In among the startups that took the stage at the recent Pitch ICE event at Totally Gaming in early February, Dench stood out. Partly it was because it was one of the relatively few B2B business ideas. But it was also because of what founder Dobrimir Mitev was saying about AI and what he sees as his company’s mission to provide the “ultimate end-user experience”.
Mitev is truly is an innovator, yet when we spoke to him after the show he was keen to stress how suppliers today are working in a market reality which imposes constraints on digital innovation.
“Operators are trapped in long-lasting agreements with their legacy technological provider, which is unable to respond to the market dynamics,” he points out. “They also do not understand the processes behind the gaming software and even if they are smart, they lack the marketing financials and/or the tools to respond to player demands.”
He points to the familiar failings of many online offerings, where unexciting and inflexible front-ends mean operators “can’t and don’t” communicate with players, relay on spam and are generally struggling with poor infrastructure that is limited by their technology.
It leads to what Mitev calls the “vicious circle.” “Unsatisfied customers generate poor revenues, then they churn. The revenue is then invested in acquisition campaigns with bad offerings and sky-rocketing acquisition costs. And then things get even worse.”
Mitev says the company’s main two products – the Giselle v.2 and Hannah platforms – are designed to be more flexible, scalable and enduring. “That’s why we built them as completely separate solutions in order to overcome performance drawbacks and integration roadblocks and maintain agility,” he says.
The Giselle v2 is available both as an on-site platform or via the cloud. It is capable of processing data coming from any gaming platform or data warehouse, simplifying and structuring the data and providing operators with player analytics, activity and value segmentation, operator-generated clusters, several different bonus campaign concepts and limitless bonus definitions and an in-house developed communication tools.
“The powerful combination between the Dench Platform and Giselle V.2 provides all operators with the instruments they need to fight number one problem– the player retention,” says Mitev.
The next release will step even further into the near future and will offer predictive analytics, full automation and introduction of machine learning and AI algorithms. According to Mitev: “It will spot the gems out of your player data which a human is incapable of finding and will remove the campaign creation process by taking care completely of your players’ experience based on small input from the operators’ end.”
Mitev is not unaware that it will take more than just presentations at conferences and events to push the Dench proposition, and that it will be the reality of what any programme can do to enhance revenues that will be the deciding factor for operators wary of the word innovation.
“Through the years the industry is driven by numbers, stock exchange share prices and many of the decisions have been taken by the wrong people,” he says.
“We need to learn to adapt and respond to end customer. Despite being a B2B company our end goal is serving to the end customer. Something which even many B2C operators get quite wrong.”
He makes the point that the end user wants reliable, fast and intuitive access to offered games and services. “The ‘content is king’ mantra is dead,” he adds. “Players need to be reached emotionally and provoked psychologically. They expect to receive offers they never knew they wanted. And this is where we are heading to.”
Dench is already working in the AI space but Mitev is keen to dispel some myths that surround the technology. “Many people are still afraid from it but we need to put it simply: anything considered smart which a machine can accomplish can be classified as AI.”
He adds that machine learning which is “not exactly the same thing, despite being part of AI, where the concept suggests that you should just give machines access to data and leave them learn by themselves.”
He says there is too much hype around AI. “In 95% of the cases we are talking about another AI separation: Applied AI and Generalized AI,” he says. “The second one is far more complicated and complex, although there were significant advancements around it.”
“What we do is Applied AI and we aim at solving particular problems faced by gaming operators around the optimization of acquisition costs, bonuses and marketing expense, customer lifetime value and real time reaction to player behaviour.”
A deeper understanding ins needed of the dynamics which shape player behaviour and also of the business processes that surround that behaviour.
“Still, AI methodologies and machine learning will become integral part of the engineering tools which are being used,” he says. “Today we write code for accomplishing a small task and delivering a particular feature. In near future it will be important to embed reasoning into our applications where the code will not matter anymore.”
He foresees gaming platforms and operators adopting decision management and machine-learning solutions as we as what he calls “virtual agents.” This is about 5 years away and with the rapid technological advancements, nobody knows exactly what will happen.
“No matter the technologies we use or adopt we should remember something forgotten long time ago – that there are real people at the other end and we need to connect with them emotionally and psychologically on every possible occasion.”