Q&A: Gamer Wager CEO on turning a passion into a project
Updated: Mar 23
This article, written by Joe Levy, was originally published on EGR Global > Technology on March 2, 2012
The URL to this original article is https://egr.global/technology/insight/qa-gamer-wager-ceo-on-turning-a-passion-into-a-project/
Gamer Wager CEO Mark Goddard talks EGR Technology through the rise and rise of the P2P video game wagering platform with focus firmly set on the US
Mark Goddard, CEO, Gamer Wager
It becomes pertinently clear that Mark Goddard isn’t overly like other gambling industry CEOs. The former sales director with a career in the security sector speaks with a refreshed attitude and tone, still buoyant after five years in the industry.
After playing video games with friends for small wagers, Goddard decided to launch Gamer Wager, a peer-to-peer video game wagering platform based out of Manchester. Goddard tells EGR Technology how moving into igaming was a “massive eye opener” and the fundamental importance of keeping his platform adjacent to his bookmaking peers. With a US joint venture launch, in partnership with SCCG Management, in the offing and a determination to penetrate conversations on both sides of the Atlantic, Goddard delves into responsible gambling, customer behaviour and more.
Tech: … Where did the idea for Gamer Wager come from and what has the past five years looked like? Mark Goddard (MG): My friends and I, we played a lot of Call of Duty, a lot of FIFA a few years ago. We would be playing 1v1 games when we were around each other’s houses. It would make the games a lot more interesting when there was five pound on a game, or everyone would throw in a tenner, and it would go over the course of the night. From that, I thought “this is a lot more fun than it was when there’s nothing to play for” so I started looking for other people to see if I could game against them for money. It wasn’t difficult to find people on PlayStation or Xbox, it was getting paid when you won that was a problem. I thought there’s got to be a lot more liked minded gamers like myself, who want this kind of betting market and that’s where it all came from. Over the last five years, we’ve been looking to gain approval from the UK Gambling Commission and building out a platform that is easy to use and doesn’t take the fun element out of it.
EGR Tech: How have you found entering the gambling industry as a newcomer? MG: Moving into the gambling sector was a massive eye opener for me and I’ve had to learnt a lot of things over the last five years that I didn’t know beforehand, I’ll be the first to hold my hands up to that. I didn’t have anything ingrained in me from the gambling industry before, so I came into it with fresh eyes and a fresh look on what I wanted to do. Sometimes we would say “oh, this is a great idea,” but we need to keep our feet on the ground and work our way through in a good, compliant way.
EGR Tech: Looking at the nuts and bolts, how does the platform work? Do you own the technology or is outsourced? MG: You go onto the app and you would pick which console you’re using and then you link either your PlayStation Network ID or your Xbox Live account. Then, you go through and pick the games that you play. Let’s say you play Call of Duty, FIFA and Streetfighter, you pick those and they would then drop into your game lobby. When you go to the game lobby, those three games are there. Then you would say I want to look for a challenge on Call of Duty, I’ll click into the Call of Duty room and pick my budget. Let’s say I want to play for a pound, which is predominantly what people are playing for at the moment anyway, I would then drop into a room which would have players that are looking to wager for a pound. I could click into your profile and I could see what your win percentages are, what you play the most, how many games you’ve played, how many games you’ve lost and it will give me an educated decision on whether I want to play you or not. If I do decide that I want to play you, then I would send you a challenge and you would receive a notification. At the end of the game, the app will prompt you to take a picture in app of your screen at the end of the match and then we settle the bet. Obviously if there’s a dispute, and you say that you won and I say that I won then the picture is looked at with a human eye, and then we settle the bet manually if need be. We also have a star system on there so that if, for instance I said that I won when I didn’t, my star rating would go down and people would tend not to offer me a bet because I’m not trustworthy. The front-end has been built for purpose for us but we do rely on the 2UP platform to run our B2C operation. Our relationship with 2UP allows us to be flexible when we look to partner with others moving forward and we can either utilize our tech or we would be able to connect directly into our partners’ back-end.
EGR Tech: You’ve got an extensive list of available games at the moment but are there plans to add new titles (LoL, CS:GO, etc) and venture into PC, and how do you go about sanctioning the addition of new titles? MG: The PC market is definitely on our roadmap and it is something we’re currently working on right now. The problem with PC’s is there are ways that you can mod your game which gives you an unfair advantage. We are developing and working on anti-cheat software that would make the games fair. Adding your Valorant and your CS:GO, the big esports titles, are going to take this to the next level and it’s very easy. We could spin out a room tomorrow with either of those games in, but until we have nailed down the fairness, we’re not ready to unroll them yet.
EGR Tech: You only allow players to play with relatively small amounts (£250) – is this from your own responsible gambling view or another reason? MG: Having a £250 cap, in my eyes, is more than enough. You don’t need to be going any further than playing £250 a game. The idea here is, this is a new concept and it’s fun. This is here to add a slight element of fun and a slight element of risk into your game. I understand how addictive gambling can be and I understand how it can affect people further down the line if they’ve gambled a lot of money on things they have no control over. I’m not here to say, “go on and bet” which is why we’re doing a subscription model to start off with. It doesn’t matter if you bet £1 or if you bet £250, it’s irrelevant to us. We want you to go in and have fun. I’m not saying that further down the line we won’t have high-roller rooms but that’s a lot further down the line. We need to learn our market; we need to learn our demographic properly and we need to listen to what people want. If there’s demand for that, then fair enough. We’ll listen but right now I think the idea is to just keep it fun.
EGR Tech: What sort of levels of engagement are you looking at now? MG: We’ve got about 22,000 people in our database and the average bet is between £1 and £5. The large-end bets which are capped at £250 will make up less than 1% of our total bets. Because this is a new market and people need to build trust, they are tiptoeing into it at the moment. I’d be surprised if there wasn’t 50 people in every room at any time that you’d be able to drop into and have a bet against.
EGR Tech: When you think of your target demographic, is it bettors who like to play video games? Or is it gamers who you think you can entice to bet on their own performance? MG: Our target demographic is primarily gamers, from the casual gamer up to the person who aspires to becoming a professional and could benefit from that confidence boost that comes from winning a challenge where there’s money on the line and skin in the game. That being said, I’m also looking at the middle ground where bettors and gamers overlap – this is ultimately aimed at both. Obviously, people who wagering their own money on a sports event or other skill-based game will be used to the concept of backing themselves. And the there are the gamers who play the games every day, so are already used to them inside out, so perhaps this adds some additional fun and entertainment to that world which could be their first introduction to betting if they aren’t a fan of traditional sports, which historically has been the motivation to gamble for most people.
EGR Tech: What was the thinking behind the US launch? And why did you choose to partner with SCCG specifically? MG: The US igaming and casino market is huge. SCCG is kind of the preeminent igaming, esports betting consultancy in the United States. They are definitely considered leaders in the intersection of esports and gambling in the US. We’ve been friends with Stephen Crystal, who’s the CEO, for a number of years. When we decided that our roadmap was to take our tech stateside, they were the obvious choice for us. It was built out of a friendship and a love for esports and tech.
EGR Tech: What will the US joint venture look like and how are your US plans faring so far? MG: The joint venture will probably be called Gamer Wager USA. SCCG have a lot of really good contacts and good clients already and we are looking to leverage their experience in the US market. We’re going to be looking at offering a white label to the US to start off with. We will be looking to integrate into some well-established businesses. It will be a new concept in the US, same as it will be a new concept in the UK. There are already some discussions going on with will-established sportsbooks in the states.
EGR Tech: US customers are coming around to the idea of sports betting since the PASPA repeal in 2018 so do you think this product might be too innovative or complicate for that demographic? MG: I think it’s quite the opposite. I think because the US market is young compared to the UK that means they haven’t learned any bad habits or kind of got stuck in their ways. I think, if anything we’re trying to bring something fresh and exciting to both the US and the UK. We’re not aiming ourselves at the flat cap roll ups kind of customer. We’re aiming ourselves at the current generation that have grown up playing Super Nintendo and Sega Mega Drive, or future generations that are getting on much more advanced consoles now. If you look at when accumulators were first bought into the UK market, they took a bit of time to catch on because it was still a new kind of concept rolling many different bets into one. I think there will be some holding hands and taking people through the journey or placing a bet, etc. But I think it’ll be the same for both sides of the pond.
EGR Tech: Besides the US, are there any other market penetrations that Gamer Wager is eyeing up and how far along are those discussions? MG: We’re looking at Australia and Asia where we are currently in conversations but right now the roadmap is the UK and the US.
EGR Tech: What does the next 12-24 months look like for Gamer Wager? MG: In my eyes the future looks bright with our roadmap as a white-label offering for our partners to integrate our platform into them. We will be looking at the whole white label side of things, which we’re ready to go with now. We’re also going to be developing our current platform, which is native to iOS and Play Store into a web application. We’ll be adding live daily tournaments with some really cool features for content creators like streamers to use, which will both build their brand and also help our brand. We’ve also got some really cool markets which are probably too early to talk about now as they’re in the early stages of development, but they’re going to blow people away. We’re focusing on keeping things new, looking to the future and keeping fair and compliant.