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  • RAW iGaming ramps up acquisition streak with FunFair arcade games purchase

Game development studio RAW iGaming has purchased FunFair Games’ multiplayer arcade game portfolio as it gears up to launch a new arcade product.

Under the deal, FunFair’s multiplier games will be added to RAW’s arcade game offering.

This includes titles such as The Wheel of Steal, Astroboomers to the Moon and Hugo Up & Away.

FunFair Games was shut down in March after parent company FunFair Technologies decided to stop funding the venture due to challenging market conditions.

The purchase of FunFair’s arcade catalogue is one of several content acquisitions made by RAW in recent months.

In April, the start-up purchased the full arcade games portfolio of Green Jade Games after the game developer founded by industry veteran Jesper Kärrbrink shut down.

Furthermore, in November of the previous year, RAW obtained the entire asset portfolio of Spigo from Lady Luck Games.

RAW iGaming CEO Tom Wood said that FunFair’s multiplayer games are among the best in the industry and that adding them to RAW’s pioneering arcade offering was a “no-brainer”.

“With the purchase of Spigo’s skill-games platform, Green Jade’s assets and now FunFair’s crash games, we have compiled a portfolio of multiplayer skill and arcade games consisting of more than 30 titles that offer unrivalled choice and quality to players.

“That these games are delivered via a new, innovative arcade solution means we have something that the market has never seen before in the multiplayer arcade space.

“We can’t wait to flick the switch and launch our arcade offering to the market, which we will be doing this year,” he added.

Next-gen offering

Lloyd Purser, COO at FunFair Technologies, added: “We had conversations with several studios about our popular crash games, but as soon as we connected with Tom and the team at RAW, we knew we’d found the right one.  

“RAW, like FunFair, is focused on innovation and we’re happy that our multiplier games will be distributed globally as part of a market-leading portfolio. We wish RAW the very best of luck in creating the next-generation arcade offering.”

RAW said in statement that it “sees tremendous opportunities” to bring new, exciting content to the arcade game space and was looking to position itself as the leading provider of such content to operators in global markets.

RAW iGaming was founded in March 2021 by Wood. He previously served as vice president, chief product officer and chief creative officer for Scientific Games and group chief product officer at BetKing Nigeria, among other roles.

Green Jade Group has ceased operations after the game developer led by industry veteran Jesper Kärrbrink was unable to achieve the necessary level of profitability.

Benedict McDonagh, co-founder of the company, made the announcement in a LinkedIn post on 8 April.

He said the company never found its hit and did not “luck out” with a perfect recipe of timing, math, features, and front-end.

The company, founded as Green Jade Games in 2017 by former Mr Green CEO Jesper Kärrbrink and McDonagh, merged with Las Vegas-headquartered iGaming supplier GameCo in October 2022.

McDonagh shared a touching account of the inception of Green Jade Group, sparked by Kärrbrink’s desire to “change the face of gambling content”.

“New game ideas came from everywhere and we killed more concepts than we incubated,” McDonagh recounted.

“With no one to copy, it was left to us to learn what could work, what absolutely doesn’t work, and what gives us hope for the future, and being on the journey through this adventure I can tell you was an epic experience,” he said.

Lack of top earners

The company grew to include over 20 nationalities from five continents and became known for its real-money arcade games.

However, McDonagh revealed that the company “didn’t iterate to a base of good earners quickly enough”.

While he expressed his disappointment with the closure of the company, he also celebrated the achievements of Green Jade Group.

“We built a world-class platform, with features no one else has replicated, integrations with amazing aggregation partners, gained licences in the UK, Greece, and Malta, and boasted 100% uptime I think, practically forever,” McDonagh said in the post.

Benedict McDonagh: “The stresses of the job, which more than once knocked me off my feet, were never people related, in fact, the reason I was able to stay so positive and hopeful that we would ‘turn it around’ and make the money needed to continue and win was because of those with whom I worked elbow to elbow.”

McDonagh also acknowledged the talented individuals who joined Green Jade both home and abroad.

“People make the culture, and there wasn’t a day in five years where I didn’t look forward to going into the office,” he said.

“The stresses of the job, which more than once knocked me off my feet, were never people related, in fact, the reason I was able to stay so positive and hopeful that we would ‘turn it around’ and make the money needed to continue and win was because of those with whom I worked elbow to elbow,” he added.

He concluded his post by pledging to continue to champion those who want to do things differently and to applaud everyone who succeeds, now that he knows just how difficult it is to succeed.

Increasingly competitive

McDonagh’s post received numerous comments, including one from Tim Heath, founder of Yolo Group and an investor in Green Jade Games.

Yolo Investments first purchased equity in Green Jade Games in 2019 and increased its position in 2021.

Heath said: “Building a successful and profitable game supplier company is incredibly difficult these days, and I can say wholeheartedly you guys gave 110% every day.

“You guys tried to do something different and were not scared of being different, hence you can hold your head very high,” he added.

The game development market has become increasingly competitive in recent years, with several new studio launches.

However, at the same time, studios are struggling with the growing need for game certifications in different markets, which has become an essential but expensive part of their business.

Internet Vikings CEO Rickard Vikström is known among his staff for scheduling early morning meetings. This time though, iGaming NEXT has requested an early morning slot as Sonja Lindenberg arrives for edition two of Breakfast with NEXT.

Rickard Vikström has famous friends. Netflix recently launched a series that zooms in on them. ‘The Playlist’ is a Swedish production that covers the emergence of music streaming provider Spotify and, inevitably, the Swedish hacker culture of the early 2000s, of which Vikström was a part of.

Vikström, who together with Victor Jerlin co-founded hosting provider Internet Vikings, spent most of his teenage years on the Swedish instant messaging channels for IT security.

This was where he met the founders of file sharing and download site ‘The Pirate Bay’ – once described as the internet’s most popular piracy hub, and one of the most widely used BitTorrent trackers for music, movies and software. The site is widely regarded as a predecessor to Spotify.

‘The Playlist’ is based on input from various insiders, although the site’s co-founders were not involved. Vikström just watched the series with his wife and says he noticed some inaccuracies. “A couple of times I thought: This is not how it was done.”

Looking back at that time, he is still reluctant to call himself a hacker, and instead says he knows an awful lot about “IT security”.

A real geek

Vikström’s fascination with computers started in the early 1990s, when he was just 10-years-old. In the years that followed, IT became his “only hobby”, and he made friends with people who shared his passion. “We were real geeks,” he says today.

But Vikström was not just technical, he was also very entrepreneurial. Together with those friends, he created a website that allowed people to book a trip for their teddy bear to visit Stockholm. “We only had one customer, but it was good fun.”

The friends’ next business idea was a bit more useful. “We created a TV information system for schools where pupils could see what’s for lunch or if a teacher is sick. We sold it to different schools around Stockholm. It was a computer connected to a TV set that broadcasted around the school,” he says, and pauses. “It didn’t work that well either,” he adds.

Growing up

When he was 19, he figured he “needed a real job” and a friend recommended him to hosting company Azalea webdesign that later became Crystone.

“I remember that shortly after I joined the company, there was a problem with one of the sites, and the technicians couldn’t fix it. I just called the CEO and told him: ‘Don’t worry. I can fix it.’

“He probably thought: who is this kid? I really was a strange guy,” he jokes, but emphasises that he did indeed fix the problem.

Another time, the firm planned to consolidate six or seven data centres into two. “I was 21, and it was quite a big project that involved moving around 1,000 servers from datacentres in Sweden and Norway to a new location in Sweden.

“I still can’t believe that they trusted me with that. I think I just said I can do it and did it. There were some minor flaws, but back then it was probably the most cost-efficient data centre. We were good at handling the costs.”

Getting serious

Today, Vikström says he’s not very technical anymore: “I think I’ve lost it.”

In July 2022, he took over as CEO and nowadays oversees the commercial side of the business, managing the company towards its primary objectives.

Meanwhile, the product is in the hands of a global team of IT experts under the leadership of business partner Jerlin and COO Kristoffer Ottosson.

The idea to set up Internet Vikings came about in 2007 when Vikström made the decision to leave Crystone.

Jerlin had moved to Malta a few years before to work for Scandi sports betting giant Expekt. At that time, the iGaming industry was experiencing fast growth, and the two recognised the demand for iGaming-specific hosting services. 

We had our first contract in August 2007. In March 2008, I quit my day job and from May onwards, we were fully focused on building Internet Vikings,” he recalls.

“However, during the first years, we were mainly trying to figure out what worked best,” he says, jokingly.

Internet Vikings was not Vikström’s only venture. He is a textbook example of a serial entrepreneur, and together with Jerlin, he established a number of businesses throughout the past 15 years.

In 2009, the duo, along with other entrepreneurs, founded IT-security company Stay Secure, which in 2014 was sold to Nasdaq-listed J2 Global, now Ziff Davis Inc.

Once that business was sold, the focus switched to growing Internet Vikings, Vikström recalls.

At the end of 2019, Internet Vikings appointed Jesper Kärrbrink, former CEO of Mr Green, as chairman of the board. Kärrbrink provided the right impetus to scale the business further.

In autumn 2020, the firm decided to enter the US market, which turned out to be an exciting but expensive move.

“It was first time that we took in external funding. We bootstrapped everything for the first 15 years.

“However, we have increased our annual recurring revenue by over 100% since the beginning of our US journey, and we believe that we can keep this pace despite the more challenging financial climate,” he says.

Today, the company has 15 employees in Malta, 15 in Sweden, and another 15 working from remote locations in Ukraine, Poland and the US.

No exit needed

“We often get asked if we want to sell Internet Vikings or if we have some other exit strategy. But why would we?” says Vikström.

“We have come a long way since we started. Creating a brand and a product that are recognised and trusted internationally. Currently, we are 100% focused on building a tier-1 iGaming industry specific hosting company because that is what we love doing.”

Vikström continuously strives to evolve as a CEO in order to become a better leader for his co-workers . “I don’t think I am the best I can be just yet, but I am really determined to become one,” he remarks, humbly.

He admits that while he enjoys the new responsibility, he does also miss the technical work every single day.

It certainly helps though that “building companies” is one of his favourite pastimes and serves as the perfect distraction.

“Some people are good at playing football, others excel in tennis. I am good at building high-tech B2B companies, and to me it doesn’t feel like work since it’s something I enjoy doing,” he adds.

Nonetheless, there are still challenges, notably the current economic climate, the rising cost of energy, and inflation. “Servers use electricity, and those electricity costs have increased by a minimum of 25% in the last six months,” Vikström reveals.

With further, as-of-yet unseen challenges on the horizon, Vikström says he is fully focused on building a sustainable business. “This, of course, is always easier when you have a great management team, and I have 100% trust in our management team at Internet Vikings.”

A vikings way

History buffs consider vikings to be fierce seafaring traders that conquered large parts of Europe, as well as the first European travellers to ever set foot on American soil.

According to some experts, it was their quest for technological innovation, along with the development of an operational model in line with the market realities of medieval Europe, that helped them to become the most successful traders of their time.

Fast forward to 2022, and just like their predecessors, Internet Vikings continues to pursue new frontiers while hoping to turn challenges into opportunities.

Las Vegas-headquartered iGaming supplier GameCo and Maltabased game studio Green Jade Games have merged and are now operating under the name Green Jade Group.

The combined entity has the ambition to “dominate the differentiated games category,” which includes slots, table games, crash games and arcade games, and aims to offer “the most comprehensive portfolio of content focused on higher LTV and new players”.

The group also hopes that the collaboration will enable it to scale rapidly in order “to meet the growing demand for its content from the global iGaming market – particularly in North America and Europe”.

According to its website, GameCo’s “games and arcade lobby drive growth and deliver and maintain differentiated and younger players to casinos. For players, GameCo’s unique games are an extension of the social and video games where agency and decision-making are a key part of the fun.”

Green Jade Games chairman Jesper Kärrbrink will lead the combined entity as CEO, while GameCo chair Robert Montgomery will act as the firm’s chairman. Green Jade Games’ co-founder and CEO Benedict McDonagh will be taking on the role of COO and lead the company’s European business forward.

Commenting on the merger, Kärrbrink said: “We have followed GameCo for quite some time and we are big fans of what the company has achieved to date and I’m confident that together we are going to create unstoppable momentum with some very exciting times ahead.”

Green Jade Group combines the expertise of five internal game production teams and has its own proprietary RGS, as well as five aggregator integrations enabling access to over 600 casinos.

Green Jade Group CEO Jesper Kärrbrink: “We have followed GameCo for quite some time and we are big fans of what the company has achieved to date and I’m confident that together we are going to create unstoppable momentum with some very exciting times ahead.”

Industry veteran Kärrbrink has more than 25 years of experience in the media, gaming and e-commerce sector.

He first entered the gambling industry in 2004 when he became the CEO of Svenska Spel. Between April 2016 and April 2019, Kärrbrink was CEO of Mr Green.

Montgomery is an investor and entrepreneur focused on the digital media, entertainment, gaming and technology industries.

Prior to the merger, Montgomery served as chairman of GameCo while also being CEO of First Maximilian Associates Inc., his own family investment and advisory firm.

“Green Jade and GameCo are together a great strategic fit. Both companies have respectively trail-blazed a new way of looking at casino games and have established a strong reputation for producing really amazing content,” Montgomery said.

“I am proud of everything we have achieved so far at GameCo, and I am confident this merger will propel the new group to the next level,” he added.

COO McDonagh, meanwhile, started his iGaming career at now Flutter-owned Betfair, and held various positions at Pokerstars and Mr Green before founding Green Jade Games in 2018.