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“We want to innovate and ensure that no two releases are ever the same”: Exclusive Nordics interview with Darren Stephenson from Push Gaming.

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Push Gaming JJ2 Success - Exclusive Interview with Darren Stephenson, Marketing Director at Push Gaming
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The Nordic region arguably has some of the most demanding players in Europe when it comes to slots – we caught up with Push Gaming’s Director of Business Development to talk through the supplier’s success in capturing their attention.

Can you give us a quick snapshot of Push Gaming’s operations in the Nordics?

The decision to enter the Nordics was a strong option for us for a couple of reasons. Primarily, this was due to the fact that the Nordics is one of Europe’s most established gaming regions. Online gambling (and in particular slots), are very popular there, so becoming a part of this was an obvious choice.

Also, at that point in time, we had chosen the Relax Gaming platform for our distribution channel. This provided us with a fantastic opportunity to reach a number of respected Nordic operators that were already integrated onto the platform and enabled us to establish a foothold in the region quite rapidly.

Naturally our CEO James Marshall started spending more time in Malta working with our partners to promote the games and ensure everything ran smoothly for them. Over time, and with plenty of Scandinavian operators having their base in Malta, it was a natural progression into becoming a really key region for us.

Why do you think your games have proven so popular in the region?

Scandinavia is one of the most mature markets when it comes to slots, and our slots are designed to be different and challenge the status quo.

Our design team utilises cutting-edge technology to deliver an immersive experience. The attention to detail, which is so important to us, fits perfectly in a market where players notice the smallest of differences, and our quality versus quantity approach resonates well with such a demanding group of players.

How would you profile the typical Scandinavian player? Are there typical demographics?

We try to avoid getting drawn into focusing too much on specific demographics. We simply aim to create a highly entertaining product that is set to resonate with all types of players.

We want to innovate and ensure that no two releases are ever quite the same. Of course, there are certain themes which you might expect to resonate with one region or market more than others, and that might become part of our launch planning discussions with our partners.

A good example of this might be that we have very high hopes for Joker Troupe, as the Joker theme has always proven so popular in the region.

The key takeaway for us here is much its popularity resonated with our approach. After all, we’re an entertainment company at heart – and evidently with the right combination of maths, graphics and immersion, we’ve learned that you can engage and entertain multiple types of players with the same game.

Are there certain design elements of game mechanics that you look to incorporate to meet regional preferences?

When it comes to mechanics, HypermodeTM, the in-game feature for Joker Troupe, has also been very well-received. It gives the player a timer instead of a set amount of spins, and when landing enough of the joker symbol, players can reset the timer and continue spinning.

The game is a fusion of a popular theme combined with exciting mechanics and was heavily influenced by the Scandinavian markets and the demand we’re seeing from Nordic players. The product owner that ran this project was also Swedish so his own experiences and preferences would of course have had an influence on the end result also.

That’s not to say we launched Joker Troupe with plans to make it all about that region, but rather – if it’s good enough for players renowned for their discerning nature, then we’re likely on to a winner.

How do you view the development of the Swedish market since regulation at the beginning of 2019?

It’s certainly evolving. It may have been a somewhat rocky start but being suppliers, we’re lucky that it’s been less of an issue for us. Sweden’s licensed gambling operators still reported strong numbers in revenue for the first half of 2020 so the market remains extremely important and will continue to be a key market for us and will certainly stay a big part of our future plans.

What can you tell us about your plans for 2021 and beyond for these markets?

In general, I see no reason why Scandinavia can’t continue its successful upward trend. Regulation will of course have an impact and is something that will need to be monitored.

When it comes to potential expansion, we are very close to launching with one of, if not the biggest, operators in the region – so we are super excited to see our games going live and look forward to sharing more news on that partnership.

We’ll also be steadily innovating and tailoring our platform in line with our planned expansion, which we hope will be of great benefit to our partners. And of course, we wouldn’t be Push Gaming if we didn’t have a line-up of new immersive games with great features in development, so stay tuned!

Interviews

A unique World Cup – on and off the pitch!

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A unique World Cup – on and off the pitch!
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The World Cup is held every four years and this edition of the most famous football tournament on the planet is unique given the venue and the fact it sits right in the middle of the domestic season.

With that in mind, how does this affect user engagement and betting patterns over the course of this prestigious competition? We spoke to BETEGY CEO, Alex Kornilov who gives his insights into how successful engagement with players could be.

 

With football already Europe’s most popular sport, what new ways of user engagement have you put together for the World Cup?

This football season brought many ways to explore user engagement into the industry. The World Cup in Qatar is the real test to show the best approaches to customers’ experience. At BETEGY, we knew that online betting would thrive during the tournament, and we have managed to deliver creative visuals with live data from all the matches, which can be used in various formats and presented on different platforms.

 

The World Cup is being hosted right in the middle of the domestic football season across Europe. Does this make the World Cup more or less popular from a betting perspective?

The World Cup has always been one of the most significant events in the betting industry –  and I see no reason for this iteration to be less popular than before. In addition, the tournament duration has been decreased to 28 days, meaning more matches squeezed into a shorter space of time. This is definitely going to help keep the audience’s excitement and engagement at their highest.

The only competitor for the attention of sports punters will be the upcoming holiday hustle when people will be getting all set for the festive season. However, I don’t see that as a big risk. With football fans watching the biggest football event of the year from the comfort of their own homes, it’s an excellent opportunity to attract a new audience to the betting market.

 

A Middle Eastern country is hosting the World Cup for the first time. How is this unique environment playing to BETEGY’s strengths, given the majority of fans are watching from home?

With more fans watching football from home, keeping them entertained with the most high-quality offering and products is very important. Players in the industry will compete for the fans’ attention and will do their best to build a scalable relationship with them beyond the World Cup. Live scores, statistics, and betting prices in various markets must be delivered to the users’ screens with no delay and with the best look and feel. This is one of the aspects BETEGY is the best at – and we have thoroughly prepared to help our clients solve the pain points related to it.

 

With Europe not due to host another World Cup until 2030 at the earliest, is it a positive for technology and engagement that the tournament is being held in nations where football popularity is on the rise? 

The next World Cup will take place in 16 different cities across North America. This tournament is probably the most important in the context of how “soccer” has been promoted in the United States recently. On one side, the USSF and the MLS clubs have been working a lot to promote soccer locally by bringing top-class players into the league. On the other hand, the US has rarely stuck to the traditional European perception of sport and football in particular. Sport in the US serves its goal – to entertain the audience. Strategists at NBA or NFL would do almost anything to keep fans engaged and ensure all the remote viewers are enjoying the show.

Also, this new, next-gen audience is highly discerning  – which pushes the market to deliver innovative solutions and ideas to engage, excite and entertain. For sports tech and entertainment companies, it’s a huge opportunity and a challenge at the same time to find a key to the hearts and minds of potential new football fans. Some best practices for the US market are already known, so bringing football to new horizons is a certain path to making this game even more beautiful.

 

How can companies capture this new wave of interest?

US sports fans are already used to high standards of the content delivered to them. Everyone who wants to surf this wave of delight should definitely focus on innovation and quality. I’ve noticed that people love to know what’s happening on the pitch and, at the same time, are always willing to guess what’s going to happen next. The rise of technology helps to understand the game better, it gives birth to new betting markets, but it also helps companies enhance the users’ involvement in the game.

With the US online betting market opening, many players from the industry are seeking an opportunity to test their best offering on new audiences. Since soccer is undoubtedly on the rise, a chance to attract American bettors became a significant pull factor for most industry members – and we’re very excited with what we’re doing at BETEGY.

 

It has been 20 years since a non-European country won the World Cup. Do you think a European nation will win this prestigious tournament this year given the first round of results?

The first round has shown that football has advanced at all levels, especially geographically. For example, some national teams from Asia have had tremendous results against supposedly much stronger rivals from South America and Europe. And it’s not only about the result – those teams’ performance and style of play are a delight to watch. At this stage, almost any underdog has the chance to proceed to the knockout stages and refute the odds.

In my opinion, some Latin American national teams have a high chance of winning the World Cup. Still, they’ll need to deliver their best performance against the highly-experienced European contenders. It will be fascinating to watch it all happening. And may the best team win!

 

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Interviews

Exclusive Q&A w/ Paul Buianov, Founder and CEO at BetCare

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Exclusive Q&A w/ Paul Buianov, Founder and CEO at BetCare
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Why is customer service so important for online casino operators? How does it allow them to stand out from their rivals? 

Customer service is one of the most powerful player acquisition tools available to online casino and sportsbook operators. It allows brands to quickly build trust with players, and to answer any questions they may have before signing up, depositing and playing. This makes it a very important part of the onboarding process. Customer support is very much the front line for operators and the first point of contact the player will have with the brand. It’s also vital to retention, with good customer service providing players with answers to any questions they may have, resolving technical issues and strengthening responsible gambling processes and procedures. This means that customer service can be a significant differentiator, making players feel better looked after and more appreciated than at rival brands. The personal touch should never be underestimated, as this is often what keeps players coming back for more.

 

What are the key challenges that operators face when it comes to customer support? Does this differ from market to market? If so, how? 

The greatest challenge with customer support in any market is ensuring that player questions are answered and that requests are satisfied. This might sound easy, but it’s not. Customer support must be available 24 hours a day, seven days a week. Agents must have a deep understanding of the online casino/sportsbook and how it works, while also being able to communicate with players with patience and empathy, and in a language they understand. This is especially challenging for operators active in multiple markets around the world – like the rest of their proposition, customer support must be localised.

 

How can these challenges be overcome? 

To overcome these challenges, operators must build out a sophisticated customer support function with a highly trained team that can provide round-the-clock support in the market where their brands are active. What’s more, they must not be afraid to communicate with players – ultimately, communication is what makes customers feel valued and important to the brand. Internally, customer support must have a clear understanding of the business and the casino/sportsbook and have a direct line of communication with other departments and teams. This is the only way issues can be effectively escalated and resolved. As you can tell, customer support is a vast, all-encompassing part of the business and that’s why many operators look to outsource this part of the business to specialist third parties.

 

What does gold standard customer support look like? How can it be achieved?

In addition to the above, gold-standard customer support must be available to support players across all touchpoints and moments in their journey with the casino or sportsbook. This covers from the first time they land on the site through onboarding, depositing, playing, withdrawing and loyalty. That’s why it is so important for agents to be highly trained and also work hand in hand with other departments in order to be able to deliver the support players need with any aspect of the brand or their play.

 

Is customer service important from a responsible gambling perspective? How? 

Yes, it is vital. Effective responsible gambling comes down to communication with players and customer support agents are best placed to do this. By asking the right questions, they can understand player behaviours and help to determine if they are displaying signs of problem play. Those with the right training can also make interventions and direct players to the support they need. But customer service can also be preventive, making players aware of the risks of gambling addiction and helping them use the tools available to keep in control of their play. Ultimately, prevention is the best approach as it stops players going on to generate gambling problems, and customer support is a very effective preventative tool.

 

Why should operators look to outsource customer support rather than build an in-house team?

Building out a customer service function is a significant undertaking, especially for smaller operators that tend to have to prioritise other areas of the business. Customer support specialists such as BetCare can take control of the entire function and localise it for each of the markets the operator targets. We have the experience and the expertise to know what it takes to deliver five-star support, and the team in place to provide it. We also offer a range of additional services and solutions, such as reactivation, attracting players including mass-mailing and SMS campaigns along with KYC, risk payments and analysis of players’ behavioural patterns.

We pay special attention to VIP players, not only by providing exceptional service in a range of languages but also by varying our communication channels. We initiate communication with VIPs and, even more importantly, via the platforms they want to use.

 

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Interviews

Exclusive interview with Vladimir Malakchi: Evoplay kicks-off in Ireland!

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Exclusive interview with Vladimir Malakchi: Evoplay kicks-off in Ireland!
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Capping off an outstanding year for Evoplay with multiple industry awards and deals with major providers, including Relax Gaming, Bragg Gaming Group and Fortuna, we sat down with Evoplay’s CCO, Vladimir Malakchi to talk through his plans for their Irish debut.

 

The burgeoning Irish market is one of the fastest-growing markets in the iGaming landscape, but what promise does it hold for Evoplay?

I would say that the Irish market’s steady expansion stems from a crucial factor – a strong demand for iGaming. The latest research illustrates that Irish gamblers constitute one of the largest iGaming audiences across Europe. To be specific, around ​​59% of Ireland’s population regularly gambles online, rendering it a particularly attractive jurisdiction for providers that are looking to expand into up-and-coming markets.

Our recently established partnership with Novibet has allowed us to unlock the Irish market and reach iGaming enthusiasts across the country with our highly sought-after titles, including 52 gamification-packed video slots and 10 instant games, featuring bestsellers such as our World Cup-inspired Penalty Shoot-out.

 

How are you looking to cater to Irish players’ preferences, and how does that impact your game development strategy? 

Online casino is in good company amongst some of the most popular types of entertainment in Ireland, and our rich portfolio is more than suitable to provide its players with the experiences they desire. The people in Ireland are sociable, outgoing, entertaining, and enjoy participating in healthy competition thanks to the nation’s rich heritage in sports.

Evoplay’s games are well-known for their innovative and gamified elements, which are core tenets of the development process surrounding each product. For this reason, we can rest assured that the variety of content we provide caters to all demographics of Irish players, with titles stacked full of social features such as leaderboards, live chats, progress systems, and tournaments.

The inclusion of these features ensures maximum excitement for players, thanks to their support of social interaction and healthy competition between players, with the experiences further enhanced by strong betting features, customisation, and well-designed peripherals.

 

Is there a particular demographic of Irish player that your products have seen success with?

As our development strategy is to create products that capture the imaginations of a broad audience, our games are popular with a real variety of demographics, from conservative players all the way to the next generation. Those coming from a background of traditional casino games will find a lot of joy in our impressive selection of our retro slots, such as the Fruit Super Nova series, while next-gen players seeking something fresh and unique can dive into our collection of modern experiences, featuring innovative yet easy-to-understand titles stacked full of social elements.

With almost half of the Irish population being interested in football, supporting football clubs and consuming a spread of sports content, our renowned football-themed instant game – Penalty Shoot-out – has every chance to become the next big hit in the market during the World Cup and beyond.

 

How have your Irish-themed slots been received by players in the region?

We already have Irish-themed titles in our portfolio, and that’s not only in regard to slots but instant games too, which have become the perfect accompaniment to Saint Patrick’s Day and a portion of our more traditional content.

Ireland as a country has a very rich culture and supplies us with so many exciting opportunities to develop themes and plots to create leading experiences. I am sure that the distinctive charm and the local peculiarities of Irish culture will inspire us to develop more titles that feature elements of Irish heritage in the months ahead.

 

Having recently taken your sought-after games portfolio live with Novibet, do you have any other operator deals on the horizon?

Ireland is a high-potential market with an online casino vertical generating more than €200 million year on year. Establishing an agreement with an operator as respected as Novibet is the first step in reaching Irish customers and making a statement about what we do at Evoplay. We definitely see more partnerships within the jurisdiction on the horizon and welcome opportunities to further establish a solid footing in the region.

 

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