The 3D poker-playing avatars created by PKR have featured in an advertising campaign that may be familiar to television viewers. The company operates a 3D poker website that is designed to give the feeling that the player is sat at a real poker table. Players can create their own avatars, dress them, add bling and even make the most of seasonal costumes on occasions such as Christmas and Halloween. They can also create the perfect poker face by tweaking features and facial movements, set their mood to let the table know if they are confident, nervous, aggressive or happy, as well as adjust their attitude and body language.
The company is the brainchild of Jez San, who founded the games developer Argonaut at the age of 16 and was responsible for Star Glider, one of the first 3D computer games on the market. In the early 1990s Argonaut developed the world’s first 3D graphics accelerator chip, which was sold to Nintendo. After a number of other projects for the likes of Philips and Apple, Argonaut then invested in developing its own microprocessor chip called ARC, which was spun out into a separate company. ARC and Argonaut floated in 2000 and two years later San was one of the first people to receive an OBE for services to the computer gaming industry.
The PKR website tries to create a community feel. It allows players to contact each other through a forum and pick who they play against so that they get to know their opponents. Players can also sign up to receive the company’s free poker magazine and watch other people’s avatars playing poker on PKR TV.
The company claims that some 4m people across Europe, Canada and Australia are signed to the site and that 400,000 play monthly, of which 80,000 play for money. Revenue is generated by charging fees per hand—known as the rake—and entry fees to tournaments. As well as poker, customers can play other casino games against the house, including roulette, Deal or No Deal, blackjack and Casino Hold’em.
The company was founded in 2004 and today has a team of 45 developers who create new casino and poker games. In the next year it plans to launch 3D blackjack, 3D Casino Hold’em and 3D Caribbean stud as well as slot machines. It is also looking to expand further on the Continent.
PKR is backed by a consortium of private investors and although the founders are still actively involved in the business, they appointed former managing director of The Ritz Club London Online, Malcolm Graham, as chief executive and Jean-Pierre Houareau as chief financial officer in 2006.
The company claims it is adding 100,000 new players a month, something that is bound to bolster its already impressive growth rate of 356% a year from £347,000 in 2006 to £33m in 2009. Revenue represents the net income from bets placed and games played rather than amounts wagered by customers. The company is regulated by the Alderney Gambling Control Commission and has an office in central London.
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