Earlier this month, Aspire Global’s Pariplay announced the launch of Wizard Games, the new brand for its in-house games studio which reflects both the evolution in games studio management as well as Pariplay’s own ambitious plans around major game improvements and global market expansion.
Heading up the development of the new studio is experienced industry professional Joey Hurtado, who joined the Pariplay team in September 2021.
Before that, he spent two years as Head of Product Operations at Gamesys, while his decade of industry service also includes time at 888 Holdings, Unibet Group, GVC and Betsson, where he was managing director of operator brands including Casino Euro, Norges Automaten and Suomiarvat.
CasinoBeats spoke to Hurtado about how sitting on the operator side of the table will help him to hone Wizard Games’ value propositions and its vision for the future.
CasinoBeats: During your time working in the industry, what are the major changes you have seen in the igaming industry?
Joey Hurtado: The industry is constantly changing which is a big part of what makes it such a fun and interesting place to work. Over the last few years, the one major change has been regulation.
This is a challenge for operators and studios alike with requirements on features and functionality as well as the introduction of gaming taxes forcing us to take a new approach to both game design and commercial strategies.
All these changes present several challenges, but also a lot of opportunity for those willing and able to adapt to them and evolve, something I believe we are well positioned to do at Wizard Games.
CB: What challenges do you think gaming studios have to overcome today to be successful in the years to come?
JH: As regulation evolves and increases, we see a lot of different requirements and restrictions on certain game elements. The flexibility and agility to be able to develop in a way that can accommodate multiple regulatory models without having to create bespoke versions for every market is critical.
In addition, taxation has squeezed margins for operators which have had a knock-on effect on pricing. To maintain profitability, we have to be more innovative and creative in the way we build games as well as invest in value-adding features such as our engagement features and more recently our ‘buy bet’ solution.
CB: You have, up until recently, worked on the operator side. What are the most valuable lessons that you will now apply as the managing director of Wizard Games?
JH: Having been on the other side of the table, I understand first-hand the competitiveness of the slots market and the sheer amount of content available to operators. This puts pressure on studios to create better games but also to push the boundaries in terms of innovation, the commercial side of things, and service.
The operators own their players, and it is critical we understand this and cater to their needs and requirements in our roadmaps whilst leaving space and freedom to try new things and be creative.
CB: What is your vision for the future of Wizard Games?
JH: I want to see Wizard Games take a seat at the top table with other tier one studios. We have already done a lot of groundwork with our platform, features and distribution so now it’s time to elevate our content and portfolio to not just keep up with industry trends but to be the one setting them.
CB: Okay, so what is the major value proposition Wizard Games has for its partners?
JH: We are a service focused business. We rely on our partners to push out and promote our content to their players and we aim to ensure there is no better provider to work with than Wizard Games. We work closely with all our partners and find solutions to their problems and try to create a service style bespoke to them and their players rather than a one size fits all approach.
CB: Why rebrand? What is it about the new brand that reflects where the studio is going towards?
JH: Despite already having a portfolio of over 100 games and an existing presence in the industry, we felt that it was time to give our studios their own identity, independent of the Pariplay brand. We really wanted to create a tier one business outside of Pariplay’s already established and successful aggregation and distribution platform.
CB: And what is Wizard Games keeping from its former experience as Pariplay games and what is being changed/improved?
JH: As much as we value our new independence, we would be mad to ignore the highly talented teams and amazing platform that Pariplay has. Whilst the games studio has rebranded and we are investing in new talent and leadership, we will still be working closely with teams at Pariplay and using their state-of-the-art of aggregation, engagement and service elements to support Wizard Games.
CB: From the operator perspective, what will the period of change look like?
JH: The transition will be seamless. We were conscious that our operator partners should not be affected by the changes we’re making. In the mid to long term, they can look forward to a host of new content, development of features and a renewed focus on our commercial partnerships, supporting them in helping their players experience the magic.
CB: Are there any new products ahead to surprise the industry?
JH: Most definitely, but if I told you, they wouldn’t be a surprise.
CB: And finally, what can you share about your plans for the studio in 2022?
JH: In simple terms, our 2022 plan is to continually improve. We would like each game to be better than the last, and we also want to introduce new and exciting firsts for us which we hope to share further down the line.