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IN-DEPTH 1 February 2019
Wazdan Head of Sales: Our plans for ICE and 2019
Ahead of the gambling industry event everyone is eagerly awaiting, Andrzej Hyla, Wazdan Head of Sales, speaks to Gambling Insider about his company’s plans for ICE London 2019 and beyond.
By Tim Poole

How have you found your time so far at Wazdan and being based in Malta?

Being a part of Wazdan is not only a great challenge but an adventure. I have been at Wazdan since the beginning and I enjoy working with the team at Wazdan; observing their passion and commitment every day and the joy that comes as their hard work contributes to company development. It’s been great to watch the growth of our games and the popularity of our products among players, and I hope to see further progress in 2019! Malta is a great location for the growth of Wazdan; we’re located right in the middle of everything and close to our clients which is great for business development.

What kind of innovation do you see in the slots market over the next few years?

I see gamification not only offered to casino players (e.g. in the form of loyalty programs), but available in each game separately, and an advanced personalisation of games for individual players. For example, players will be able to choose symbols and place them in their favourite games.

I also think our Unique Wazdan Features – and especially Volatility LevelsTM, which enable players to independently choose the level of volatility in their game – will be an innovation that leads the way in the future. At ICE London 2019, we will be presenting our brand new seventh Unique Wazdan Feature – Big Screen Mode. This new feature provides a unique visual experience while playing our games on large screens, and enables players to fully embrace the atmosphere of their favourite game.

How important is ICE for Wazdan and the rest of the industry as a whole?

As the company grows, we want to continue to showcase our products and the passion we put into them on the global stage. ICE is, as every year, a major industry event in Europe, so Wazdan places great importance on it.

Alongside the presentation of our games on giant 65-inch screens at our stand, we are inviting our customers to a unique evening boat cruise on the Thames, with great cuisine and beverages on the house, accompanied by live music and special magic shows. We want our business partners to know they are as important to us as the players playing our games.

What products will Wazdan be showcasing at ICE this year?

As in previous years, Wazdan will present our latest games to visitors at ICE. This year, we can’t wait for the reaction to our latest titles – which we hope will become hits in 2019. These will be the next two editions of the Magic Stars 3 game, enthusiastically endorsed by the market in 2018, and this year we are launching Magic Stars 5 (5 reels) and Magic Stars 6 (6 reels). Another game we are launching is Larry the Leprechaun, a cheerful story about a tiny creature well known for storing gold coins in a pot of gold hidden at the end of a rainbow.

We will present our seven Unique Wazdan Features: Volatility Levels™, Ultra Lite Mode, Energy Saving Mode, Double Screen Mode, Unique Gamble Feature, Ultra Fast Mode and Big Screen Mode, as well as a few other titles appearing on the market in 2019. You’ll have to visit our stand S8 202 to find out more on those. Wazdan are also offering all our visitors great coffee and delicious Japanese whiskey, so we can enjoy a drink while talking business!

You recently signed a deal with TGP Asia; what are your ambitions for the Asian market?

We are working to increase the number of our games available in the Asian market. The contract with TGP Asia is a great step forward. Our game portfolio of nearly 110 titles offers something for everyone – and we are keen to offer our games to more Asian players. Following our game "9 Lions" receiving a prestigious Hot Hit Products 2018 award at G2E Asia in Macau 2018, we are excited to work towards becoming the games provider of choice for all players. We’re aiming for similar success among all operators running their business in Asia.

Are you targeting any new emerging markets?

We are looking at emerging markets such as Africa and LATAM. With these markets in mind – where the availability and speed of the internet can be limited – Wazdan has designed the Unique Wazdan Feature, Ultra Lite Mode. It shortens the loading time of the games by five times, without reducing the player's playing comfort. So, it is perfectly suited to the needs of such markets.

What are the major challenges you face in 2019?

The main challenge for Wazdan this year, and every year, is to continue to develop games that become player favourites. This year, we will continue to create products in which every detail reflects our commitment to delivering innovative casino games which deliver original and fun player experiences. Another challenge we face is to meet (and beat) the competition, which is evolving day by day. We are constantly looking at new games appearing on the market with respect.

Our goal for 2019 is to enter new markets, i.e. Italy, Spain and Portugal, and increase our share in the European and Asian markets.

Where does Wazdan aim to be this time next year?

We aim to continue to launch games that are eagerly anticipated by players and operators alike. We have lots planned for 2019 and, in 2020, we’d like to be one of the leaders among online slots suppliers. We would also like our team to grow, employing even more people with a passion for games. The end result will be each of our clients can be sure that, in offering their players Wazdan games, they offer them the highest quality product.
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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