Habanero has been quick out of the blocks in 2021, as explained by head of corporate communications Toni Karapetrov, who sat down with CasinoBeats to discuss early-year highlights, changes to player preferences and new markets of promise, as well as striking the best balance between high-quality visuals and well-functioning mechanics.

CasinoBeats: Can you tell us about how Habanero has started 2021? 

Toni Karapetrov: It’s been a wild ride in just three months! One of the biggest highlights of our year so far was Totem Towers. Taking players on a high-octane adventure through a mystical Mayan jungle, the title’s Totem symbols and acoustic sounds invite curious bettors to discover the relics of the rainforest.

Just a few weeks on from its launch, the game’s totem tower and line boost features are already helping operator partners ramp up customer engagement – and we can’t wait to see that pattern continue throughout the rest of the year. 

On the commercial front, we’ve completed a range of key deals, with a particularly exciting announcement lined up for the Italian market. It’s a territory where we’ve gone from strength to strength, signing with the likes of Bet365, LeoVegas and Lottomatica, with another tier one partnership to be revealed soon! 

Last but not least on the regulatory front, we’ve been delighted to acquire our MGA licence, which is history in the making for us – as well as certifications for Romania and approval for entering Paraguay. 

CB: How have player preferences changed over the last year, and how will they change in the year to come? 

TK: Our figures show that, despite the tumultuous events of the last year, player preferences have not changed all that much. 

If a game doesn’t have high-quality visual effects, then it can’t carry the Habanero brand name”

There was a temporary migration of sports bettors to the casino sector when live fixtures weren’t taking place, but those punters generally returned to what they know best when given the opportunity to do so. With events such as Euro 2021 taking centre stage in the year to come, we don’t expect to see them rushing back to casino any time soon.

Of course, online is a different kettle of fish entirely, and there should be plenty of potential for operators to explore the potential cross-sell between gaming and sportsbook – as history has always dictated that major sporting tournaments, such as the Euros or the World Cup, will always attract additional traffic. 

Looking further, I anticipate that we will see a similar process play out with land-based and retail players, many of whom have been forced online by the lockdown-induced closure of their favourite outlets. Looking at markets like Italy, Spain and Colombia where there is a strong land-based tradition, there leaves plenty of potential to convert players over time, but it will be gradual, rather than instantaneous. 

CB: When it comes to Habanero’s style – how do you strike a balance between high-quality visual effects and well-functioning mechanics within your games? 

TK: We don’t view the two as mutually exclusive. If a game doesn’t have high-quality visual effects, then it can’t carry the Habanero brand name. It really is that simple. 

Having said that, stunning graphics are not the only thing that makes our games stand out. Our releases showcase a range of innovative new mechanics to ramp up excitement for players, and drive engagement for partners. 

Orbs of Atlantis is a perfect example. The slot’s buy feature grants gamblers up to up to 1,000 free games when players purchase nine or more scatter symbols. Combined with the world-class visual effects which have become a real specialty of ours, it’s a great way to boost customer retention – and really offer something different. 

“…there is a whole host of promising new markets with tremendous and untapped potential”

CB: How do you see the current regulatory landscape in Europe? Are governments striking the right balance between enterprise and player protection? 

TK: As a supplier, you can’t always see the full picture. Operators tend to face a different set of requirements – which are often stricter. That said, Romania is a good example of a European market which has struck the appropriate balance between enterprise and responsible gaming, implementing requirements which are robust yet feasible, thereby protecting players without hampering investment. In my view, other markets would do well to follow its example, and I believe we’re already seeing other CEE countries take note. 

CB: Outside of Europe, which markets do you see as most promising for the year ahead? 

TK: Right across the globe, there is a whole host of promising new markets with tremendous and untapped potential. It’s an exciting time to work in igaming!  

Outside of Europe, people tend to focus on the LatAm region, with Colombia cited particularly often. Looking south, however, the Chilean market is also making strong progress by taking serious steps toward regulation, albeit with some way to go before catching up with its counterpart further to the north.

“A country of almost 20 million individuals, with a well-established casino culture and widespread payment card usage, makes for an exciting prospect, and we will be keeping a close eye on any new developments from that territory and beyond.