“We can’t just pinpoint one milestone from this year, that’s almost impossible” 

A strong statement from Evoplay Chief Commercial Officer Vladimir Malakchi made at the recent SBC Summit Barcelona and one that truly reflects the company’s growth over the last 12 months. But it would be remiss to think that the growth stops here. 

With new market entries, new products and even a new flagship game lined up for next year, these next few months are going to be jam-packed for Evoplay.

Reflecting on 2023

Fresh off the back of his SBC Leaders Magazine cover interview, Malakchi sat down with SBC Media to not only sample the range of gin and tonic that Barcelona has to offer but, more importantly, to reflect on his year since the 2022 edition of SBC Summit Barcelona.

During the chat, one thing was for certain: Evoplay has not only reached the goals it set out at the beginning of the year but has exceeded even its own expectations.

Malakchi began: “Many of the milestones from this year have been because of the work we carried out in 2022 and early 2023 – we reached many of the goals that we set out to achieve. The latter half of this year has mostly been spent preparing for 2024. 

“Firstly, we’re preparing for several new licences. We’ve initiated the process at the start of the year and are currently at the final stages, so I believe this will mark a significant milestone for this year.” 

“We’re already underway with preparations for our upcoming flagship game, set to make its debut in 2024. As you may remember, we launch a new flagship title every two years. 

“This is where our marketing efforts will be strategically concentrated. As always, it will be a technological innovation. Our previous flagship game garnered numerous marketing awards, and with this new statement title, we’re determined to surpass even our own achievements.”

The US and Canada will undoubtedly become a big focus for the brand in the coming months. But one particular region that has garnered significant attention, both from Evoplay and the igaming industry as a whole, is Latin America. 

Many have predicted that Latin America will be the next ‘powerhouse’ for the iGaming industry, with the region holding a wealth of untapped potential. So how does Evoplay plan to get in on the action? In simple terms, partner with the best operators in the market.

Malakchi continued: “In Latin America, we’ve been looking at several markets over the last few months. We have been looking at Mexico, Colombia and Peru. But to jump into these markets and be successful, we need to have several more integrations, and that takes time. We’re in the process of finalising some integrations at the moment, but I can’t say much about those just yet!

“We know the Latin American market very well, we’ve been speaking with the top operators from each market. They know who we are and what content we can provide. It’s now just a matter of working through the technical and legal requirements. But I look forward to seeing what happens in the future.”

As a European-headquartered supplier, gaining a solid understanding of player preferences can be a difficult task to undertake. It really requires on-the-ground knowledge. 

Malakchi put it very simply by explaining that developing games for different markets is like learning a new language – it’s more than just the basic grammar, you need to understand the different dialects, sentence structure, even slang terms to be able to effectively communicate with the locals.

So, when entering Latin America, it was important for Evoplay to understand what it is that players want from their games before simply rolling out its entire portfolio of products.

He said: “I wouldn’t say there is just one type of content that these players enjoy. Of course, crash games have shown to be very popular, as have football-themed games. We are beginning to look into whether there is a connection between slot titles and MMA because this is a hugely popular sport across Latin America. 

“Then there are the classic slot games that we’ve seen have been incredibly popular in markets such as Canada and the US. These have also proven to be very popular across Latin America – we’re actually in the process of creating some classic games for this market to appeal to more players.” 

In previous interviews with SBC Media, Malakchi has pointed towards the fact that sport is heavily embedded within Latin American culture – particularly football. 

For a games developer, you may think that tapping into that love of football might not be as easy as it sounds. But this is where Evoplay’s portfolio of football-themed games comes in. 

“From our point of view, Penalty Shoot-out has been very popular and remains so even after we released Penalty Shoot-out: Street. It’s not just the same audiences either, it’s new and different players, so that’s a promising sign,” the CCO continued.

“I trust that this game will remain popular for many years to come. And, of course, we want to continue bringing new and fresh content to the market.”

A promising opportunity

Among the areas Evoplay is looking to expand this year is its European presence, namely in Portugal. 

Evoplay initially entered the Portuguese online casino market back in August of this year alongside Solverde in an agreement that aims to “deliver an unmatched gaming experience to an even wider audience”. 

But the road to gaining a certification has been a long one. Malakchi said: “It’s very easy just to say, ‘we entered at exactly the right time’. But in all honesty, we did, and that’s because of how much time we spent preparing for our Portuguese market entry. It wasn’t an easy process, but we made it work.

“Evoplay is always entering new markets with the top players; Solverde.pt is the top player in the market, especially given its offline and online presence. It is a huge company, and so are we, so managing all of the legal requirements and commercial questions took some time. 

“The certification process was also very new for us. The Portuguese regulator requires different information from other markets, so that was different. But it was definitely the right time for us to enter because of how prepared we were. So far, we have received very positive feedback, and I believe that Solverde has received similar feedback too. This market has definitely been worth it!”

Something of note to consider when looking at the Portuguese market is its high tax rate, standing at 44% – arguably one of the highest in any regulated gaming jurisdiction in the world. 

The high taxes may seem like a red flag at first, but this hasn’t deterred Evoplay, which has, instead, identified a multitude of opportunities for expansion within the market. The driver of this? Having the right partner.

“Evoplay is in a very fortunate position in that we have the right partner with us. This is not just important for the Portuguese market but for any new market entry. Without that local, boots-on-the-ground knowledge, you are really going to struggle to enter a new market,” the CCO added.

“Solverde has helped us to attract different demographics of players and expand the reach of Evoplay’s content even further. And despite the high tax rate, the Portuguese market is still continuing to grow rapidly. 

“There are a lot of operators, this is a huge market that we believe is going to be very profitable. Portuguese players know how to bet, they’re used to these types of games, so we look forward to delivering some great titles.”

New additions to the portfolio

With all these new market entries, you might be thinking, ‘how does Evoplay find the time to even consider new products?’. Don’t worry, we asked. 

The development of new products requires input from the entire team but also an in-depth understanding of some of the biggest trends taking place across the market at any given time. In 2023, Malakchi believes the big trend was Bonus Buy features, a topic that cropped up during his panel session at SBC Summit Barcelona.

He told SBC Media: “During a panel at SBC Summit Barcelona, Laura Petrauska (Head of Casino at Bet99) made a very good point about bonus buy features being used to buy multiple different things within a slot game – not just being used for free spins. 

“In 2023, the trend really was these bonus features. We saw them grow in popularity and become more commonplace across the industry as a whole. And I do think they’re a really great idea. This was probably the most innovative thing that we saw from this year, and it has been something that providers and game developers have truly embraced. 

“In answer to your question over whether this will continue? Absolutely. This is only the beginning for this type of feature. I can see this still remaining popular in 2024.”

As you can probably guess, Evoplay already has plans in place to capitalise on this trend in the latter part of this year and into 2024. However, Malakchi kept his cards somewhat close to his chest on giving away any of the finer details.

He concluded: “I can’t let you in on too many secrets just yet. But Evoplay is more than ready to capitalise on these trends. We already have games with these different bonus features. In 2024, we will continue to grow – not just the portfolio of bonus buy games but the functionality within those features. 

“We’re preparing to launch a range of special gamification features based on Bonus Buy features and the buying opportunities within slots. So we’re getting ready to test those now. Our portfolio is continuing to grow, so we want to keep pushing the boundaries of innovation and create stand-out games for our partners.”