An interview with Yury Ermantraut, who is running ATMOSFERA, a Moscow-based online live casino software provider. As the co-founder, Yury is all-in into offering successful live games for online casino operators, ranging from live roulette to live keno and bingo.
We're asking him what his strengths are, how the Russian iGaming industry is faring, and what makes ATMOSFERA a strong player in today's online gambling landscape.
Please introduce yourself and what you do for ATMOSFERA.
My name is Yury Ermantraut, I am a co-founder and Chief Executive Director at ATMOSFERA. I have been working in the industry for about 5 years. Before founding ATMOSFERA I was a business development director at a large betting company, BetBoom.
How many employees and contractors do you work with, and how hard is it for you to be based in Russia rather than, let's say, Malta?
We have 34 employees in Russia, 21 in Moscow, and 13 in another region, plus about 120 people in a studio in Armenia.
Before the pandemic, there was no problem working from Russia, it was always easy to travel, meet with partners, attend exhibitions, and so on. Unfortunately for the last year and a half, we can communicate only online. It has become a problem at such a long distance.
What is your split between engineering and sales and marketing? Do you wish you had more product-led talent in order to release more games each year?
Sales and marketing departments consist of 5 employees, the rest is development and engineering staff. Processes such as financial, law process, and personnel employment are all outsourced.
I believe that we have a normal evolutionary path of development. Lots of invited talents in the past would not mean a high-quality result for us now. We had to go through our stage of development, accumulated experience, mistakes, and victories in order to be ready for our rapid development.
Answering the second question, yeah, right now I wish. We are always on the lookout for talents. It's an endless process of recruiting professionals.
What is ATMOSFERA's hiring process? What is valued in new hires beyond the obvious raw skillset? How important is company culture to you, especially as an international team?
Before we start looking for a person, we form a portrait of the candidate for the position. In addition to the high requirements for the candidate's professional skills, the candidate's personality is number one for us.
HR conducts the initial interview just because it is very important to evaluate how comfortable the candidate will be in the company, and how quickly he will join the team. Only after that do we conduct a test for the availability of professional knowledge and skills. Corporate culture in ATMOSFERA is not just some kind of dress code, which, by the way, we do not have, it is much deeper. Our company has formed a list of values on which our corporate culture is based. It is precisely these values we identify in candidates during interviews.
A distinctive characteristic of ATMOSFERA among other companies is that we do not prioritize professional qualities over personal ones when hiring. Both of these factors are equally important for us.
You can read more about our own secrets of the recruitment process in the upcoming interview of the ATMOSFERA HR director.
To date, what has been your biggest hits, and biggest challenges?
The biggest hit was putting together a team capable of creating competitive products even though it was a big challenge. The competitive race for IT specialists is extremely high, and at the moment the live casino sphere is perceived with caution by jobseekers. We spend a lot of effort on initial contact with candidates. When they get to know us better and see that we are lit with modern products, they become more interested. We are now waiting for a new hit - the upcoming release of a Game Show category product - Music Wheel. There is no doubt it'll be a big hit.
What types of RNG games does your studio focus on creating, and why?
All our games are broadcasted in real-time. If we talk about bet-on numbers games, we offer lottery drums that we have developed by ourselves and which are responsible for randomness. That means we don't have synthetic games, everything is real and random.
Do you ever plan on crafting RNG virtual sports games?
A burning question - why not get into creating amazing slot games? We believe that it is reasonable to focus on what you do best.
Live casino games drive us. We have great expertise in this, and we decided to develop it in detail. There are big differences between non-live and live games in both engineering and gameplay. Here are some examples:
- In live games, there are at least two large departments that are responsible for broadcasting events and transferring them from the studio: operators, directors, the team responsible for setting up sensors and registering events, and similar departments;
- Live games are much more difficult to implement since the developers are responsible for such things as maintaining a web player, synchronizing events in time, and creating a kind of UX/UI to make the broadcast and interface "friendly";
- In most cases, a team for the slot games development requires a lot of 2D artist specialists to render graphics, in our case, we are trying to recreate the interactive by writing scripts to dealers and decorating a studio.
- Slot games are generally individual games. You will not be able to communicate with other players and the dealer, it will be like private gaming. Live games, in turn, transfer the player to the world of a real casino. Because of this, sitting at a computer screen, you can feel like at a roulette table in Macau, Atlanta or any other land-based casino;
- Slot games have the ability to "save progress", which means that if you exit the game today and enter it tomorrow, you will find yourself at exactly the same stage of progress as yesterday. And in live games, the dynamics are constant and never stop. There is a constant rotation of dealers and progress cannot be saved, which adds to the feeling of additional excitement and interactivity.
What are the steps each game has to go through from ideation to launch, from engineering to marketing and compliance? Are you constantly iterating over this process to make it more efficient?
Our team uses a data-driven approach, so before taking an idea into work, it goes through a cycle of confirmation or refutation. We constantly conduct qualitative and quantitative testing on respondents who are closely related to the gambling industry.
If we have confirmed the idea and it seems to us successful, we send it to the development team and work out the specification. After that, teams of designers, frontend/backend specialists, QA, and others create a product that you can see on the websites of our partners.
In the case of marketing, we have teams of PR, BizDev, designers who receive the finished product and, on its basis, begin to create PR campaigns on the network, mailing to partners with the provision of early demo access to the game (a kind of beta test) and creating colorful promotional materials for partner platforms and social networks.
Our team uses an Agile development methodology that applies the principles of the iterative Scrum framework. Every week, month, and release of the game, we get together as a team and analyze the past iteration in order to optimize future sprints. This allows us to deliver quality content to players and partners even faster.
Any thoughts on the future of live games - perhaps a VR Live Roulette? Is your team exploring these options, or is it too soon?
We see how large companies are already looking in this direction, hiring these specialists and talking about it in their public speeches and reports. In my opinion, the consumer is not ready yet for widespread consumption of such a trend as VR, since it is an expensive retail product at the moment. And this is the basis for the consumer.