Interview With Ben Zairi, Chief Product Officer at Ezugi
CasinosHunter has asked Ben Zairi, Chief Product Officer at Ezugi, about making some awesome Live Dealer games for online casinos! If you are a fan of Live Dealer gambling, and would like to learn more about Ezugi, its games, and the games’ unique features, feel free to check out the full Q&A!
Ezugi, which is now part of the Evolution group, was initially founded back in 2012, and the team behind it has even more previous experience in the gambling niche. Today, Ezugi not only makes all kinds of Live Dealer casino games, but develops various software solutions for other businesses in the same industry, including offline betting facilities.
The main focus of the company is to incorporate all the top modern trends, and create as engaging experience for the players as possible. At the time of writing this introduction, Ezugi is said to operate 9 studios and partnering with more than 100 online casinos around the world. All studios operate 24/7, and offer public and private tables.
One of the outstanding features of Ezugi Live games is customization for personalized experience, as well and customization of games they create for other operators and companies. The games are pretty intuitive and have many useful and handy features, including game timers, limits, etc. Another strengs of Live games by Ezugi is the Dealers, because the level of professionalism as well as personal charisma are things to be underlined.
Live Dealer games by Ezugi are not your typical classic table games that almost never change; instead, this brand makes ground-breaking products and unique features that true Live games fans will appreciate for sure. Among such features are live-video chats for players at the same table, multiplier mechanisms, etc.
To find out more about Ezugi, its games, and its games’ perks, check out the full Q&A with Ben Zairi, Chief Product Officer at Ezugi.
Q/A Session With Ben Zairi, Chief Product Officer
- About Ben Zairi: Chief Product Officer looking over Ezugi delivery teams including Product, Project, Design, Compliance, and BI.
- Favorite game: Blackjack Salon Privé
Hello, Ben Zairi here, Chief Product Officer at Ezugi. I come with a background of over 15 years in the iGaming industry, leading teams in both B2B & B2C companies, with the main focus on Casino and Live Casino. My role at Ezugi is really exciting, not least because, as part of the Evolution Group, the Ezugi brand is building on its unique position in the Live Casino world. Ezugi is a global provider with a special localized offering for operators.
My main role is to overlook Ezugi delivery teams, including Product Management, Project Management, Studio Design, Regulatory Compliance and Business Intelligence. Main responsibilities include building the overall Ezugi Product Roadmap to support strategic goals, including new games, retail solutions and promotion features, as well as leading the project management office and overseeing A to the Z project’s lifecycle, ensuring a fluid, quality led and cost-effective delivery.
Ezugi is a serious competitor in the niche of Live Dealer games. If you compare it to other companies making Live Games, what are the key strengths of Ezugi?
An overarching strength is that we are an innovative global supplier of world-class Live Casino solutions that are very much tailored to localized markets. We have now achieved compliance with 20 regulated markets – including jurisdictions in Latin America, South Africa, selected EU markets, and the UK – and we always think in terms of each market’s specific needs.
Another key strength is the diversity of content. We offer a wide variety of casino classics, but we also have an extremely strong localized product offering that really makes the Ezugi games portfolio stand out.
One recent localized success story, Cricket War, was introduced in time for the opening of the new season of the Indian Premier League, with the aim of pleasing our cricket loving players and providing them the best of two worlds – Live Casino and sports.
Ezugi has always been about providing innovative and exciting products while using our knowledge of local markets.
In the last year, alongside Cricket War, we have been working on ground-breaking products such as Video Blackjack, which adds live-video chat for all seated players when playing on smartphones. This game links the worlds of iGaming and social. Additionally, we are now working on an enticing game show with ambitious never-seen-before multiplier mechanics and lastly, we are also working on localised innovative RNG content.
Retail is another differentiator for us. Ezugi isn’t just about playing at online casinos – we also have extensive knowledge of the retail market and a highly focused offering for betting shops and other retail outlets. In the retail market, just as in Live Casino, we get close to local markets, and we understand what local players want.
For example, Golden Balls, which was launched last year, is a live lottery-style game that combines multiplier mechanics with fixed-odds gameplay. Live draws are streamed live to big screens in betting shops, with a new draw every three minutes. Players get really involved and enjoy a fantastic shared gaming experience. Bet on Roulette is a similar retail game but, in this case, brings the Live Casino experience into a retail setting. And arriving in 2022 is the Ezugi retail version of Dream Catcher, the hugely successful online money wheel game show.
A final key strength is that, like all brands within the Evolution Group, we will soon offer One Stop Shop integration. This is a single integration platform not only for Ezugi live games but also for Evolution live and RNG games, and NetEnt, Red Tiger and Big Time Gaming online slots. This not only saves our licensees time and money, it also enables much faster time to market.
Ezugi has been very successful in local markets. What three games by Ezugi are the most popular and demanded, in general?
Easily making the top three would be our most recent success, Cricket War, which is also now certified in the UK. It's featuring a brand new cricket-themed studio, our next-generation user interface, and a Suited Tie side bet which pays 50:1!
Roulette is and will always be a classic in the Live Dealer space, and our excellent Speed Roulette is one of the most in-demand variations.
Finally, I could mention any of our three Teen Patti games – Teen Patti, Bet on Teen Patti, and One Day Teen Patti Classic. These simple Poker-style card games are enormously popular across Southeast Asia and are great examples of Ezugi’s knowledge of local markets.
What is your own personal favourite Ezugi game?
It's difficult to choose just one, but I am very proud of our recently released Blackjack Salon Privé, which is geared towards the most demanding VIPs.
The quality of the studio, the excellence of the dealers and the beautiful, easy-to-use, next generation interface make this my favourite Ezugi product. Everything comes together beautifully, making this a truly superb live gaming experience for Blackjack enthusiasts. You can even take up to seven seats and play on your own if you wish.
How many new games are released per year? How much time does it take to make a new game, from idea to release? How many people usually work on one game?
2021 was a great year in which we have developed a total of eight games for online, retail and the US market. However, we are quite a small company, and the mindset of our amazing team is quality rather than quantity. There has been a lot of work completed behind the scenes in the past year on quality assurance in all areas of our operations.
The time to develop a game depends on the game's complexity – it could be anything from three months to a year. Some games require complex studio setup, in-depth dealer training and complicated mathematics, which lead to a longer cycle of software development. If we consider all verticals involved in a game creation (studio, software, dealers, uniforms, marketing, QA, etc.), a game could usually see anything from 20 to 50 people working on it.
For 2022 we will release in the region of six to nine games, but that number could increase in future years. On the back of the success we are achieving, we are doubling our development teams.
How is the creative process organized in Ezugi when a new game is developed?
Actually, we are transitioning right now to a more modern and streamlined way of developing games. The entire development platform has been renewed using the latest technologies. We are also introducing the concept of ‘Perfect Launch’ – a structured and controlled way of bringing a new game to the market.
As an insight into the creative process, I’ll use our ‘Ultimate’ series of games as examples – Ultimate Andar Bahar, Ultimate Roulette and Ultimate Sic Bo. Every game starts with an idea. In this case, the idea is to take the very best of these traditional games and then to apply maximum innovation and creativity to make each game even more exciting and enjoyable for online players. We brainstorm every possible way of doing that; we look at how the latest technology can assist us; we look at how we can build in extra layers of fun, by combining RNG based multipliers for example or through engaging side bets.
Alongside this there are of course business considerations. For example, with Ultimate Roulette, we know that Roulette is hugely popular globally, so the aim is to appeal to players everywhere with the best ever version of Roulette. With Ultimate Andar Bahar and Ultimate Sic Bo there is a primary focus on players in Asia, but equally, we know that both games are gaining in popularity in other markets too, so we focus also on the appeal to a wider audience.
Once the idea is right, it's approved by senior management for full production. The process then gets even more exciting as we design visuals, mechanics and maths that make the game come alive. Then we design and work out requirements for the dealers and the studio. The game development and studio build often happen in parallel and we use an agile, user-centric and feedback-based process. The game and the mechanics can change during this process as usability and user feedback are extremely important to us. However, we never lose sight of the user!
What are the new or big trends in online casino gambling in general, and Live Dealer games in particular, that players should pay attention to? What trends do you think are here to stay?
A big trend, certainly in Ezugi games, is the rise of the classic casino game with a unique modern twist.
A trailblazing game in this area was Lightning Roulette from Evolution, which has been a massive success with players. As part of Evolution Group, Ezugi is very much contributing to this trend. It's a trend that we believe is here to stay because it is essentially re-representing and re-energising the classic games for new generations of players who are always on the lookout for something new and different.
Our exciting new Ultimate Roulette game, set for release later this year, is a perfect example. Everything players love about Roulette is here, and much more besides! In each game round, between one and five numbers are picked to receive random multipliers of up to 1,000x your bet. Also, in Ezugi Ultimate Roulette we’re giving players more choice than ever, with the option to buy up to three extra multipliers per game. And that’s not all. The multipliers can expand and spread to up to three neighbours on the betting grid. The new numbers will receive the same multiplier as the original number. If you’re lucky, the value of your bought multiplier can double, making it possible to win up to 2,000x your bet!
What are the company’s plans for the future?
For the immediate future we have an eagerly anticipated games roadmap for 2022 filled with many exciting and innovative products. First, we have Ultimate Sic Bo and EZ Dealer Roulette launching very soon. EZ Dealer Roulette is a unique mix of RNG Roulette with dealer video clips interwoven for a just-like-live experience. There’s also the option of localised versions featuring celebrity dealers from a given country or region. Then we have Ultimate Andar Bahar, Video Blackjack and Ultimate Roulette, and also our retail version of Dream Catcher, the money wheel-based live game show.
Looking further ahead, we will keep on creating innovative and engaging games while catering for localised markets, aided of course by our growing number of development teams. As always, we will also be looking to enter newly regulated markets, with a growing emphasis on Latin America, as well as expanding in the retail sector.
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