Gambling Insider caught up with Yggdrasil CEO Fredrik Elmqvist and Head of Studio Partnerships Stuart McCarthy at ICE London, to talk YGS Masters, European expansion and industry challenges.
How successful has ICE London been for you this year and what industry talking points have stood out?
SM: It’s been extraordinarily busy. A lot of great opportunities have presented themselves and we’ve seen a lot of great studios.
We’re always going to talk! We’re very keen to talk partnerships; we’re very keen to talk about the YGS Masters programme and opportunities that can evolve our business into a global publishing house. We’re very deep into some of these conversations.
You launched your new branded slot game, Nitro Circus, in November 2018. How is it being received in the market?
FE: I know we’ve had a lot of distribution. It was a bit of a gamble as Nitro Circus isn’t the biggest brand in Europe. But, for us, we needed a brand with an IP rights holder that we can go on tour with. That was very successful because we’ve been using the brand and sending people to the shows. It’s a nice interpretation of the brand, as well. They are super happy and happily come to our events. I wouldn’t be surprised if we worked on more games with them.
Are you working with any more brands? If not, is there a criteria you are looking for potential new brands to match?
FE: We’re not actively looking for branded titles but, in terms of criteria, we look at whether we can get a dynamic brand and someone we can work with. Not just a brand we can’t follow on tour or engage and do things together with. It also needs to fit our market. A new brand, though, is not a big focus for us right now.
What products have you launched at ICE and what kind of feedback have you been given?
FE: We are demonstrating the YGS Masters evolving into a global publisher and talking to various partners. We’re showcasing our new bingo product and it’s nice to see the level of interest in that vertical. We’ve also just released a new 3D table game, which is showing more creativity in its mechanics.
What are your major aims for 2019?
SM: 2019 is all about growing Masters and taking it into a much stronger pipeline. That’s our core mission and where we see huge growth. The operator feedback we’ve received so far has been great, with operators happy to take a ton of these games.
FE: We’re looking to expand in the European space. We’re currently looking at expanding further within the UK. By the end of this year, I would say we will have a lot more distribution within that market.
Are there any new markets you are looking into?
FE: The European regulated markets are coming one by one, like Spain, for example. Outside of that, there are other jurisdictions; Asia is a tough nut to crack. We are looking more at LatAm than the US.
What are the biggest industry-wide challenges you’ll face in 2019?
SM: For me, it’s about finding the right partners to bring on board; that takes a lot of effort. Naturally, regulation always provides challenges and has the potential to derail a business if it doesn’t prepare in the right way. Finding the right people and growing the business are crucial.
FE: We grew a lot in headcount in 2018. The reason we grew a lot is because we want to launch games in regulated markets, having longer roadmaps and more extensive games. We have to be ready for regulated markets continually and that costs headcount. We have that; the ones who don’t have that headcount will struggle to get content out. This is one of the challenges we’ll see in 2019 and 2020.
You can be a studio that says we develop games and don’t develop distribution platforms. Some companies will try and do both but it’s going to be tough. You’ll also see operators developing a bit more of their own content and we want to be part of that process and say "we’ll take care of that, if you need specific games for specific markets." It could be mid-sized companies that say "let’s cut that part out and focus on this."