Interview With Katya Machuganova from Silverback Games Studio

Interview With Katya Machuganova, the Product Owner in GAN at Silverback Games Studio
18 min read

Katya Machuganova, the Product Owner in GAN’s Silverback Games Studio, kindly agreed to tell CasinosHunter more about Silverback, its approaches and vision, its games and plans, and also shared her opinion on trends in the industry including Metaverse and game creation. Learn more about Silverback in the new Q&A.

About Silverback Games

Silverback Games

Silverback Gaming is a small but ambitious developer of online casino games. There are several games in their portfolio as of now, but the team works quickly and efficiently, and during the year, they have plans on releasing 10 new games. 

The main office of Silverback Gaming is situated in Sofia, Bulgaria. The company was founded in 2019 and immediately took the initiative by developing high-quality, entertaining, and well-paying games, and distributing them across regulated markets of Europe to more than a hundred online casinos

The quality of the games and the level of expertise of the team behind the Silverback Gaming brand were so impressive that the company was acquired by GAN, a US company, and today has all opportunities to expand to the US market. 

One of the key strengths of Silverback Gaming is the creation of engaging mobile-first online casino slots with unique features and mechanics. 

GAN, on the other hand, delivers games by its suppliers to players on three continents and also to many states of the USA. This award-winning company covers games, betting on sports, and other iGaming products and services, and brings a new level of brand customization to casino operators. It holds 25 licenses across different jurisdictions, states, and tribal entities, so Silverback Gaming definitely wins from this collaboration. 

Katya Machuganova is an iGaming & Digital Media Professional, Games Producer Graduate and an ISTQB Certified Quality Assurance Specialist, and a Master in Digital Media and Video Games. CasinosHunter was happy to be able to ask questions and get her answers and opinions. Please read the full interview below.

Q/A Session With Katya Machuganova, the Product Owner in GAN

Katya Machuganova
Katya Machuganova
Product Owner in GAN's Silverback Games Studio
Silverback Games

Hello and thank you so much for finding time to participate in the Q&A! We started with a Q&A about Silverback Gaming but found out it was acquired by GAN. Can you please tell us more about this? Will Silverback Gaming be an exclusive supplier to GAN, or will the brand be completely dissolved? 

Nice meeting you! Thank you for your interest in Silverback Gaming! It is nice to introduce our Game studio to your readers and followers, since our games are all being released in Ontario, both via Relax and GAN distribution networks.

Silverback's innovative slot content was added to GAN’s fast-growing portfolio of online slot games as part of the acquisition that was officially announced back in December 2021. The acquisition provided GAN with exclusive rights globally to all current and future Silverback online games. 

The Company expects to reach a portfolio of around 50 unique new slot games in a period of three years. We also continue our cooperation with Relax - producing and distributing some of our content via Relax’s Silver Bullet platform in regulated markets worldwide. 

If you compare Silverback Gaming to other studios, what are its main strengths?

To put it simply, we’re BANANAS about slots!!

In a fast growing and changing industry like iGaming more brands than ever are competing for player attention. It can be difficult to stand out and to get noticed. 

However, Silverback Gaming has already been recognized globally with award nominations such as the 2021 CasinoBeats Awards in the Studio Slot Debut category as well as earning its place in the 2021 Gaming Intelligence Hot 50.

By joining GAN, our self-esteem as a game studio has grown, so has our ambition to shine.

We are constantly growing as a team and leveling up the quality of our products, following the best practices in the industry.

What are our main strengths? 

First of all, our biggest strength is the team that works in our game studio, part of the #GANster tribe. We are so proud of the human and professional qualities of our teammates. When you love what you do and share the same attitude with the whole team - this is where success is born.

Creating a working product strategy and supporting it is a team sport! Here is to thank to our SVP’s - Raphael Di Guisto and Ivaylo Karmazov for their strong business acumen and for building a safe and friendly working environment for all of us.

 Second, we have GAN, Coolbet (also acquired by GAN) and Relax by our side to guide us, to consult us and to rely on their strong expertise, so we feel somehow safe and secure.

Last, but not least - everything we do, we do it with a positive attitude, with lots of fun, we give freedom to people and ideas within our team, as we believe that this is the best way to be productive and to unfold the full potential we have in Silverback Gaming.

How many online casino games by Silverback are currently available to the players?

Silverback Popular Slots

Apart from Aztec Luck™, Mystery Stacks™ and The Golden Sail™, for now, from the sheer list on the roadmap, only Golden Calaveras is live (since 27th of September), but till the end of the year there will be more than 10 games live. You find me in a really busy period for our studio. After the pause we had to take during the period of acquisition and transition, now we are finally producing on a high capacity. 

Are there games by Silverback that are super-popular among players? In your opinion, what makes them more popular compared to other games? 

Our online slot games such as Aztec Luck™ and Mystery Stacks™, currently distributed across European regulated markets to more than 100 B2C operators of iGaming are proven to be successful and very popular among Relax’s network

We are just stepping into the US market and the interest for our games is big. 

We are about to release 6 games first on the simulated online gaming websites, part of GAN’s network, one of them with exclusivity for Penn Interactive. All our partners are looking forward to integrating us on their platforms. Feedback is very positive and we are all excited about it.

How many new games are released per month or per year? 

As I already mentioned, we are following a high level roadmap to reach a portfolio of around 50 new casino games in a period of 3 years.

This year we are releasing around 10 new games - 3 slot games for Relax, a deluxe blackjack table game, a luxury branded slot game and 6 more exclusive slot titles for GAN’s network.

Golden Calaveras Online Slot

Next year we intend to deliver 20+ games. Golden Calaveras is the first slot game that was released on 27th of September through Relax and we are already receiving positive reviews and feedback from both market analytics and players.

Wilds of the West Slot

Next on the roadmap will be Wilds of the West, again for Relax, with a network release date planned to be 31st of October, followed by Tiki Bonanza, on Dec 13, 2022.

US licensed slots by Silverback

On the other side, for the US market (Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Michigan), Italy, Malta and Ontario, through GAN’s network - we will be releasing Pro Blackjack Deluxe, Egyptian Mega Fortune, Norse Legend, Thundergod Wild, Beverly Wilds and Leprechaun Respin till the end of the year. Games are currently being certified. 

As you can guess by their titles - those games will take players on a journey to far and mystical places, showing them different cultures and traditions. They are packed with tons of features and the chance for players to discover amazing riches. Pro Blackjack Deluxe is our first table game and was created and developed with much care for details as it is the follow up Deluxe new version of GAN’s existing Pro Blackjack game, which is extremely popular among customers. 

Pro Blackjack Deluxe features improved design with a contemporary look, great texturing, and renders, together with smoother animations for the best customer experience. It features 3 different color schemes that are always available on all game screens. The interface design is clear, readable, and intuitive with bright and fresh colors. Menu and buttons are clearly visible, bigger, and better-positioned in order to be in handy for the player. Voice-over feature is implemented in the gameplay. The soft female voice will guide you in the game. When enabled in settings, the built-in Game Hints feature will help you make your best move, following the advanced game strategy. 

Are there any new interesting trends that you have been noticing recently? What trends, in your opinion, are to stay and shape the industry? 

Branded games are getting more and more popular. Partners are asking for exclusivity.

Casino operators want to receive games that could be exclusively branded with their logos and company names. 

The amusement, gambling, and recreation industries subsector is very often accepted to be part of the arts, entertainment, and recreation sector. In this connection - creating a sense of exclusivity and luxury for a product or service is highly appreciated. Lisa Gansky once said about the importance of brands in business: "A brand is a voice and a product is a souvenir". We already know how to develop and produce souvenir games.

Studios are trying to create and develop new features, new in-house game mechanics in an effort to be more innovative and to differentiate their products from their competitors’ ones. During one of our brainstorming sessions within the Silverback team - we came up with something very unique as a game mechanic that is totally changing the perspective on how slots are traditionally working. 

At the same time we are keeping the feature as simple as possible to make sure the player is surprised but not startled. This is a good example of being innovative for the players’ benefit.

Our feature guarantees wins with every respin. That's a feature. But it actually protects the player from potential large balance loss and keeps the balance reasonably stable. That's a benefit. We are in the process of trademarking this, so I can’t share much. Stay tuned! 

It is interesting to mention that the same benefit (the example with the feature guaranteeing small wins during respins), however - might be irrelevant for other target customers, like VIP streamers, playing high volatility games. They prefer taking a higher risk. That’s why we also develop high volatile games to meet their needs and expectations.

Another interesting observation is that the US online casino market, which is said to be a little bit more conservative than the European one, is now opening to new trends, new features, and a new design of casino games, added to their portfolios. The simulated and real money online casino gaming with its market peaks during the period of Covid-19 restrictions and land-based casinos being closed - had its time to shake off from some dependencies with land based casino style. Players had the time to try out the titles they have never played from the comfort of their homes and they liked it! This crossover was a real influence boost for both online and physical casinos.

What is your opinion on the industry opportunities considering the online gambling services in Metaverse? Can we expect Metaverse gambling to have better perspectives than VR gambling? 

My last engagement with the Metaverse was some months ago, when I attended a famous designer’s trending show in Decentraland. It was so exciting to be there and actually to have the opportunity to directly get in touch with the designer himself through his fancy avatar. In normal life that wouldn’t be possible for many reasons. 

While exploring that new virtual reality I found a casino that was said to be “not a casino”. I realized that the Metaverse has the potential to solve some online gambling’s problems in the future but at the same time has lots more to deal with first because of its complexity. It took me a day of preparation, so to be eligible to create an account and avatar so to access Decentraland. One would also need some crypto currency, special registrations, followed by verifications, and, of course, NFT’s. 

On the other hand - it is still too empty.

Major tech giants such as Microsoft, Samsung, Google and Facebook work in collaboration to make the Metaverse bloom in all aspects. But yet, Metaverse casinos are still at the level of being the whim of virtual adventurers and digital nomads. 

I didn’t feel comfortable wearing the default attire for a basic starter avatar, especially in a design show. But it turned out to be exceptionally expensive to dress in a way in order to be better accepted by the existing virtual society.  

In my opinion we shouldn’t be worried about the Metaverse in the near 5 to 10 years when it comes to casinos. They are not that easy to access and are not offering a favorable player experience.  Yet, we need to be well informed about what’s going on there so to get prepared for it. The whole “play-to-earn” concept has something very important to take into consideration - the more people play, the more tokens are earned and their price is getting lower, they are inflationary. 

So, for now, I am warmly welcoming some design concepts to remind us of the Metaverse existing, games that are trying to replicate the look and feel of that alternative virtual reality for the people who want to experience it, but are not eligible to. That’s enough. For now… 

What new game releases by Silverback Gaming are to be expected in the future? 

Apart from the games I already mentioned, we have prepared lots of unique and exciting new game concepts. We are developing a fishing game with lots of functionalities. This game will be the first to implement our unique in-house slot game mechanics I was talking about earlier. 

We are also ready to hit the market with a slot series of thematic games, featuring the strong female characters' presence we were lacking in our previous games.

Those slot games are based around the individual female characters that make a recurring appearance in the released subtitles. You can meet them in the modern city, where life happens on the fast track. But you can also meet them here in GAN. We believe that those characters represent our “GANster” female colleagues around the world that share the same attitude toward life as part of the Global Gaming Women. 

We are adding more value to the Game Series by providing back-stories for its three main characters and unfolding them through the release of the subtitles, which could help the Marketing Strategy. Mentioning the series is valuable from a design perspective as well - we are using an innovative design approach here. This shortens the development time by planning the art, the design, and the animations for all of the games in the slot series simultaneously during the concept stage of the first one. We will use the slot series to introduce our Progressive jackpots as well.

Some more interesting concepts are coming up, as well - a retro arcade-themed game, a funny rework of a popular fairytale-themed game, a gold mine-themed game, a Japanese-themed game, and the well-deserved Mystery Stacks series, featuring two new subtitles to be released.

We are supporting cultural diversity and warmly welcome any theme concept that is introducing a rare and unique tradition from around the world. 

All of our games are designed to excite and entertain the players, featuring rich and high-quality sounds and music. Some of our games could also educate by introducing you to different cultures and traditions that were not known. Take Golden Calaveras, players and analysts start digging into what a “calavera” means and get to know what the Mexican tradition for the Day of the dead is.

Silverback Gaming clearly identifies the player experience as the key benefit for our target customers as we are targeting affluent males and females, who seek excitement and luxury. In the future, we will continue to invest in features that create this particular benefit.

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