Q&A: Per Thorn, Hero Gaming
This month we catch up with the head of product management for casino gamification pioneer Hero Gaming, which this week expanded its brand portfolio to four with the launch of no-registration brand Speedy, to find out more about its strategy, which content is performing best and plans for the Swedish market next year
Which recent slot titles are performing particularly well for Hero Gaming, and what variances are you seeing across your four main brands of Casino Hero, CasiTabi, Betser and now Speedy?
We can see a variance between our brands because we wanted it that way to ensure we don’t target the same players and cannibalise any of these brands. People underestimate the difference between markets and think all players play the same games.
For instance, the most popular slots in Scandinavia are very different compared to those in the UK, which is not exactly far away!
On Casino Heroes, Book of Dead has done very well without any help from specific promotions, as in our case, we can give out gifts to players that win our Boss Fights.
We have recently launched Big Time Gaming titles such as Bonanza and Extra Chilli which are being played a lot.
The slots that perform very well now are basically modern versions of older games. Many new versions of the classic game Book of Ra are available right now. Also high volatility games with the help from YouTube and Twitch where streamers upload their latest wins. Bonanza is a great example, for which I recently saw a video of someone winning over 18,000x the bet in the free spins mode.
Which suppliers’ content performs most strongly and consistently for Hero Gaming, and why?
This is actually pretty interesting, and what it comes down to is how creative we are with the supplier. Play N’ Go is a great example. We discuss and plan together how we should release their new games. If we just add a new game to the lobby it might disappear among all the other slots we have available so it’s important to work with our partners [to prevent this].
Play N’ GO recently released the slot House of Doom, which is not a particularly special game from my perspective, but together we put together a great promotion where we built a whole new island in our adventure only for this game and the Swedish rock band that did the music for the games were bosses in our Boss Fights. This was a huge success and during this promotion House of Doom was our most played game by far.
We have also worked very closely with NetEnt since we launched four years ago, and whenever we do something special together we always see great results too.
What would you say are the major challenges for someone in your position for an online casino in 2018?
We need to be clever in what we do to stay ahead of our competitors. We also need to be ready for new markets, ensuring we stay on top of the compliance requirements while at the same time making sure the product remains stable, safe and secure. It’s also important to strike the balance between being innovative and ensuring our product provides a world-class experience for our customers.
Sometimes I just want our programmers to stop whatever they are doing and focus only on a new awesome idea that either myself or any another Hero has come up with. It’s always a challenge to stop myself when this happens!
You take content from a wide variety of suppliers across your main brands. From your side, what would you like to see them do better or more of? What do they generally get wrong?
I would love to see them being a lot more innovative and getting round the table with us and asking what we would like to see in a game, and most importantly what our players would like. After all, it’s all about the players and keeping them entertained. We started our own Boss Fights feature to enable our players to progress in our adventure, and the suppliers could definitely do something similar.
Casino Heroes is focused on the Scandinavian countries, and the largest market there, Sweden, is set to regulate next year. What is your view of the proposed regulatory and tax framework there and is this viable enough for you to take a licence?
We see this as something very positive and we will be applying for a licence. All the key stakeholders and management at Hero Gaming have been in the industry for many years and we are happy to see this market regulated.
We would like to see more regulated markets because it is easier it is for us to make long-term strategic plans as a company, instead of being uncertain about what will happen next.
I remember when the US shut down back in 2011, I was working from Costa Rica and we had 90% from our revenue coming from the US market at the time, which hit us hard.
What games players are playing and staking on is obviously the main factor deciding a game’s position or ranking on your main homepages, but to what degree and on what basis do you intervene here. Also, how is the availability of data and AI changing how you deliver and personalise this?
The ranking of our games is based on game rounds so we always have the most popular games by market at the top of the lobby. We can overwrite this if we want to push something specific, as we welcome innovation from our suppliers.
We are much more likely to undertake custom development to ensure new games are well promoted if they are innovative. We love innovation and if we get help from a game provide in this area, we are ready and waiting to do our part.
Data is everything these days. We segment players by various means ensuring individual players receive the offers and game releases that cater for their needs. Recently we launched a new live casino lobby that is the first step towards AI.
It’s innovative, it’s personalised and can get players to the table quicker than before. It also remembers the games they have played before, always presenting these first to the player when they return to the site.
Speedy Casino operates a no registration model. How do the players here differ from those signing up and playing via the conventional model?’
We only launched Speedy Casino [in Sweden and Finland] on 26 June, so it’s too early to give you an answer based on the data we have collected so far. But from earlier research we know that Swedish players love the simplicity of the no-registration and no-contact model.
To deposit players must use Bank ID, which is very trustworthy in Sweden. When a player sees this they instantly trust us as a casino, which has been a struggle for the sector for many years.
Our main goal with this new brand is to reach the players we might not reach with our adventure brand Casino Heroes or with our sports-focused brand Betser, and of course also to simply deliver what players want – and do it better than our competitors. You may be wondering what we are working on right now to make us stand out from the competition, but I can’t reveal that so you will have to wait and see!
Casino Heroes uses gamification and elements drawn from non-gambling games with the aim of increasing player engagement. Have you tested how much longer this keeps players inside the casino ecosystem for and its impact on other KPIs such as lifetime values, time on site, spend per visit etc.?
Without doubt gamification increases engagement. We have some of the best retention rates in the industry because our players are rewarded for simply playing the games they love which in turn leads to higher lifetime values and extended player sessions
What is your primary focus for the product side of the business over the next 12-18 months?
Our focus on the product side right now is to stay compliant and be ready to adjust our product to follow the upcoming guidelines that will soon come for Sweden.
Speedy Casino actually only took four weeks to build from scratch following our first meeting about it. We already have a lot of work planned for our developers to further improve this brand and can’t wait to release the next wave of exciting features we and of course introduce this concept to new markets.
The thing I’m most proud of and most excited about is something we are developing right now. This is something completely new in our industry and it will be a game changer, I can seriously promise that. I have been in this industry for over 15 years and I have never been this excited before. I can’t wait to release it.