We sat down with Evoplay Entertainment CBDO, Vladimir Malakchi, to discuss how the revolutionary casino game developer has changed iGaming for the better – and why, despite the challenging nature of today’s global economy, he’s bullish about the industry’s prospects in 2021.
Evoplay Entertainment notched up plenty of exciting industry firsts during 2020, can you tell us a bit about your year?
2020 was an outstanding year for Evoplay Entertainment – we unveiled 35 unique game titles, including our flagship Dungeon: Immortal Evil, the industry’s first RPG-inspired hack and slash slot game, presented at ICE London.
We also enriched our portfolio with instant games, a real showcase of ours, with a menu of sport-themed titles, including Football Manager and Penalty Shoot-out – both of which have done a great job of supplementing sportsbook during last year’s cancellation of live events. I’m really pleased about the numbers for these from a commercial standpoint, particularly in LatAm, where we’ve enjoyed significant growth.
Alongside our catalogue, we also strengthened our product line’s quality with the branded customised engine, Spinential. Usage of the engine allows us to accelerate loading and download speeds for games by up to x10 and makes titles accessible to players with devices of different capabilities. This is especially key for us in high growth markets such as Colombia, where you’re looing at an increase in GDP per capita of close to $200 million for the last two years alone.
You were founded in 2017 – as someone with an established record across the start-up and VC world, what do you see as key for your leading your team from rising to star to established industry player?
The key is always a team, as it drives and scales business and determines how far business will get in a roadmap. This is why, in venture investing, a team evaluation often precedes product evaluation – and its essential for knowing if the odds are strong for success.
We’ve looked to establish these learnings at Evoplay Entertainment. Our approach to team building, division of responsibilities, and a proper understanding of the industry and ways of realising its potential has allowed us to scale our organisation in leaps and bounds in the last year – and has seen us proudly begin to cement ourselves as one of the industry’s most exciting suppliers.
Looking back, it’s certainly been a road of dedication, and together with the team, we tested a raft of concepts to really define what we want our next catalogue to be, which effectively reflected on our development and competitiveness in the market – and we’ve got some really outstanding titles lined up.
Looking at growth markets in 2021 – where’s been key for Evoplay Entertainment in terms of expansion? Where should our readers be looking when it comes to new territories?
For us, it’s been all about expanding into new markets while ensuring we continually fine-tune our products to guarantee they deliver for multiple audiences as well as meeting local requirements.
Personalised offers have also allowed us to appeal to casino operators with relevant products for their players and seen us successfully debut in the Romanian, Bulgarian, Italian, Croatian markets with local certificates in 2020. I’m absolutely delighted to see us topping the iGaming Business deal chart with more than seven signed operators and platforms in the last few months.
Also noteworthy was the brand’s global recognition, gained by some really effective B2C marketing campaigns, which formed an excellent demand for our products from the players – and has really allowed us to differentiate ourselves ahead of our competitors.
In regard to your own commercial success, what do you see as key when it comes to standing out in this new environment with changed player demands?
Understanding your audience and its needs is invaluable. We position ourselves as a supplier with a user-centric approach to game development that can meet and exceed player expectations, and it has paid dividends in terms of our fanbase.
We’ve made this happen by putting in place a well-established network within our marketing team, which analyses players’ behavior and provides data on what products people want to play, and then in turn liaises with the development team, which technically implements these requests.
You can’t underestimate the importance of data in this regard. Players can bounce from your casino, and for reasons that are easily avoidable. Worldpay, for example, has shown us that 30% of players they surveyed will immediately switch operators if their preferred payment method is no longer available.
Constant communication and data exchange allow us to hit the target as much as possible in terms of players’ preferences and producing products that are ranked as world favourites – and I’m delighted to be part of such a team.
How much does your outlook for global markets affect your creative and development strategy? Are you looking to tailor your next catalogues towards arguably different player preferences to 2019 and 2020?
The effects of last year’s events have had an unprecedented impact on business, and from a social and economic perspective – Q1 2021 is not shaping up much better for large parts of Europe. Therefore, in building our strategy for the quarter, we need to consider possible changes in the global world – and adjust pipelines accordingly.
It’s all about agility, and looking at last year, we’ve seen that football-themed instant games (rather than slots), can really reduce the RNG-barrier for sports bettors. This is essential as it provides the cross-channel sell that operators need to have to ensure they’re pandemic-proof. With this in mind, we’re laser focused on keeping up with our users and follow the news in the industry and the world accordingly, making sure we’re always ready to adapt.
Overall, I have no doubt that the industry is still set to grow – Bloomberg has the global gaming industry at more than half a trillion dollars by 2023 – and I see no reason why we shouldn’t be on track for that.
Last but not least, how do you see slots changing in the next few years? With some great tech out there, how do you see games evolving?
Gambling will continue to be influenced by its neighbors from the entertainment sector – video games and cybersport. Entertainment is at the heart of gaming, whether that’s real money or anything else. I also expect to see a bigger movement into gamification that will give players a more immersive product that can really provide for an adventure that the audience can identify with, with a level of gameplay and technical base that can connect with the mainstream.
I also predict that instant games, which became popular in 2020, will continue to rise in demand in the upcoming year due to their simplicity and low weight. Looking at their phenomenal growth since what is arguably Facebook’s original inception – they’ve gone from 20 games in 2017 to 6,000 with 20 billion game sessions. Of course, that applies to the likes of Candy Crush and such, but with numbers such as these, when translated into real money gaming it’s clear that the vertical is full of potential.
Last but not least, keep an eye on what’s going on outside of the industry when it comes to popular content and trending subjects – now, more than ever, capturing what your audience is feeling, and wanting to feel – and then delivering it in entertainment format is what will set you apart from the competition this year.