1on1 with Evolution Gaming's Sebastian Johannisson
1on1 with Evolution Gaming's Sebastian Johannisson
As its recent results statement proves, Evolution Gaming is on an upward curve on all fronts. Revenues rose 50% in the second quarter to €27.1m, EBITDA was up 38% to €10.6m and the company signed contracts with the Ritz Club, GVC’s CasinoClub and the new Danish market entrant Spilnu.
The quarter also saw the long-awaited launch of live three-card poker for mobile, helping to push mobile revenues as a percentage of the whole up to 40%. Following the announcement of another new deal – this time with the Hippodrome Casino in London which will include a live feed from a specially set up table at the venue – TotallyGaming.com spoke to Sebastian Johannisson, chief commercial officer at Evolution Gaming, about the growth being witnessed at the company and its plans for the future.
TotallyGaming: The pace of growth at Evolution (organic plus new clients) suggests that live casino is really popular with operators and customers - so I want to gauge why you think it is so successful?
Sebastian Johannisson: Live casino is a technology-driven product, and whereas a few years back it was difficult to deliver a flawless gaming experience, now we can because the technology has caught up with our ambitions. Then you have one very unique factor with live and this that you can differentiate the product in so many ways (design, game selection, general atmosphere). In a world of commodity slots it’s incredibly important for operators to find a way to differentiate themselves from competition. Very few products apart from live casino better represent that opportunity.
TG: Why is it you think that it has found such a ready audience?
SJ: You have the credibility factor where some people still prefer to play in a bricks-and-mortar environment with a real person simply because they don’t trust an RNG engine. The interaction with the dealer and other players is also key here. (But) perhaps the most important factor is it’s fun and hence it’s a sticky and very profitable product for the operators. Because it’s so popular and profitable for our operators it also means that our operators have allocated a lot of resources and marketing activities in order create a really good live offer for their players. Back in the days we had to fight really hard for any website positioning and now we get the real estate that we deserve with our own live casino tab and so forth. Momentum creates momentum and it is really best described as a snowball effect and a win-win for us and our clients.
TG: How long did it take for live casino to gain traction?
SJ: I think we all understood that it needs a lot of hard work and dedication but that the market will explode sooner or later. Back in those years live casino was considered an Asian only product and it took a lot of convincing before we started to gain momentum.
TG: What were the major milestones for the company?
SJ: In Europe we have basically created the segment/product on our own as it was almost nothing before Evolution and that’s something which is pretty cool and something we are very proud of. Now in 2016 live casino is a massive product with huge revenue streams and it is the fastest growing product in gaming so there will be much more to come for sure.
TG: The pace of mobile adoption in live casino is a major factor in the growth - why do you think again it has been so widely taken up by the players?
SJ: We have put our heart and soul into our product and we have a lot of talented developers and designers with a deep understand of mobile and usability, we have also received a lot of great feedback from our operators that has helped us. That being said we are exceptionally happy for the huge mobile uptake we have seen over the last quarters, the fact that we are beating most major RNG slots providers on mobile penetration (we filed 40% in Q2) is quite an achievement given the complexity of our product with so many more points of failures (sound, cameras etc.) It’s a just a very strong product and things continue point in the right direction for us.
TG: How do you see developments in VR and AR affecting the industry in the years to come?
SJ: We always strive to immerse our players as much as possible and maybe VR and AR can be the perfect complement for this. On the other hand, what have built our success on is the bricks-and-mortar factor so where does that really sit with VR and AR? Then you of course have our Immersive Roulette which is an industry well-known success story and who knows what the next steps will be. What I can tell you is that we will never be satisfied and we always strive to improve, whether that involves VR or AR only the future will tell.
Totally Gaming says: Evolution created a niche that, in business terms, went viral. From being a product that was deemed as an Asia-only play, the company has built a client footprint with its live casino product that is central to most casino operators globally. It is hard to believe that it won’t be on the radar for some of the bigger platform providers and suppliers in the space – as Mor Weizer from Playtech indicated last week, sometimes it is simply easier to buy rather than build, and in that sense, Evolution is as pre-fabricated as they come.