The necessity of building and maintaining a strong network is a familiar construct among numerous industries, and is certainly one that is not lost in the gaming community.

However, among the multitude of strategies and expert tutorials on how best to achieve such a goal, is the question of: how much do you know about your network? With this in mind, CasinoBeats is aiming to take a look under the hood, if you will, and has tasked the 100 Club to help out.

Fredrik Johansson, CCO and Founder at Fantasma Games, is the latest to take to the hot seat, where he elaborates on turning his back on a “more traditional” career path, encouragement from Big Time Gaming CEO Nik Robinson, the downside to enhanced competition, and much more.

CasinoBeats: Could you begin by talking us through any past experiences that have been gained outside of the gambling industry?

Fredrik Johansson: After school, I studied for a finance degree at a university in Stockholm. Part of the way through the course, I decided to move to Australia to complete my studies.

At the time, most of my friends were looking at career paths in the banking sector which is something I also considered. But then I had an idea for creating my own company so decided to pursue that instead. At the time – this was in 2005 – online classified ads were huge in Sweden, so I decided to build and launch a website for the Australian market. 

Due to the speed at which the business took off, I considered dropping out of my degree but managed to complete it while still growing my business. I then stayed in Australia for the next six years before selling my company.

This ultimately led to me entering the online gambling sector for the first time as I was approached first by ComeOn! and then LeoVegas to help launch and establish their brands in Australia. 

Ultimately, building a successful online classified ads business is very similar to a successful online casino – it comes down to brand-building and driving traffic to websites. So, my experience in the online classified ads arena formed the foundation of my career in the gambling space. 

Could your career have taken any different paths?

Absolutely. It could very easily have gone down the more traditional path of finance and banking. It could also have stayed in the online classified ads industry had I decided to launch another business in that market.

Following the sale of my business, I was open to any and all opportunities that interested and excited me, and it just so happens that ComeOn! and LeoVegas were able to turn my attention to the gambling sector. 

What was it that eventually led you into this industry?

As I mentioned previously, I was actually approached by ComeOn! and LeoVegas to help establish their brands in the Australian market. In me, I think they saw someone that understood how to build a brand and generate online traffic and specifically within the Australian market.

It’s worth remembering that this was in and around 2011/2012 when online casino was not illegal in Australia and operators were looking to gain a foothold in the market and increase their share of what was fast becoming a large pie. 

How would you assess your progress through the industry to date? 

I am very happy with the progress I have made in the industry to date and in particular in establishing Fantasma Games and helping to turn it into the studio and the business that it has become.

Fantasma has gone beyond my initial expectations – I thought we would be competing with the smaller studios – and by always pushing the boundaries, we are now on the way to becoming a major provider of top-performing casino games. 

It has not been an easy journey – in fact, in the first few years, we really took our time and did not launch many games at all. But we have now very much found our feet and the demand for our slots continues to increase. 

My long-term plans for Fantasma are ambitious and this includes launching more games in more markets and with more operator partners than ever before. I know this will take time and requires patience, but with the incredible team that make up Fantasma Games, I am confident we will not only achieve but exceed our goals. 

Are there any interesting anecdotes that would interest our readers, or any stand out experiences that may not have been possible without the current, or a past, role?

When we first began developing Flower Fortunes in 2018, we didn’t intend for it to be a Megaways slot. But when we presented it to Microgaming, our distribution partner, they said that the mechanic was very similar to Megaways and that I should connect with Nik Robinson. This was the first time I spoke with Nik and he ended up having some valued input into the game. He even came up with the title, Flower Fortunes Megaways. 

Nik’s involvement in the game was very useful for us, but also his encouragement to continue with our ‘Slots Beyond Gambling’ mindset and to produce something new and innovative for the players and the operators. 

Nik’s encouragement and BTG’s journey has really played a significant role in my progression through the industry and ultimately where Fantasma is today.

What would you say have been the major changes during your time working in the industry? Both for the better and worse.

The biggest change is the level of competition, and this is a change that can be seen for both the better and the worse. It is great because it ensures that developers continue to innovate and bring new ideas and concepts to the table, which means the quality of content in the market continues to rise.

It is no longer good enough to produce a basic game – for it to stand out and gain traction among players it needs a story, engaging mechanics and bonus features that get pulses racing. Of course, this all has to be delivered within market regulations. 

The downside to more competition is that it is harder to secure good lobby positioning and for players to find your games among the hundreds, sometimes thousands, of other titles available. But that is part of the challenge and the fun of running a game studio that genuinely wants to deliver new player experiences that excite and entertain. 

If you could ask the 100 Club any questions, or task them with tackling any issue, what would that be?

As a developer that is dedicated to creating slot games that deliver the experiences that players are seeking, we go to great lengths to secure operator feedback and insights into the trends they are seeing. But getting this feedback is easier said than done. So, my question to the 100 Club would be – what are your players looking for in the slot games they play the most?