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IN-DEPTH 3 March 2017
Going beyond free spins
Yggdrasil CEO Fredrik Elmqvist discusses how in-game promotional tools can add significant marketing weight to an operator’s product
By Gambling Insider

Alongside its games development, Yggdrasil Gaming also helps operators find new, innovative and social ways to promote slots beyond the traditional free spins, with its in-game promotional tools. Gambling Insider caught up with Yggdrasil CEO Fredrik Elmqvist to discuss how great promotional tools can help operators and players.

Why are promotional concepts and tools so important in the online casino sector?

Competition is so intense when it comes to online slots, which makes it important to support slot games with promotional tools. Operators expect the full package, which includes seamless integration and innovative ways to promote the game. That’s why promotional tools ensure that slots gain the audience they deserve.

What are the advantages of Yggdrasil’s in-game leaderboard and in-game raffle tools? What’s in it for the operators?

We want operators to be able to run promotions without disturbing gameplay. For example, players are able to access our in-game leaderboard and in-game raffle within the slot, leading to greater levels of immersion and an opportunity to engage with gamification elements without the normal gameplay suffering.

Our operators have been extremely enthusiastic about the tools. Head of casino at Cherry Group Fredrik Sehlstedt has said the tools are very quick and easy to use, and have helped both acquisition and retention.

And what is the appeal for the player?

The main appeal is having access to great promotions which don’t disrupt the base gameplay. Players do not want to have to leave a slot to keep checking their position on a leaderboard because it ruins the experience. We offer a solution which adapts to the player’s language and includes full functionality in a manner which is easy to understand. It really improves the overall user experience.

You launched your Cash Race tool at the beginning of Euro 2016 – could you tell us a little about the benefits of that product?

The idea of Cash Race is to allow operators to offer short and sharp promotions with big cash prizes which can lead to large turnover increases. Operators can define a period during which any spin can be awarded with a mystery prize from the operator’s pool. It is a fantastic tool for converting sportsbook players to casino.

We demonstrated the tool with our own campaign across our entire network at Euro 2016. During half time of the opening match between France and Romania, Yggdrasil provided a €10,000 pool from which any player spinning during those 15 minutes could win up to €1,000 at random. It proved a big success causing a major spike in activity, which requires a great back-end to deal with the extra stress on the system.

Operators seem to agree, too. Thomas Hutchinson, head of casino at NordicBet, told me the operator used it extensively during the European Championship and it helped keep customers engaged.

How can operators increase their social media presence?

Our industry has talked a lot about tapping into the promotional potential of social media. Instead of just talking, we have delivered by developing a tool which actually allows operators to increase their social media presence.

This brand new social sharing feature called BRAG is an industry-first concept that allows players to watch the replays of winning spins and share them with friends on Facebook and Twitter.

From speaking to plenty of Yggdrasil players, we know there is a desire from users to be able to share their success with friends. Operators have also shown a great deal of interest in the tool since launch and we already have plans on how to best integrate it into marketing strategies. We have plans to expand the tool in the coming months, and we truly believe it will be a game-changer.
DISCUSS THIS ARTICLE
IN-DEPTH 16 August 2019
Roundtable: David vs Goliath – Can startups really disrupt the industry?

(AL) Alexander Levchenko – CEO, Evoplay Entertainment

Alexander Levchenko is CEO of innovative game development studio Evoplay Entertainment. He has overseen the rapid expansion of the company since it was founded in early 2017 with the vision of revolutionising the player experience.

(RL) Ruben Loeches – CMO, R Franco

Rubén Loeches is CMO at R. Franco Group, Spain’s most established multinational gaming supplier and solutions provider. With over 10 years working in the gambling, betting and online gaming industries, he is skilled in operations management and marketing strategy.

(JB) Julian Buhagiar – Co-Founder, RB Capital:

Julian Buhagiar is an investor, CEO & board director to multiple ventures in gaming, fintech & media markets. He has lead investments, M & As and exits to date in excess of $370m.

(DM) Dominic Mansour – CEO, Bragg Gaming Group:

Dominic Mansour has an extensive background of nearly 20 years in the gaming and lottery industry. He has a deep understanding of the lottery secto,r having been CEO at the UK-based Health Lottery, as well as building bingos.com from scratch, which he sold to NetPlay TV plc.

What does it take for a startup to make waves in gaming?

DM: On the one hand, it’s a bit like brand marketing; you build an identity, a reputation and a strategy. When you know what you stand for, you then do your best to get heard. That doesn’t necessarily require a TV commercial but ensuring whatever you do stands out from the crowd. Then you have to get out there and talk to people about it. 

AL: Being better than the competition is no longer enough; if you’re small, new and want to make a difference – you have to turn the industry on its head. Those looking to make waves need to come up with a new concept or a ground-breaking solution. Take Elon Musk, he didn’t found Tesla to improve the existing electric cars on the market, he founded it to create the industry’s first mass-market electric sports car. It’s the same for online gaming; if you want to make waves as a startup, you have to bring something revolutionary to the table.

JB: Unique IP is key, particularly in emerging (non-EU) markets. As does the ability to release products on time, with minimal downtime and/or turnaround time when issues inevitably occur. A good salesforce capable of rapidly striking partnerships with the right players is vital, as is not getting bogged down too early on in legal, operational and admin red tape.

How easy it for startups to bring their ideas to life? How do they attract capital?

AL: It depends on the people and ideas behind the startup. Of course – the wave of ‘unicorns’ is not what it used to be. Some time ago the hype was a lot greater in terms of investing in startups, but that’s changed now. Investors now want more detail – and even more importantly, to evaluate whether the startup has the capacity (as well as the vision) to solve the problem it set out to address. That’s not to say investors are no longer interested in startups – they certainly are – but now more than ever, it’s important for startups to understand their audience as well as dreaming big.

JB: To get to market quickly, you need a great but small, team. If slots or sportsbook, the mathematical engine and UX/UI are crucial. Having a lean, agile dev team that can rapidly turn wire framing and mathematical logic into product is essential. Paying more for the right team is sometimes necessary, especially when good resources are scarce (here’s looking at you, Malta and Gibraltar).

Building capital is a different beast altogether. You won’t be able to secure any funding until you have a working proof of concept and, even then, capital is likely to be drip fed. Be prepared to get a family and friends round early on to deliver a ‘kick-ass’ demo, then start looking at early-stage VCs that specialise in growth-stage assets.

How do you react when you see startups coming in with their plan for disruption?

RL: We welcome the innovation and fresh thinking startups bring. This is particularly the case in Latin America, with a market still in its infancy. One area we’d especially like to see startups making waves is in the slot development sector. Latin America is a young market that needs local innovation suited to its unique conditions – especially in regard to mobile gaming.

Operators eyeing the market have Europe‐focused core products, which creates a struggle to work to the requirements of players and regulators. To succeed there, it has become more important than ever to work with those with a knowhow of the local area to adapt products and games to besuitable from the off; we welcome the chance for local talent to develop and grow.

Do you think it’s easier for established companies to innovate and establish new ideas? 

AL: From a financial perspective, yes. It is without a doubt easier for incumbent companies to establish a pipeline of innovation via their R & D departments, as well as having the tools to hand for data gathering and analysis.

But it stops there. Startups hold court in every other way. Not only are they flexible, they can easily switch from one idea to another, change strategy instantly as the market demands and easily move team members around. Established companies know this – and this is why we’re seeing an emerging trend for established companies to acquire small, innovative online gaming start-ups. They have the right resources and unique ideas, as well as the ability to bring a fresh approach to businesses’ thinking.

RL: For me, it’s always going to be established companies. Only with the resources, industry experience and know‐how can a company apply technology and services that truly make a difference. Of course there are exceptions. But when it comes to providing a platform that can be approved by regulators across multiple markets – as well as suiting an operators’ multiple jurisdictions – it is simply impossible for a couple of young bright minds with a few million behind them to get this done.

DM: I actually think it’s harder for established companies. It’s key to differentiate between having a good idea and executing one. That’s where the big corporates struggle most. They’re full of amazing people with all sorts of great ideas but getting them through systems and processes is nearly impossible.

Is it essential to patent-protect innovative products?

AL: It’s a very interesting subject. If we take IT for example – patents can actually become a block to the evolutionary process within the industry. Of course, getting a patent future proofs yourself from the competition copying your concept but, having said that, if you’re looking to protect yourself from someone more creative, smarter and agile, you’ve probably lost the battle already!

In our industry everything is moving faster and research takes less time than the development itself. No matter how good you are at copy pasting, you can’t copy Google or Netflix. The most important thing is not the tech itself but rather its ‘use-case’ – or in other words, does it solve what it’s meant to solve? Competition is healthy and the key to innovation. If you spend your whole time looking behind you, you’ll never be able move forwards.

JB: Tricky question, and one that depends on what and where you launch this IP. It can be difficult to patent mathematical engines and logic, mostly because they’re re-treading prior art. Branding, artwork and UX is more important and can easily be copied, but the territories you launch will determine how protectable your IP will be once patented. US/EU/Japan is easy but expensive to protect in. But China/South East Asia is a nightmare to cover adequately. Specialised patent lawyers with experience in software, and ideally gaming, can help you better.

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