probably say that it’s the ease and simplicity of the Relax proposition, the speed with which we can deliver both volume and quality of content along with being realistic with our pricing, which has informed our success. Technological innovation has always been the foundation of the business and we’re sure that was recognised by the judges.
We pride ourselves on never settling for second-best or matching what already exists and have powerful gaming software that allows us to be flexible, reliable, innovative, and fast. But we hope that the judges also appreciated that Relax isn’t afraid to do things differently. We were founded with a mission to challenge the status quo and address inefficiencies in the value chain so that the industry could benefit together. As an aggregator, we service the industry end-to-end. Technical excellence is just one way in which we achieve this, alongside our ability to deliver at speed without compromising on quality. By focusing on long-term and successful partnerships, along with a strong commitment to making these collaborations easy for both operators and studios, we’ve enjoyed a strong pipeline of requests for our services that just continues to expand, and rapidly.
The past 12 months have been particularly important for Relax. Growth throughout the company has been pronounced, from the network of operators and studios we work with to the volume of games available through our platform, we’ve put the pedal to the metal on expansion goals – with fruitful commercial gains. But this wouldn’t have been possible without our robust technical foundations. We’re 10 years old, with no technical debt, because we were built to be agile and scalable. We remain among the fastest in game engine delivery, which is evident in the rate by which our third party, Silver Bullet and Powered By Game Server, content is integrated. This unrivalled delivery speed has been key to us earning exclusivity periods on market-leading partner games, as well as providing a catalyst for the success of our own proprietary content. Combined with our dedication to offering tailored partnerships and products to all businesses we work with, and our unique ability to execute projects on time to the highest standards, we may not be the biggest name but what we do, we do exceptionally well.
EGR: The company experienced an impressive year of expansion in the face of difficult regulatory climates and increased competition. How do you navigate the shifting challenges?
SH: Relax is in a fortunate position to have the agility of a start-up company, the knowledge of an established industry heavyweight and a cohort of talented people at every level who make it all tick. Our regulatory and compliance team – headed by our chief regulatory officer (CRO) Alexia Smilovic – have been critical to our expansion. Their practical approach to evolving regulations has allowed us to tackle challenges such as new regulations in Sweden and the suggestion of more restrictions in the UK, with a head start and added value by passing clear direction to our studio partners. Competition across verticals is intense, which is where our commitment to differentiation really shines through. Take aggregation as an example. The last year has seen a host of newcomers, including big brand suppliers, enter the market looking to quickly gain a slice of the pie by leveraging existing integrations and bolting on platforms to support third-party content. But, as demonstrated by those who have quickly withdrawn, there’s a lot more to aggregation than that. Relax has excelled in the face of this increased competition because we have the expertise and technological capacity required to maintain high service levels and operational reliability. We also go the extra mile for the studios we service to ensure they’re given room to create innovative, progressive content. Relax doesn’t view aggregation merely as an additional revenue stream; we’re in it to genuinely deliver end-to-end value, and that means supporting our like-minded partners throughout the supply chain, from the small independent studios to the larger suppliers keen to experiment on a new concept, and the operators that bring it all together.
EGR: The judges commented that Relax’s “execution had been close to faultless”. How has Relax maintained this exceptional service level during a time of strong growth?
SH: Technical excellence and business simplicity have always been central to our ethos. We truly believe that by providing hassle-free commercial propositions and efficient delivery, end-to-end quality will result. Not only does our approach ease the content delivery process for all parties, but it also provides a hotbed for collaborative partnerships that stand the test of time and thrive together. Relax is known for being reliable and flexible, which has helped to build a strong and far-reaching network ranging from top-tier operators and challenger casinos to smaller studios adding real value to the product offering. The market probably isn’t far off saturation today, with the volume of deals being brokered daily almost at a peak. If you don’t make an effort to nurture these partnerships, they will never reach full potential. That’s why we’re committed to open and transparent communication with our partners, and why we’ve never failed to deliver on a promise.
EGR: Relax was also described as a “company that competitors fear in a very tough aggregation/reseller market” – what is it that makes Relax stand out?
SH: Relax entered aggregation with one key ambition: to change the face of content delivery. Our commercial propositions for studios have done exactly that. In providing unparalleled access and distribution to our wide network of operators, we’ve enabled partners in our Silver Bullet and Powered By programmes with scope to deliver content that differentiates. For our hand-picked Silver Bullet studios, we also provide support on necessary expenditure such as compliance, a comprehensive commercial team and technical assistance that is not available anywhere else in the market. Why? Because we believe that by giving smaller, independent studios the time to shine, we can help bring new innovations to market that drive the industry forward. The added benefit for Relax is the access to localised content. By working with studios all over the world, we can attract their local audiences through themes, mechanics and gameplay that have been crafted to meet specific market demands. In turn, this means that our operators are provided with diversified content through a quick and simple integration that would otherwise only be available through a multitude of time-consuming and costly direct partnerships. We’re constantly looking at the future and working with our partners to deliver what’s important to them. We offer the industry staples too, but it is through our market-specific content, exciting proprietary slot offering, speed of delivery for big brand content and support of rising star studios that we set ourselves apart.
EGR: A key criterion for the category was innovation. Where does innovation fit into Relax’s approach and what more can we expect?
SH: Innovation is the epitome of Relax but it’s so ingrained in what we do that we rarely refer to it in this way internally. It’s more that we have a mindset to critique every project and ask whether there’s a better way, format or approach that hasn’t been considered, and this is fundamental to our ethos. It’s what we aim for with every product release, commercial proposition, or technical upgrade.
While many claim to be innovative, it’s not always obvious, so we’re proud that it underpins our business’ progress. Alongside our aggregation model, our in-house slot portfolio is a solid example of how our trademark approach to product development has propelled our company forward. Games such as Temple Tumble, Money Train and Snake Arena – each offering mechanics never before seen on the market – have all achieved long-term success as a result of their originality. We rarely do a sequel but, in Money Train 2, we saw so much potential to push harder to deliver the perfect slot, it’s indicative of the mindset. Money Train is an ongoing success, but we’ve still remade it. The resulting reviews have referred to it as “a perfect sequel”, “what a sequel should be” and having “near-perfect math model and exquisite visuals”. That’s why we do what we do; it’s driven by the passion to excel and not to accept good as being enough.
The unique Sit&Go Jackpot format, HexaPro, developed by our poker team, also demonstrates our success in developing innovations that went on to become the new blueprint for success among our competitors. The formula has raised the bar in the industry in terms of graphics and player anticipation, while the innovative mathematics in the RNG around the game have been the source of inspiration for many others in the field. We’ve also been the first company to find a solution for a web-based poker client, removing the need to incorporate into a native app and allowing cross-browser play on all devices. The impact for players and revenue has been huge.
Last, but by no means least, we’re exceptionally proud to have just launched HexaBingo with longstanding partner, Kindred. It’s an absolute first-of-its-kind and a true innovation in bingo. This version demonstrates its originality from the very first click, when players engage in a pre-game lottery to determine the prize pool they will be playing for. Ranging from x2 to a massive 1,000x the buy-in, this exhilarating aspect of the game injects thrills and anticipation at the get-go, starkly contrasting traditional bingo games that are often criticised for being slow-starters. Possibly the biggest change to the face of the game is that rounds only require three players, with the progress of opponents being visible to all players. The cut in waiting times is key, for the players and the operators, streamlining the efficiency of the game and increasing play time and revenue.
This new format ramps up the anticipation and reinvigorates the vertical as a whole, appealing to a new demographic and player-type who are attracted to fast-paced gameplay. These projects run simultaneously with what is still a comparatively small but exceptionally talented team of 200 people. We’re rolling out aggregation and services at the highest level, leading revolutionary multi-channel proprietary content across three verticals and still finding time to overcome industry-wide technological barriers. We couldn’t do that without the team and motivation we have. At a time when the industry is flooded with so much replicated content, we’re proud to be flying the flag for originality. Relax is proof that daring to be different really can pay off.