With the last stretch of summer underway, CasinoBeats sat down with Ivan Kravchuk, CEO of gaming studio Evoplay, to talk through the latest in gaming trends as well as the cross-sell potential from the sporting action. 

CasinoBeats: In terms of gaming trends this summer – what are seen as key for players right now? How have the last 12 months shaped player preferences?

Ivan Kravchuk: From a games studio’s perspective, the development pipeline is generally between four months and a year long, so adapting to seasonal and cultural trends is certainly a challenge – but one that we relish nonetheless. 

As a team, we love staying on top of the latest in what players are looking for – and we always have an exact vision of the way we want to take our games to match shifting interests. This is especially the case for the last year, where a lot has changed in the world of gambling.

Online, in many ways, has turned the world of gambling on its head – and the shift between land-based and digital gaming is likely to be a permanent one, with a whole new host of demographics now at play. 

As a result, and looking toward back at this summer’s sporting action, we’ve seen a different spread of players, say compared to the 2018 World Cup where things were very different.

The cross-sell here had plenty of potential – and with the integration of skill-based, as well as multiplayer elements to instant games, and even slots, there was plenty of opportunity for capturing a far broader range of potential interest. 

This approach of catering towards a mix of land-based and online player preferences has paid dividends for us – and we’ve enjoyed tremendous success over the last 12 months in attracting multiple generations of players across Europe and LatAm.

To achieve this, we’ve followed innovations closely both inside and outside of igaming and taken lessons on board to ensure we have a truly differentiated offering.

CB: Multiplayer has been garnering plenty of attention in the industry recently, how much do you see innovations like these to really disrupt gaming development?

IK: This is a very interesting area, – multiplayer gaming is becoming more and more popular – and that’s a pattern that I predict will continue. Simple, speedy and anticipation-building mechanics are likely to generate strong appeal amongst the over 45s, who tend to look for clarity in a game’s algorithms.  

Similarly, jackpots can offer players a shot at that life-changing win, and that’s a simple but powerful incentive that can drive user engagement time and time again.

I think a combination of that community-based element one can enjoy from both of these areas fused together are going to generate some serious retention and engagement throughout the rest of this year– and if we take a look at the data, I think many operators would be surprised by just how much demographics are evolving right now. Adjust what you have accordingly – and the audience available starts to look very different. 

CB: Given this summer’s packed schedule for sport, how much potential has there been for converting sports fans? Any personal insights you’d like to share from Evoplay’s success in LatAm and Europe?

IK: After the cancellation of so many sporting events around the world last summer, there was something of an uptick in sportsbook customers discovering the casino sector. Sports-themed products therefore played a crucial role, with elements that could replace sport proving to be a key introductory channel for new players. 

Our Penalty Shoot-out instant game was a great example of this, and a huge success last year. Players are invited to step up for their team by selecting an area between the goal posts in which to shoot – with a random number generator determining the outcome.

The release remains a top-performer for several casinos around the world, which shows that in order to attract sports bettors, you need to move beyond traditional casino themes.

Of course, this year is different – and newly acquired players from last year are now looking to the likes of multiplayer for engagement, which can create a gaming experience which complements the existing sporting schedule. 

CB: Looking to the rise of other gaming areas aside from slots – what holds the most potential this summer? Are table games, for example, still underrated? Any key growth areas?

IK: It’s all about providing an incentive to get involved. This needs low barriers for entry – and in many ways, slots don’t fill the bill here as they’re more ‘niche’ in attracting audiences the first-time round.

From Evoplay’s own experience, it’s safe to say that when it comes to proven products, instant games are proving tremendously successful when it comes to grabbing players’ attention.

There’s scope for a wide-ranging creative licence when you are designing them, especially in terms of design and features, as well as a simple-to-play format that can be easily enjoyed from the get go. 

As such, I would say that compared to any other product on the igaming market, instant games can be deployed to reach a variety of different audiences and have proved to be an especially strong calling card for the new generation of players.

While poker does have its place too here, they don’t cater to all interests. Just as we’ve seen from the emergence of esports, the generation of player likes fast-paced action, and fast results, which is exactly what instant games provide. 

CB: Last but not least, looking at this year and the next – demand for the entertainment side of gaming has increased exponentially, what’s your vision for the future of engagement and in-game innovation?

IK: In the coming period, gamification will begin to play an even more important role. As a developer operating in a crowded market, it’s a great way to ensure that your products stand out from the pack. Of course, we’ve heard plenty about it over the last few years – and this just highlights the importance of this approach at the core of gaming development. 

Looking at what’s available – the gamification features on offer today are often inspired by the trends you see outside of the gambling industry. We anticipate that the use of tournaments, achievements and skill-based elements will have a particularly important part to play.

There’s some really great tech coming into the industry right now for gameplay that can deliver exactly this and more – and I predict these key pillars will prove to be at heart of the direction creative development takes over the coming years.