De Freitas: “My vision for Mobius Interactive is to be one of the first online gaming companies to take over a land-based casino”

According to Nicholas de Freitas, Co-founder and Vice President of Marketing of Mobius Interactive, through its successful brands AragonCasino.com, Mobius.bet and ClubDouble.com, as well as its innovative loyalty, gamification and CRM programs, the company has advanced rapidly in the sector, providing localized content in all the regions in which it is present.

The interviewee believes that, in the near future, there will be greater interaction between Esports players and online sports betting ones, which will favor the monetization of this business.
The interviewee believes that, in the near future, there will be greater interaction between Esports players and online sports betting ones, which will favor the monetization of this business.

In your career, you launched two big projects: UrbanActive and Mobius Interactive. What are the main challenges of an entrepreneur? What are your daily motivations now at Mobius in order to keep on generating ideas, researching new trends and being innovative?

Being visionary has always been the gas that has driven my innovative and entrepreneurial ideas, starting with the launch of UrbanActive Outsourcing several years ago. Having envisaged the Internet of Things (IOT) and new digital media capabilities growing exponentially, and noticing that the big advertising agencies were slow to adopt these media, I formed UrbanActive Outsourcing, and built a business combining the skills of freelancers and consultants under an umbrella of collective intelligence. I approached agencies servicing large retail and financial corporations and offered my company’s freelance outsourcing services to handle online projects, big and small, from setting up interactive websites through to implementing long-term development/IT and financial integrations, all of which were successful. My main challenge here was running a one-man business whilst driving the longer-term projects, until I employed a full-time marketing consulting strategist to assist me in driving the business forward. Let’s jump now to the creation of Mobius Interactive a few years later. Having always been interested in Esports, I saw the potential of combining my passion for Esports with online gaming. I started speaking to iGaming industry professionals. A few of us met every Sunday evening for over a year and a half to discuss and research the possibility of forming our own company. There were many challenges to bringing this idea to fruition, besides the financial implications of getting to market. And then the COVID-19 pandemic hit, seemingly putting an end to our plans! However, Lynn Pearce (our CEO) decided it was a great time to actively look for investors, as most people were stuck at home in lockdown and therefore, as she put it, a captive audience. She was introduced to Gary Eldridge (our Chairman) through mutual friends, and the rest is history! We have had many challenges along the way, and suffered many highs and lows, but it has only made us stronger and more resilient! I believe you are only as good as your team, and we are so lucky to have a great team at Mobius, which frees me up to be visionary and allows me to research existing and potential markets in order to generate ideas for continual growth and financial success.

What characteristics do the company’s brands: Aragon Casino, Club Double and Mobius.Bet have and how do they combine to deliver an attractive proposal to players?

The AragonCasino.com brand is all about the Knights of old, damsels in distress, mystery and magic spells, and is loosely based on the popular medieval fantasy genre, The Game of Thrones, The Last Kingdom, Reign and Merlin. Mobius.Bet is the leading brand, and caters to the younger Esports players and enthusiasts, including sports betting players, who turned to Esports online when most sporting activities were banned during the pandemic last year. This brand features Twitch streaming, Esports tournaments and sports betting, predominantly. The ClubDouble.com brand is based on America in the 50s, old Hollywood, Las Vegas during its heyday, motels and Diners, which were popular back then. We believe that this will be the wildcard brand and think that it will translate well into different regions, particularly Latin America and India, where we can easily turn the theme into Bollywood and cricket stars. From our approach, the combination of these three brands will give our player base great diversity, regardless of their age groups or interests. They will find the brand they wish to play on, as the overall experience will cater to their needs from sign up through to VIP. All brands will have loyalty points and the gamification program under the Mobius Interactive overarching brand. There will be an entertaining and rewarding experience for the entire player base.

You are from South Africa and were able to work and contact with people from different geographies, such as New Zealand, Europe, Canada and Latin America. What did you learn from your experiences in those various markets? What do affiliates in these regions want and how could Mobius develop an offer with a global focus and a local perspective?

The one thing I have learnt in our gaming industry is that, no matter the distance, we are always connected. Regardless of the competitiveness of our industry, most people are supportive and willing to share ideas and insights. I liaised with ex-colleagues and acquaintances in those regions who informed me of their challenges and their successes, and even introduced me to media companies and some of their affiliates, which was really helpful. Depending on the regions, the affiliates generally require upfront funds and Cost per Acquisition (CPA) deals to kick off with, as it appeared several of them had been burnt at some stage by rogue operators, who are a curse in our industry. The affiliates my team and I spoke to want very much to be partners in our business and to share in our success, which bodes well for our future in these regions. Globally, our offer across the board is to deliver the best loyalty program, coupled with real-time gamification that drives interactivity between us and our player base, underpinned with superb customer service. This universal offering allows us to localize our content in all the regions we are currently in and expanding into this year. Our product mix of sports betting, Esports, casino and live casino also allow us to localize our content, based on players needs in various regions. We strongly believe in localizing our content and we encourage our Country Managers to bring on local teams in their regions to ensure we speak locally, whilst acting globally.

How did you use loyalty, gamification and CRM programs in Mobius to enhance users’ engagement?

Our loyalty program has been derived from years of experience in the casino industry, dealing with recreational players all the way through to VIPs. We looked around to find the best CRM system to support it, and we found this with a relatively new company to the gaming industry, Solitics, which delivered everything we needed and so much more in their innovative real-time offerings. We use the loyalty and CRM program to interact in almost real-time with our player base, constantly sending them information via SMS, push notifications, emails, customer support, all based on their player activity. We have had fantastic feedback from our player base via our customer service team, who are constantly interacting with them to ensure they receive the best player journey ever! Moreover, we will be launching a gamification program from CompetitionLabs shortly. It is currently going through an amazing upgrade of hugely entertaining additions, so we decided to wait for those elements to be included prior to integrating it with our loyalty and CRM platform.

What do you find are the main differences between digital and traditional retail marketing?

That question is very relevant right now, due to the pandemic basically shutting down the world as we know it last year. The lockdown due to the COVID-19 pandemic affected all businesses globally, negatively impacting the retail, hospitality, and tourism industries the most. However, a lot of online businesses did not suffer as much, and some of them actually thrived, particularly online gaming, with Esports replacing sports betting, due to most sporting events being cancelled. So I will relate your question directly with our industry: online gaming (digital marketing) vs. land-based casinos (traditional retail marketing). I have always been a proponent of combining digital with retail marketing, but not in this present financial crisis, as it is too expensive with little return right now. Online digital marketing has fared so much better than traditional retail marketing, where you rely heavily on foot traffic. A number of land-based casinos have closed their doors, although some are still open and thriving. On the whole, looking at the huge increase in numbers of players online due to the lockdowns globally, the opportunity to do a merger with a land-based casino is so much more possible now. In fact, as a colleague of mine said to me recently, given what happened to Entain and MGM and Flutter, even Barstool and the enormous growth of their companies in the digital arena, I think this year you will see the first ever reverse acquisition: an online company buying up a traditional land-based casino! My vision for Mobius Interactive is to be one of the first online gaming companies to take over a land-based casino. We managed to set up an online gaming company in the middle of the pandemic and launch three diverse brands within three months, which has to be a record in the gaming industry. This is not an idle wish, but a distinct possibility to grow business!

How important is photography to you? How can art be used to develop digital technology that makes people’s lives more entertaining?

The quality of digital photography is hugely important to me. When done well, it brings the storyline to life online, depicting the visual imagery of being in the moment, the feelings, sensations, and emotions, which is paramount to a good player experience. Digital technology has improved dramatically over the years, and it is becoming harder to tell the difference between real life and animation online. In that sense, regarding our products, we have Virtual Sports and Fantasy Leagues, Xbox and PlayStation games, augmented reality, motion graphics with Twitch streaming and Live Casino streaming. All of this is developed online with a look so real that you could imagine you are right there, in a land-based casino playing at the tables, or supporting your football team in a stadium, with surround-sounds and crowds cheering! We even have a number of casino games mimicking an Esports tournament, plus you have syndicated jackpots for you to play with your friends, even though you are miles apart and playing in your own homes during lockdown. This technology we have at our fingertips, whether on mobile or laptop, brings entertainment into your space, without you ever having to leave your home! It also has the added benefit of reducing loneliness and cabin fever.

What future projects and goals are in your ‘to-do’ list? How do you think the ways of playing and betting of the new demographics will continue to evolve in the next five years?

As my fellow co-founder, Robin Lawson (COO at Mobius) stated in a previous article of G&M News (please, check: https://g-mnews.com/lawson-we-look-forward-to-2021-with-great-enthusiasm-and-are-confident-we-will-have-huge-success/), we plan on consolidating our brands in all the regions we are entering and try to go public on a number of stock exchanges within this year and next. This mainly responds to expansion plans and future growth of the company, including the merger with a land-based casino, for which we will need to raise funds. I will continue to work with the 70:20:10 marketing rule, focusing 70% of my time on activities that are core to our business daily, 20% will be spent on pushing the boundaries and getting into the known unknowns and 10% for visionary, crazy ideas that push the boundaries! With regards to the ways that we envision the new demographics will continue to evolve over the next five years, we feel that Esports players will become more mainstream and interlocked with sports betting players online. There will be more betting on Esports tournaments, which we intend to host, not only on our websites using the UltraPlay platform, but also sponsoring offline tournaments and events with Esports companies that we are already in negotiation with for this year. I believe this amalgamation and the monetizing thereof will be the future of the Esports communities and sports betting players, who are now more familiar with both mediums overall.