1on1 - Habanero's Daniel Long on going from east to west

1on1 - Habanero's Daniel Long on going from east to west

Wednesday, October 12, 2016 Posted by Andy McCarron
EiG debutant Habanero discusses European opportunities

It is quite rare for Asian-based online gaming companies to take the plunge and seek out business in Europe with the complications of differing cultural approaches to gambling are perhaps a cause of the lack of flow between the two regions. But Habanero are one such company taking up the challenge. Although the company has been owned by a group of European investors since 2012, it is only now looking to expand into the European games sphere.

TotallyGaming.com took the opportunity ahead of the company’s debut at EiG to discuss with head of sales Daniel Long what the company sees as the both the opportunities and the challenges of bringing Asian-flavoured games to the market – and why it means more than simply adding a few dragons to a game and hoping that will do.

Totally Gaming: I understand you have moved to focus on gaining ground in Europe - how tough have you found the licensing and certification processes for many European jurisdictions? Has the level of difficulty and hoop-jumping surprised you?

Daniel Long: It has been difficult, to be honest, and time-consuming. That’s partly out of necessity because jurisdictional authorities have high standards that must be maintained, but there is the inevitable bureaucracy too. We were ready for it, and have a good team in place that was ready for the paperwork and requirements to prove the accurate and solid game performance and design credentials we knew we already had. But if you ask any supplier or operator, it is one of the less enjoyable parts of the job. Not that we’re complaining. Regulation is important and we take player protection in particular very seriously. There are no shortcuts – and there shouldn’t be either.

TG: Do you think that necessarily means there are higher barriers to entry in the European market? Does that make it potentially worthwhile once you are inside the circle?

DL: I think there are higher barriers, but I think it is worth it too. There are some well-established markets in Europe to whom we’d love to showcase our games. We feel that it is ripe for an injection of quality, new content and we have already had some very promising conversations with people who are interested in taking our slots.

TG: Do you think there are cultural differences with regard to how Europeans play online games and how they are played in Asia? Is this something you are hoping to exploit?

DL: I think some developers think you can slap a few dragons onto a game and it’s ready for the Asian market. It’s like saying that any game played by an Irish player must have a few leprechauns in it. Of course, tailored themes and graphics, like our games Fa Cai Shen and 12 Zodiacs, are legitimate and resonate with certain audiences. But the real subtle differences are in the maths below the obvious visible features. These vary from player to player in terms of their popularity.

What an operator – and by extension a supplier – needs, is variety. I think it is about having a varied game portfolio that appeals to different customers, wherever they are and whatever devices they like to play on.

TG: Do you think the European market for games is ready for something of a shake up?

DL: Absolutely. Competition is fierce but there are a lot of ‘me-too’ games, with a number of suppliers churning out the same sorts of games. I’m not sure that serves either the operator or their players well. I also think there’s a lot of quantity over quality, which is no good for limited real estate on mobile devices in particular.

TG: Generally, what do you think are the blockers for innovation in online casino right now?

DL: I think integration times could be improved and the process from design board to being in the hands of players sped-up. I think some of the larger suppliers who exert control over the casino lobbies are self-serving and neither good for operators or players.

I also think there is a tendency to go for quantity over quality on occasions, as I’ve mentioned. If a player is never likely to see the hundreds and hundreds of games available let alone play them then why have them in your lobby? I appreciate the need for variety, and in fact I’m an advocate, but if games don’t perform then ship them out, as they do in the land-based environment. There should be no sacred cows.


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