Arcangelo Lonoce, head of business development – Europe at Habanero, outlines his company’s rapid expansion across Europe and Latin America, before offering his thoughts on the gaming industry’s aggregation model, including why the recent wave of high quality content – while still welcomed – could put both aggregator and supplier in a “tight spot” as margins decrease.
CasinoBeats: When it comes to expansion, Habanero’s certainly grown quickly over the past two years – can you give us a quick snapshot of how far you’ve come?
AL: It’s been a tremendously successful period for Habanero, and I’m blown away by just how much our team has achieved. Since arriving in Europe, we’ve punched above our weight to reach the same level as some of the industry’s best when it comes to outstanding content.
In terms of expansion, our track record speaks for itself. We’re now live across multiple key markets through numerous commercial agreements with a string of major operators.
In Europe alone, we’ve signed a wealth of comprehensive partnerships in countries such as Croatia, Lithuania, Portugal, Romania and the UK, giving us a strong foundation on which to continue our plans for building our brand across both Europe and Latin America.
I’m also especially proud of our success in Italy, which is my home market. The country’s regulatory body has now certified 56 of our most popular games which, thanks to a succession of deals with high-profile operators such as SKS 365, Sisal, Eurobet and most recently StarCasinò, are now enjoyed by a multitude of Italian players who are set to be firm fans for years to come.
CB: What do you believe to be the principal factors behind your rapid expansion? Do you believe in tailoring your content to regional markets such as Europe and LatAm?
AL: I believe the key lies in our approach. Everything we do is built around creating the next generation of cutting-edge content fit for the latest demographic of players. This means a mobile-optimised portfolio boasting the very latest in technological advancement, pitch-perfect sounds and enthralling gameplay.
When it comes to HTML5 and gamification, we’ve been able to create an immersive multi-channel gaming catalogue that is proving to be a hit the world over. Offering players the chance to get in on the action across mobile, tablet and desktop, each of our games are designed to work faultlessly, no matter the device.
This of course places us in prime position to conquer the LatAm market, which seems to have skipped desktop and gone straight to smartphones as part of a wider technological revolution.
In terms of the content theme itself, we don’t believe in tailoring to regional markets. In my view, if your games are exceptionally good and varied, you have the potential to be a hit the world over. The latest demographic of players is part of a globalised audience, and a whole new level of dominance is emerging when it comes to the legions of players from across the world.
Player preferences today are no longer shaped by their regional location, but rather the trends they see emerging across the digital space – which has no borders. Where cultural preferences determine hit rates, we also have the product variety and understanding to be rewarded with success.
CB: What can you tell us about your current team and your business model?
AL: Aiming for exceptional quality is at the heart of all of everything we do. Whether it be for gaming development or the support solutions that provide for integrations, launches and CRM.
Each of our processes are streamlined to ensure we go above and beyond for each of our partners – meaning that our team takes full ownership for their area of expertise and sees the process through from inception to delivery.
We’re also a very close-knit team, with an incredibly low staff-turnover. Borrowing a metaphor from music, we wouldn’t be the successful orchestra we are without our team of headline acts playing together at the exact same pace to create a precise idea of harmony, and it’s thanks to that close coordination that we’re able to make our operations so effective.
When it comes to our business model, we release a minimum of 11 games each year and aim to engage players through a mix of genuine passion for the product and our multi-decade experience as operators and players. We’re careful not to overprice our content – but are also very conscious of the need to ensure we never sacrifice our mission to produce fresh and exciting products.
Conversely, underpricing our games, in the face of their quality, originality and proven success, is a responsibility towards the greater goal of sustaining a healthy environment within the industry, and certainly not a path we’d ever look to go down.
CB: And finally, given your experience across global markets, do you see the present aggregation model continuing through the next decade?
AL: In my view, it all depends on the interchanges between the industry’s stakeholders across operators, aggregators and suppliers. We’re no doubt set to experience a shift in the traditional model, and it’s not hard to understand why.
We’ve all seen the wealth of quality content that’s come online over the past decade, and I don’t expect it to stop anytime soon. With that, however, comes decreasing margins and a saturation that (on the face of it) does not contribute much difference to what’s already out there, leaving both aggregator and supplier in a tight spot.
The risk here is the inevitable need for aggregators to compete on price, until a point is reached where either the supplier or the aggregator (or even both), ends up below the sustainability line.
At the same time, technological developments mean that more and more operators are developing their own open APIs which allows for a quick integration, which in turn cuts out the core need for the aggregator as part of the process.
In a costly, saturated market where small differences make all the difference, the operator’s ability to diversify content and strategies through full ownership of its own processes and platforms might be the key to success, even more so if this allows one to save costs.
As a consequence, if an aggregator is unable to offer operators the benefit of price or improved technology, then their role is certainly set to diminish.