With years of successful experience and an attitude to back that success, Kent Young, a gaming industry veteran, announced the formation of his latest venture, Spin Games LLC earlier this year.
Having left Aristocrat after successfully building the Australian company’s presence in the United States, Young founded his first start-up—True Blue Gaming—which he later sold to Aruze Gaming America. While heading up Aruze’s operations in the U.S., Young set the stage for Aruze’s pending success in North America. After Aruze Gaming, he established Spin Games to take advantage of exciting opportunities in the third-party content space.
“My initial vision was to establish a business from ground zero, along with key partners, and build the business to position ourselves to be a key player in the third-party space, both domestically and in global markets,” Young explained. He quickly built a development team, marketed the new business to potential strategic partners and was up and running.
Only being in business for about 10 months—having launched in January of 2012—with new business already under his belt, Young’s team was 10 people strong with three studios: establishing his first studio development studio in Sparks, Nev. (near Reno), followed by the second in Bangkok, Thailand, and most recently the third, an interactive studio also in Sparks. “I employed talented, seasoned gaming individuals with influential development experience who have worked for some of the major manufacturers in the industry and in the most important capacities,” Young explained. “My key recruiting criteria was focused on people with successful industry experience and knowledge.”
Spin Games is focused on three major areas of potential growth: secondary bonusing applications, premium content and out-of-the-box concepts. Additionally, the premium content market includes both the land-based and interactive segments of international and U.S. markets.
Spin Games’ G2E display.
Spin Games’ G2E display.
Young said that the efforts in each of these potential growth areas is preceeded by developing and acquiring intellectual property protection, another key point to his formation of Spin Games. He explained: “I pursued, developed and licensed patents on key concepts that I believed would be valuable moving forward. Most importantly, we will continue to invest in IP, particularly in the North American market. The scope of what we’re developing is global, with local applications.”
Looking to the promising future ahead for the gaming business with an international focus, Spin Games is positioned to serve both the tribal and commercial markets, geared more toward a repeat player rather than a transient player, and looks to be in the right place at the right time with all of the right talent.
Establishing good teams in three offices—some that aren’t even on the same continent—is not an easy feat, especially considering Spin Games hasn’t even been in existence a whole year. This feat however, proved not too daunting for Young. Other milestones achieved, like submitting its first secondary bonusing application to BMM and announcing key partnerships and agreements, have come with equal assurance. In June, Spin Games and Leap Forward Gaming (LFG) announced a partnership utilizing Spin Games’ content along with LFG’s vast array of innovative technologies. In September, another agreement was reached with GeoComply for Spin Games’ content to come embedded with geolocation capabilities across PCs, Macs and mobile devices.
The Spin Games team and their productive outpouring was debuted to the world at G2E Las Vegas in October, another milestone of which Young and his team are extremely proud. “I think we achieved a lot in such a short period of time, which is all very exciting and a credit to our team’s dedication and hard work,” Young said.
Spin Games’ Specialty
Spin Games definitely brings something special to the industry, including Young’s unique perspective. He says that secondary bonusing applications—one of three main areas being pursued—is a real niche segment and a specialty for Spin Games. For example, one of these products, secondary to the base game is called a Cash Bonusing Module™ (CBM). “This is a bolt-on product that goes on top of the base game and has a graphic server, interacting with the jackpot controller and dispenses cash as a reward,” Young explained.
A second example is Spin Games’ Little Bonza™ Wheel, a high-definition 3-D video jackpot wheel that displays incrementing mystery jackpots overlaid upon a video wheel, which in turn displays the eventual winning amount generated by the mystery controller. This video wheel is also a bolt-on product to go on existing, stand-alone games. “It’s products like that we believe are our niche and provide significant opportunity, particularly for operations that have capital restraints,” Young said. “It gives the operator an opportunity to put something different on their floor at a relatively low-cost and provide a value-add to their products beyond the base game.”
With more and more third parties emerging in today’s gaming landscape, it takes a company with a unique formula to make it. Young’s vision, persistence and focus along with Spin’s combined years of experience in the gaming and content space certainly is an advantage. “We’ve got very good relationships across the board from our years of working in the industry,” Young said. “At the end of the day, we believe in developing products on time that perform, and wish to develop long-term relationships with our customers. That all boils down to product performance and that’s where we’re focused.”
Of course, a company is only as good as its people and Young believes in hiring experienced, productive people. “That’s essential and we believe in creating a workplace that encourages innovation,” Young shared. “I’m very much focused on encouraging our people to be innovative in their thought process and being open to share.”
“Every industry is certain to have its own ebb and flow, but a common denominator of the ones that survive—and thrive—is the ability to change and adapt with the times. The gaming industry has certainly seen an array of changes lately. I think there are a lot of dynamics in the global gaming industry,” Young said, “including the emergence of Asia, the onset of interactive gaming, and social gaming’s impact on play-for-money gaming. As a result, we will see changes at the operator level, including consolidation and new entrance from the interactive space into the market. With all these things happening, and for us to be a long-term sustainable successful company, we need to move with the times and be flexible in our approach in all aspects of our business.” Young put this into practice by launching Spin Game’s interactive division at this year’s G2E, where he showed both online and mobile gaming products. “We’ve employed both flash and HTML5 developers and are integrating our content into the online and mobile space. We see that as a critical area of growth and have moved quickly to respond to the need.”
Spin Games’ Leader
Young began his journey in the club industry in Australia, where his first job was cleaning ashtrays. He worked his way up in the industry, and at very early age he reached the position of CEO of a large club in Queensland, Australia. After going back to university to study business, he was employed by Aristocrat Leisure Industries, where throughout the next 10 years his duties ranged from sales and marketing to VP R&D in North America, ending with him as global general manager of marketing. After leaving Aristocrat, he successfully launched his own company, True Blue Gaming. After the sale of True Blue Gaming to Aruze, he ran Aruze’s North America business until 2010.
Young credits his job at Aristocrat as the place where really learned the gaming and content business. It was there he gained experience working with a global company, learned about game design and development, watched trends in the global market and launched products into that market. “I’ve taken a lot of that experience and applied it to what I’m doing currently,” Young said. “My time at True Blue was a start-up, and that experience was invaluable in terms of learning what to do and what not to do.”
Managing Aruze’s American operations afforded him the chance to observe a different international company doing things differently, but still successfully. “I’ve learned a lot over the years,” Young reflected. “The relationships I’ve built across the industry have been invaluable and put me in good steps for Spin Games. The gaming industry is very much a people business. Someone said to me once early in my career that it’s about two things—product and people—and the other pieces don’t really mean much. I’ve followed that philosophy throughout my career, and I think it’s very true. The relationship side of our business is very important and will continue to be moving forward.”
As with any start-up, there are many challenges, but it’s Young’s attitude that helps him persevere. Having to accomplish a lot in a short period of time with limited resources would challenge anyone. However, Young said: “The way to be successful and build a successful company is to work out how to get through those challenges, and that business is all about hitting brick walls; you can learn how to go over it, around it or through it. That’s very true with a start-up company in particular. I’ve certainly incurred all the challenges of starting a business. The best thing about it is, that it’s great fun and I love it. I think if you love something and you’re passionate about it, you make things happen and you make things work.”
Spin Games’ Strategy
Young has been privy to many industry trends and has developed a unique set of perspectives based on years of observations. For example, one trend he told us about is multidimensional content across various platforms. “We’re seeing the same game in land-based environment and social, mobile and online spaces,” Young said. “New and emerging channels of distribution have probably been the biggest trend in the content business for the last few years. In order for us to be positioned well with those channels, we started the Spin Interactive division, where we’re developing content for multiple platforms. That requires different development platforms, user interfaces, and in some cases different math. While we haven’t been around a long time, that’s been an initiative we put into place to compensate for that trend.”
Another key trend Young cites is the shortened game lifecycle, which leads to a requirement for more quality content, particularly in the land-based segment. “To develop just a few games or a few bonusing applications per year, just won’t cut it in this environment because of the requirements for a high volume of content, no matter what area you focus on.” he commented. “We’ve resourced up and have three studios now and a significant flow of graphics out of our Asian studio. We have the ability to develop volumes of quality product.”
“We’re also seeing a younger demographic coming into our space, in particular with social gaming’s emergence,” Young added. “We’ve been hearing about this for a long time, but it’s truly coming to fruition now. With our interactive studio, we’re developing product that is targeted more to the younger demographic, rather than the traditional 55-plus female that has been the core of the slot land-based demographic. We have some partnerships emerging in the social games space and we certainly spend a lot of time reviewing what is going on in social gaming.”
Spin Games’ Future
So what is in store for Spin Games? Young said: “For us, we will be maturing as a company in the next year and getting new products to market. I’m very eager to see the fruit of our labor. I think the next 12 months will be significant in terms of where the rubber meets the road. We will continue invest in R&D and intellectual property. Our market reach will continue to include the international marketplace both land-based and interactive. Accordingly, we will we require more people and resources to fulfill those growth strategies. We will continue to expand and grow both internationally and across platforms.”
Ultimately, Young states that his goal for Spin Games is to become the best premium third-party company in the business—the best developers, the best product and the very best company to work for and with. “We have goals to help us get there, to truly be seen as a benchmark partner in the way we conduct ourselves. It’s really all about building a sustainable business where we work with our partners and we deliver innovative, premium product.”