Skywind Group is a software provider which entered the online gambling industry in 2012. A group of industry veterans founded the Belarus-based company, and since their early days, they have continued to grow and expand. They provide exceptional iGaming solutions (top-notch software, white label products and full support) to players from Europe, LATAM and Asia.
Oren Cohen Shwartz has been the managing director of the Skywind Group since 2018. Today we will interview Oren Cohen Shwartz and learn from him all the secrets of Skywind’s success, as well as his opinions and personal preferences related to the gambling industry.
Tell us a bit about yourself. What makes you, you; and why have you chosen to work at Skywind?
I was fortunate to have an interesting career. The first 10 years were in tech roles, I have started as a developer, then managing teams as an R&D manager and as a CTO.
My iGaming path started 12 years ago; I have worked for William Hill, Everymatrix and Superbet before landing at Skywind Group. In these years, I was heading operations, innovation, product and corporate development, online casino operation and, in recent years – Marketing, Partner Management, Sales and Business Development.
Throughout the years, I worked for B2B and B2C companies in different roles, and this combo gives me a 360 view on the iGaming industry.
I started at Skywind two and a half years ago. I had several reasons to make the move. First, I was intrigued by the challenge to work for the first time for a content provider company. Second, to come to do a significant business role as managing director in times where the company just decided to enter regulated markets. And third, because of the people that I used to work with in the past and who I have high respect for.
You have an impressive slots portfolio, can you name the best three slots ever released by Skywind?
Our portfolio is close to 350 games. The current top 3 games are Joker’s Luck, a one-reel, one-line game with a special cashpot feature; Rain Balls – an innovative game with a combo of slot and a pinball/pachinko game; and Combat Masters – a match 3 game with an epic journey of 8 different worlds where the player has 50+ battles against villains while he plays the slot game.
2020 was a difficult year for all of us. Even so, Skywind had multiple releases. Which slot takes the title of the best Skywind 2020 release?
We will finish 2020 with 45 game releases. It is hard to pick one game because it depends on the KPI, best in revenues, reviews or innovation. We had independent reviews that mark Rain Balls as a candidate for the best game of the year.
I am very proud of the Fly Jet game innovation as it is the next generation of casino games. It is not a slot, but a real-money arcade game with a continuous run like Subway Surfer or Temple Run. This type of game fits the generation Z audience as it feels more like a game. The player flies a jet and has missions in several worlds to shoot down enemy jets.
Looking to the future, what is the next big release Skywind is planning?
We are going to release more games from the Super family. So far we have released Super Lion, Super Elephant, and the next will be Super Wolf.
We plan to release two more branded video slots games soon; one is El Principe (famous Spanish TV show) and another local Romanian brand. These branded games are added to a suite of 12 games that we have produced in the last 18 months—labels like The Last Kingdom, La Casa de Papel, Rambo, The Magnificent Seven.
In a market with hundreds of game studios, what would you say is Skywind’s biggest differentiator?
The branded video slots are, of course, unique as we have held the IP for several years, and they are one of a kind. I think what makes us stand out of the crowd is also our unique strategy of game localisation per market and the innovative player engagement tools that act as a complementary entertainment and award system to the games.
We would love to hear more about the slot creation process. Can you let us know what the most exciting part of the entire process of creating a new slot is?
The lion’s share of our games is genuine games. It takes several months to produce a game, and it depends on the project on hand.
In some cases, the production of a game like Dragon Dozer, a real-money arcade game, took over a year because of its complexity. It has not only the regular RNG engine but also a physical Engine.
For a branded game like CSI: Crime Scene Investigation, the team watched the TV series over and over again to get immersed in it, and that level of details is then seen in the game. The results feel like an extension of the show.
Our head of sound works for days on each sound element of the overall game soundtrack, the game designer gives analyses how the reels will stop, the motion, the speed, the anticipation etc.
How can you tell if an online slot is going to be a hit or not?
We cannot anticipate whether a game will be a bestseller. We can estimate the potential. It is a combo of the right gameplay and theme that are relevant to the market the game was aimed at; cool, unique features that will capture the imagination of the players etc.
Switching our attention to casinos, with so many options out there, can you let us know which are your top 3 casino preferences?
It really depends on the market. Romanian casinos should have games with realistic fruits and gamble features because that’s what the players of that market enjoy. UK casinos need more sophisticated games mechanics for their players. For the Swedish casinos, Swedish players really like match 3 games.
Did you use to play slots before entering the iGaming industry?
I was born and raised in Israel, and over there, gambling is taboo. There is not even a single land-based casino, and online gambling is not allowed at all. So until I started working in the industry, I have not played.
It was at Superbet when I was managing the casino that I have started to play slot games. It is funny that back then I thought that I understand slots mechanics and slots players. But the fact is that only when I started working at Skywind, I got into the nitty-gritty of everything related to video slots.
What has been your biggest challenge and your most significant success in the gambling industry?
When I look back, two and a half years ago, at the challenge we had when entering the European regulated markets with our games in a highly saturated environment with a lot of hurdles, it looks insane to see how much we managed to accomplish in such a short time.
We are in 11 regulated markets, have 350+ games, 12 branded video slots, have partnered with the biggest operators in the industry and are enjoying rapid growth.
You have been chosen by Gaming Intelligence as one of the top hot 50 of the industry, how did you feel about it at the time?
Well, I was honoured. The people in this list, throughout the years, are the people who made a big difference in the industry. We came a long way in this industry, but we are still behind other e-commerce firms like Amazon, Netflix, Shopify etc.
I want to believe that the Skywind team and I are making a difference. I can tell you that we are genuinely trying.
If you weren’t in the gambling industry, what other industry would you want to work in?
That’s a good one. 12 years ago, I was entering the iGaming industry with hesitation. I was working for “serious” industries before like video and image processing, web security and green technologies. This, and the fact that, as I have said, in Israel, gambling is a taboo.
These days, and, in fact, for several years already, I don’t see myself working in a different industry. I am still learning and evolving. There are still many things to do and improve the service we all give to the players, so I will stick around for more years to come.