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.
Introducing new verticals to the online casino space
FunFair Games made its debut in 2020 to take advantage of the non-traditional games vertical including crash and multiplayer content. Since its inception, the company has experienced a great level of traction, and recently boosted its management team to help further scale the business and enhance its product pipeline. Carlo Cooke was appointed Commercial Director just over six months ago and speaks to European Gaming about his experience with the company and the challenges and opportunities with introducing new products in a crowded marketplace.
What are the biggest challenges in selling-in non-traditional content to operators?
Whilst there are undoubtedly top performing non-traditional games already in the market, the vertical is still very much in its infancy in contrast to slots. There is not even really an established vocabulary with some operators referring to the genre as crash or arcade, and others as non-traditional or even just games. This also means that there isn’t necessarily a natural home for the games in the casino lobby yet, and they are often positioned amongst slots. As we are somewhat targeting a different demographic to the slot player (although our content appeals to this audience as well), we believe that this causes some confusion.
Larger operators with their own technical infrastructure are able to substantiate a dedicated tab for non-traditional games, further supported by significantly larger acquisition/CRM budgets. In other words, they can afford to experiment. In contrast, smaller operators may be more limited in their capacity to position or market this emerging content.
The approach that we are taking is to share our learnings and to educate and inform both operators and players on a localised and market relevant level.
Are you finding that operators are slow/reluctant to accept new and different verticals?
Not at all! It’s quite the opposite in the sense that our content is genuinely something new and innovative, and for that reason, it is in high demand. Casino and content managers are always on the lookout for the next big thing, and multiplayer experiences, which help to create an authentic sense of community, are currently extremely sought-after. We find this really encouraging and it keeps the creative juices flowing in the FunFair Games workshop.
I also take the view that there is immense job satisfaction (both from a B2C and a B2B perspective) in being the first to market with an innovative product, or the first to experiment and get it right. This is why I believe this vertical is so appealing and exciting at the moment. Whilst slots are still the core for many operators, we’re definitely in the middle of a sea-change at the moment. I believe the foundation of the non-traditional vertical has been laid, and we’re finding that more operators have the appetite to test our content within their respective audiences, and across their target markets.
When speaking to operators, what are the biggest frustrations that you hope to solve for them when it comes to innovative new content?
We believe that Gen Z and Y simply do not engage with slots in the same way as previous generations. As this younger audience is continuously emerging in the iGaming space, it creates an opportunity for operators to provide a new experience, one which is akin to meeting the high expectations of that demographic. One of our core values is to fill this gap by creating more social (as opposed to solitary), and more active (player driven volatility) games, whilst keeping them simple and engaging. In addition to this, we’ll also be exploring new features and tools in the coming months ahead!
You have expanded into a few new markets in 2022, what’s next on the agenda?
It might be late in the year, but there is still a lot more to come from FunFair Games. It’s true that this year saw us increase our presence in key markets, such as the UK, Italy and Belgium to name a few. This momentum is still truly ongoing and we’ll aim to make the most of the last remaining weeks of the year from a distribution point of view, as well as celebrating the launch of new customers. There is currently a genuine buzz at the studio for our roadmap next year. We’ve recently hired a new Head of Game design and Math who is working hard with our CEO to produce some incredible games which will be available for our clients in the near future so watch this space!
A unique World Cup – on and off the pitch!
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!
Exclusive Q&A w/ Paul Buianov, Founder and CEO at BetCare
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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