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Exclusive Evoplay interview on Italy: “We’re creating high-quality games that can really appeal to Italian players.”

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Exclusive Evoplay interview on Italy: “We’re creating high-quality games that can really appeal to Italian players.”
Reading Time: 5 minutes

 

Italy is arguably Europe’s second biggest gaming market and the most interesting when it comes to retail vs. online – with 80% or more players still part of the land-based scene.

We caught up with Evoplay CCO Vladimir Malakchi to hear the latest on their plans for capturing the market, as well as how the award-winning studio’s games are proving to be a real asset for their latest Italian partners.

 

Congratulations on Evoplay’s multiple deals as you expand into Italy! Can you tell us a bit more about your recent partnerships and your plans for further growth in the market?

Thank you! We’re very excited about our recent partnerships and our plans for further expansion. We entered Italy back in 2020, and, over the past three years, we’ve ensured constant growth in players’ interest, trust and openness towards trying out our latest titles.

I truly believe that the key to any commercial success is the partnerships and connections we build with the operators we work alongside. As a result, we are very proud to work with some of the country’s biggest brands. Last year was by far our best yet, securing deals with the likes of Tuko Productions, Scommettendo and Sportbet. Our award-winning slots and instant games have proven to be a real differentiator, and we’re delighted that the feedback has been so positive.

On plans for further growth, we’re strongly focused on building our partner relationships even more, as well as creating high-quality games that can really appeal to Italian players. Our unique gamification tools will no doubt be key to this and are a strong factor in our focus on boosting engagement. So, in short, we’re very excited about Italy’s potential, and we’re confident that our unique approach will continue to resonate with players and partners alike.

What has been the principal driver behind Evoplay selecting Italy as a key market for growth? How would you summarise Italy’s online audience and demographics?

Our main drive here is the increasing adoption of online gaming from land-based. The numbers are clear to see; the online market revenue is projected to grow by 6.69% annually between 2023 and 2027, reaching a total volume of €3.68bn. On audience and demographics, the country is incredibly broad and diverse – which means significant opportunity. There’s a potential market of up to 20 million people for online, with a ratio of approximately 60:40 of male vs. female.

Given that near-parity, we can pursue plenty of creative options. The 25-34 age group is the largest segment, so demand for innovative entertainment is on the rise – which is a gap that Evoplay is serving well! It’s also good to note the level of smartphone penetration – with over 80% of the population using new generation smartphones, game content should be heavily mobile-optimised.

As well as being one of Europe’s biggest gaming markets – Italy also has a unique retail heritage with as much as 90% of gaming still happening offline. What strengths can you offer to operators to provide a platform for conversion into the online world?

Italy’s land-based gaming heritage certainly sets it apart from the rest of Europe. Online gaming holds distinctive benefits such as convenience, a greater variety of games, and of course, bonuses and promotions such as tournaments and quests. I believe that in-game and out-game gamification tools can effectively drive player engagement and improve conversion efforts for sports bettors and offline players. And, of course, those in-game and out-game gamification features add to the whole thrill of playing online, creating a community.

At Evoplay, we pride ourselves on our ability to create immersive and engaging games offline with strong visual and audio elements that can create an experience as exciting as a real casino. We believe that this is particularly important in the Italian market, where players are accustomed to the sensory experience of playing offline and improving conversion efforts for sports bettors and offline players. As a result, we focus heavily on our unique range of gamification features and incentives for our partners.

In addition, we also work closely with our partners to ensure that our games are integrated seamlessly onto their platforms, making it easy for players to access and play them. We understand that trust is a key factor in Italy, so we emphasise ensuring that our games are secure and reliable.

Onto slot types – what gaming trends are you seeing for Italian players and how are you catering to that demand? Which of Evoplay’s games is performing the best?

It’s common knowledge that football is Italy’s favourite sport, and it’s a huge industry with millions of people betting on it. This has had a significant impact on gaming trends in the country. Instant games have become particularly popular, providing a nice contrast to the wait for live sports fixtures when betting. Players love the instant results they get from these games, and it’s a refreshing change of pace. So of course, football-themed games work perfectly for this. Another trend we are seeing is that Italians love to play chicken-themed titles, so this is certainly an avenue we’re continuing to develop!

We are always looking to stay ahead of the curve and provide our Italian players with the latest and most innovative gaming experiences. Classic slots, video slots, in-game gamification elements, out-game gamification, tournaments, and quests are trending heavily, and we’re actively catering to that demand. Our current top-performing games in the Italian market are Penalty Shoot-out, Fruit Super Nova Game Collection, Elven Princesses, and Hot Triple Sevens. These games are loved by players for their engaging gameplay, stunning graphics, and exciting bonus features.

As a truly innovative studio, how can you help online operators improve their conversion efforts for sports bettors and offline players? What can you offer that’s different?

Sports, and indeed sports betting, is an essential part of the Italian fabric. We understand that importance, and we’re proud to offer RNG-based games that provide a unique sports betting experience.

Our games are also designed to be integrated seamlessly with sports betting platforms, which means that players can quickly switch between gaming and sports betting, with the same action enjoyed across both. Evoplay’s RNG-based Football Pack is a vital component of this commitment as it offers a unique and exciting experience that adds to the overall thrill of the betting experience.

Testament to this is the success of our Penalty Shoot-out. This instant game is unique because it features an innovative betting method that keeps players engaged and excited. As players navigate through the game, they experience a realistic penalty shoot-out where they get to choose the nation they want to represent and aim for goal.

Last but not least, what’s Evoplay’s vision for Italy 2023 and 2024? What are your plans for growing even further in the market and entertaining players?

Our vision for Italy in 2023 and 2024 is focused on growth and continued innovation. The market is a core part of our European strategy, and we’re committed to providing the best gaming experiences possible for players here.

To achieve this, we’re launching new games of different types that are tailored to local audiences. Especially exciting is that players can expect another game in the Penalty Shoot-out series. Additionally, we’re also preparing our next flagship game, which is truly fresh and unique, and we’re confident it will be a real hit with players here.

We’re also providing our partners with different game packages that include marketing activities and engagement opportunities. We also see plenty more opportunity in transitioning land-based players to online, which gamification will be a key driver towards achieving.  We make calculated data-driven moves, so we will be gathering all the data and feedback from our operators and based on the collected information, we will prepare our next steps and make predictions for 2024.

Interviews

Exclusive Q&A w/ Richard Mifsud, Chief Vision Officer at XPRIZO

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Exclusive Q&A w/ Richard Mifsud, Chief Vision Officer at XPRIZO
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Would you tell us about the idea behind the Xprizo fintech platform?

It’s a story that started several years ago when the founder was conducting business on the ground in several emerging markets. Xprizo was founded to respond to the needs of emerging market consumers and merchants, whilst also addressing the limitations of Western banking systems.

This full-service payments platform combines all functionality needed by merchants, with a product tailored to unbanked consumers, bringing this market together in one, seamless ecosystem. What’s more, we drive adoption and consumer education through a network of agents, supporting cash deposit and withdrawal in a way that our target audience is accustomed to.

 

Xprizo’s mission statement is to ‘revolutionise the future of fintech’. What gaps in the market is Xprizo working to find solutions for and improve in the fintech space?

We are primarily targeting countries which have substantially large communities which are under served when it comes to fintech or banking. Therefore, we are operating in a challenging environment where we truly believe we can have a life changing impact connecting these people to several national and international services. We are delivering a comprehensive financial service where our clients are usually just served with either mobile money or cash and with the introduction of Xprizo our customers can benefit from p2p payments, card processing and full integration to the local mobile money ecosystem, debit cards, crypto and much much more.

 

How was the development process in building the platform? Were there particular challenges along the way and how long did it take to get the platform ready for market?

We wanted to build the platform from the ground up using local knowledge and tenants so we are working with people coming from Africa, India, Southeast Asia and also Latin America. To arrive at where we are it took several years actually and it is always developing. Having said that in the last 12 months the platform and the wallet took the shape it has today and we covered a lot of ground. Main challenges were the territory we operate in since we needed to make sure the platform can run smoothly with less than ideal infrastructure. One has to keep in mind that we are operating in a space where lack of electricity is the norm, interrupted internet is an everyday occurrence, regulatory matters are still very complex and more.

 

How does the Xprizo platform set itself apart from other fintech offerings? What can the service provide that others can’t?

As explained earlier, we build the platform from the people to the people. Most other offerings are a one-size fits all where they are adapted versions of what is available in the western world. Moreover, we are offering a truly comprehensive payment orchestration for users and merchants. One just needs to get on our platform and doesn’t need anything further. You can get the local payment methods, our own p2p, cards, etc.. No other service out there has such a complete  offering.

 

Xprizo’s platform features a number of payment service providers such as M-Pesa, what benefits does this bring customers?

The idea is that our clients don’t need to use several systems to make their life or business. Using or integrating to Xprizo gives you a number of payment methods in one place where for the business side you would integrate one API and you can pick and choose what you wish to use.

 

How is 2024 shaping up for the business and what plans are in place to continue to develop the platform?

2024 is proving to be an incredible year for Xprizo. We are very happy to be overwhelmed with businesses that are recognising the benefits of using our system and we are having internal discussions to be integrated with very well known businesses and also by Tier 1 banks. Our ground reach though the agent network will also keep expanding month on month and the product offering will keep being a one of a kind setting the standard for other Fintech companies to keep up to.

2024 will also see us expand our reach in Africa launching several other countries and more importantly we will be launching our first operations in South East Asia. We will be beginning with the Philippines in June with the goal of expanding our reach across the following months.

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Exclusive Q&A with Christoffer Ødegården, Head of Casino at Bojoko

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With growing competition in the online casino industry, finding effective ways to attract new players is crucial for operators. To discover which strategies are the most effective, we contacted Christoffer Ødegården.
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

With growing competition in the online casino industry, finding effective ways to attract new players is crucial for operators. To discover which strategies are the most effective, we contacted Christoffer Ødegården. He serves as Head of Casino at Bojoko, one of the top affiliates in the UK, and has access to comprehensive data on what features help secure additional FTDs. In this interview, he shares how diversifying payment options, lowering deposit limits, and refining bonuses can help casinos stay competitive.

 

What are the most effective strategies casinos can use to increase FTDs?

Most casinos focus on tweaking their bonuses to attract new players, which is effective. However, it can also have certain financial risks and lower player value. Our data shows that one of the fastest ways to increase FTDs is to simply expand the selection of payment methods.

It might not be intuitive, but offering a variety of methods does not just mean that players can choose what works best for them once they are on your page. Having the right payment methods will actually lead to a large number of players hearing about and exploring your casino in the first place.

Could you explain the impact of offering diverse payment methods on player behavior?

Many players have specific payment preferences and will only make deposits and withdrawals with specific payment methods, some sticking with just one. It is essential to have all relevant UK payment methods to avoid missing out on these users. As I already mentioned, many Brits actively search for casinos with their preferred payment method available, and comparison sites like Bojoko cater to them.

Bojoko has pages for every popular UK payment method, where players can quickly compare their offers and make their choice. This is without ever being exposed to brands that do not offer their deposit method of choice.

Let me provide a quick example. We have noticed that many Brits actively search for Paysafecard casinos and land on our dedicated page, where they compare casinos that let you deposit with Paysafecard and sign up. These players come with high intent, resulting in higher conversion rates. It is not just Paysafecard; a long string of more niche payment methods are hugely popular amongst Brits.

Which payment methods have proven to be most beneficial?

There are almost too many to mention, but pre-paid cards like Paysafecard, e-wallets like Neosurf, and mobile payment options like Boku and PayForIt are clearly gaining popularity. We have also seen an enormous rise in PayPal in the last few years, and the industry has responded, with most British casinos now offering PayPal. ApplePay is another mainstream payment method that has somehow been largely ignored among online casinos.

How should casinos respond to these emerging trends?

Casinos should always try to quickly embrace these trends, as the earlier they adapt, the more players they stand to earn. There is always an adaption curve where the less common payment methods are only available at a few operators, meaning they share the entire pot of players searching for these options.

I’d also recommend utilizing their relationship with affiliates like Bojoko, which can also amplify visibility. As I mentioned, our platform provides curated lists that guide players to casinos offering their preferred payment method. This visibility and alignment with player preferences often result in a noticeable uptick in FTDs. However, our collaboration with casinos goes beyond simply listing them on these pages. We can and do also provide insights on which payment methods and other features they should add to increase their FTDs.

You mentioned other features they can add to increase their FTDs. What specifically are you referring to? 

Another quick way for a casino to increase their FTDs is to lower the deposit limits. This makes it easier for players to sign up and get a sense of your brand. High minimum deposits can deter new players who want to try the casino without committing too much upfront.

I’d also like to specify that bonuses are still a powerful tool, with no deposit bonuses in particular being an effective way to bring in new players. However, these require a strong focus on player retention to avoid risks like bonus abuse. Less risky bonus options include increasing the percentage of your welcome bonus and trying out wager-free offers. However, no matter what you do, effective retention strategies remain key to ensuring players continue depositing after their initial experience.

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Interviews

RubyPlay and BetConstruct interview: delivering bespoke content for Mr. First

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RubyPlay and BetConstruct interview: delivering bespoke content for Mr. First
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

The launch of Mr. First by BetConstruct 12 months ago saw the creation of an iconic character that has proven to push the boundaries and deliver increased engagement within the iGaming and crypto industries.

As Mr. First celebrates his first birthday, we spoke with Dr Eyal Loz, Chief Product Officer at RubyPlay, and Ruzanna Elchyan, Head of Gaming at BetConstruct, to reflect on how both organisations have worked together to build unique gaming experiences around the popular brand ambassador.

 

May marks the one-year milestone of Mr First. Dr. Eyal, what positive impact has this fun and creative character had within iGaming? What do you like most about the character?

Dr. Eyal Loz: Mr. First is a relatable, fun character that can easily deliver complex initiatives. Seeing Mr. First post online, and also, meeting a larger-than-life Mr. First in gaming shows, really connected us to the fun narrative of this brand ambassador. Mr. First is successful and confident, but also very relatable, not too serious or intimidating. The overall impression is – if “Mr. First can do it, so can I”!

 

Ruzanna, what was the inspiration behind Mr First, and what sort of impact has it had on the iGaming sector?

Ruzanna Elchyan: Mr. First was inspired by the need for a charismatic and relatable character who could serve as an advertising agent and an expert in the crypto and iGaming industries. His impact on the iGaming sector has been profound, bringing a fresh and engaging narrative that resonates with players. Mr. First’s presence has not only made gaming experiences more enjoyable and memorable but has also increased engagement and interest in iGaming, particularly among younger audiences. This has significantly contributed to the sector’s growth and evolution, establishing Mr. First as a symbol of innovation and excitement in the industry.

 

How does BetConstruct envision the incorporation of Mr. First and other games into future collaborative projects with studios like RubyPlay, considering the positive reception and engagement witnessed at the BFTH Arena Awards?

Ruzanna Elchyan: BetConstruct is looking to integrate Mr. First and other games into future collaborative projects with studios like RubyPlay, utilising innovative strategies to enhance player experiences. The enthusiastic reception and high engagement levels at the B.F.T.H. Arena Awards highlight the potential of these partnerships. This positive feedback motivates BetConstruct to push the boundaries of iGaming creativity, ensuring that upcoming projects are not only entertaining but also transformative in their impact on the industry.

 

Dr. Eyal, Immortal Ways: Mr First was a big success and was crowned ‘Best Online Casino Game’ at the BFTH Arena Awards. What has been the key behind this game’s triumph?

Dr. Eyal Loz: We wanted to connect with the authenticity of the Mr First character. Wouldn’t it be fun to get a shirtless Mr. First travel back in time to ancient Egypt? We combined this art narrative with our strongest performing mechanic, Immortal Ways, to create an appealing immersive gaming experience.

 

With the increasing demand for innovative gaming experiences, what role does BetConstruct see collaborative events like the BFTH Arena Awards playing in driving industry innovation?

Ruzanna Elchyan: BetConstruct recognises the growing demand for innovative gaming experiences and sees collaborative events like the B.F.T.H. Arena Awards as instrumental in driving industry innovation. These events serve as platforms for companies to showcase their latest creations, exchange ideas, and inspire one another to push the boundaries of what’s possible in iGaming. BetConstruct is dedicated to supporting and participating in such events to foster industry-wide innovation and growth.

 

Dr. Eyal, talk us through the development of RubyPlay’s Mad Hit Olympic First, what differentiates this title from previous games within the ‘Mad Hit’ series?

Dr. Eyal Loz: The Summer Olympic games are coinciding with the BFTH Arena Awards. This gave us an idea, connecting the narrative of Mr. First taking on big challenges with style, in a fun way. We thought “Wouldn’t it be fun if Mr First represented BetConstruct in the Olympics?”. So, this time, our Mr. First is an Olympic cycling champion, who will bring home some gold medals! The Mad Hit mechanic is a 5X5 reel array with 25 independent reels, and 3,125 ways to win. I’m sure players will love it!

 

And Ruzanna, what do you like most about RubyPlay’s latest bespoke title Mad Hit Olympic First?

Ruzanna Elchyan: Mad Hit Olympic First stands out for its innovative fusion of the Olympic spirit with the excitement of online gaming. This unique approach creates an immersive experience that transports players into the world of competitive sports. The game’s storyline is rich and captivating, drawing players in with its narrative depth and attention to detail. Combined with its engaging gameplay mechanics, Mad Hit Olympic First offers a truly distinctive gaming experience that sets it apart from other titles in the market.

Could you elaborate on the collaborative efforts between RubyPlay and BetConstruct that contributed to the game’s success and how this collaboration might evolve for future projects?

Dr. Eyal Loz: Our partnership with BetConstruct is based on a lot of mutual respect. We both see each other as tenacious innovators, never afraid trying new original business and design directions. For example, both companies celebrate creative fine arts, and try to bring that appreciation into our core business values. When two successful organisations share core elements in their vision, successful collaborations and opportunities are inevitable.

 

How important is BetConstruct’s partnership with RubyPlay? What do they offer differently to other game studios?

Ruzanna Elchyan: BetConstruct’s collaboration with RubyPlay holds immense importance, as it facilitates the delivery of a diverse and captivating selection of games to players, effectively distinguishing them in the fiercely competitive iGaming market. RubyPlay’s distinctiveness among game studios stems from its unique development approach and unwavering dedication to innovation. This commitment makes RubyPlay an invaluable partner for BetConstruct, enriching our offerings and enhancing the overall gaming experience for our players.

 

What does the future hold for the RubyPlay / BetConstruct partnership?

Dr. Eyal Loz: We will continue working together in multiple markets. I’m really looking forward to seeing our new innovative product and promotional initiatives rolled out for the BetConstruct players. As always, when we all row together in the same direction, the sky is the limit.

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