Hello Ville, how are you? Are you ready for the Tallinn Affiliate Grand Slam 2017?
Hello! I’m very well, thank you, Marius. Enjoying my holiday in Thailand at the moment but of course, I’m attending the Tallinn Affiliate Grand Slam 2017. I’m sure it’s going to be a very exciting event.
How did you come to enter the online gaming space and set up your company?
It’s been a long road from starting off as a poker sub-affiliate to becoming co-founder and MD of Good Game. I entered the business as a poker sub-affiliate in 2007. In 2010, I started to doing full-time affiliation with my childhood friend – Toni Halonen, now the CEO of the company – and we launched our first site for poker players. Ever since, we’ve been working together very successfully.
2011 was a year of change for us. We read an article about iGaming companies in Malta and we packed our bags and moved to the rock, knowing nothing about the island. The same year, we founded Good Game and launched our second site.
In 2012, we switched from poker to casinos and in the end of 2013 a new partner – SEO specialist Jussi Kauppinen – joined our team and turned us into a great trio.
Two years later we sold our biggest casino site to Catena Media. After the acquisition, we didn’t even think for one second about leaving the iGaming industry. Last year was very intensive for us as we hired more people to come onboard our adventure, but today I’m very happy with how the team performs. Without a great team, we would never have reached this point in our journey. I’m taking this opportunity to thank all our past and present Good Gamers for the magnificent job you have done!
Can you tell us a little about how your company business is structured?
We have three major owners in Good Game – those are me, Toni Halonen and Jussi Kauppinen. We’ve also committed a few of our key players with shares from our company.
Our office is located in Malta and we have a team of 10 people there. Plus, we have 17 freelancers working for us beyond the Maltese shores. In the near future, we’re planning on hiring more people for our Malta office, especially developers and content writers.
Even though we concentrate almost exclusively on casino sites like our flagship nettikasinot.com and netticasinot.com, we have two sites performing in other niches as well. One of them is a sports betting site (veikkausbonukset.com) and the other is an e-sports site (eurheilu.com). Our goal is to build them to be top achievers in Finland and we see a lot of potential in all of them – especially in the casino and e-sports sectors.
With the recent wave of consolidation, mergers and acquisitions of affiliate sites, are you at all surprised about the changes happening in the industry?
I’m not surprised at all. I think these things are the natural course of a growing industry. The iGaming industry is quite young and I believe that this is just the beginning. I observed how the affiliate business has morphed into a more serious one in recent years and it’s not so easy to access the market successfully as a one-man show anymore.
A number of your competitors have gone down the real money operator route, and tried their hand at white labels. Have you also done this?
Yes, we are co-owners in two online casinos. We’re not involved in the daily running of the business, but it’s been amazing to see what’s happening from on the operators’ side as well. This experience is helping us better understand casinos’ needs.
Developing unique content is a key pillar of your strategy. What will be your primary focus on this front over the next 6 months?
How to integrate great content with technology. That’s it.
Which markets do you focus on and do you see any potential in the emerging markets?
At the moment we’re only focusing on the Finnish market. I see lot of potential in the emerging markets and we’re looking to expand our markets internationally in the near future.
How do you find Scandinavian markets and competition?
We have experience only from the Finnish market and it’s a very competitive and difficult market to capture. So far, our strategy has been to focus only where we’ve got a chance to be a big player.
How have Google’s algorithm updates affected the way you go about traffic generation, SEO and content at your company?
Not in any major way, really. Rather, these updates have been strengthening our motivation to keep using SEO as a driving force behind our affiliation business.
Are there any exciting plans in the works that you can tell us about?
At the moment, we’re drawing blueprints for our first international casino site. This is completely new to us and it’s very exciting to move into “uncharted waters”.
What’s the main thing that you’d like SiGMA readers to know about your sites?
We want to build our sites as honestly and openly as possible. Our users are the main thing for us, and we want to to answer their problems and respond to their search intention in the best possible way.
We also want to build big sites when it comes to content and site functionalities.
What challenges and opportunities has the move to mobile presented you with?
We see this only as very exciting development. It opens up so many great opportunities to creative entrepreneurs and marketers to create value for users.
What do you see as the biggest challenges ahead for your business and the wider affiliate sector in 2017?
The biggest challenge is a possible regulation process in our main markets. It won’t happen in Finland this year, but it’s definitely something we need to take into consideration.
Another concern we have – not major but still a concern – is that there are many new online casinos stepping onto the stage right now and some of them won’t make it. So we just need to evaluate which casinos we push more carefully.
What two pieces of advice would you give to any new affiliate starting today?
As in all kinds of business, it’s really important to have a good roadmap for what you’re going to do. Better focus on one thing and excel at that than trying to do a lot of things to an average standard. In this business results take a lot of time, so you need to be ready to work hard and never give up.
Do you play slots and what would you do with €1 million from jackpot winnings?
Sometimes we play slots on Fridays after work with beer and wine. If I won €1 million, I’d buy a villa in southern Europe and the rest I would invest in stock markets and gaming companies or start-ups.
Ville Sissonen is the Managing Director and co-founder of Good Game. He has an extensive background playing poker and is now a professional player in the online casino business. He’s been working in the industry since 2007.
Have you attended SiGMA last year? Relive the highlights from our last show and stay tuned for this year’s SiGMA. Watch out for what we’re branding as the ‘iGaming Village’ this year.