September 27, 2022
Gambling News interview with Michal Imiolek: One year later in the US
It has been more than a year since slots studio Wazdan took its products to live in the US, beginning with the state of New Jersey. Having gotten over 50 games certified in this state alone, the company has gone on to expand to two other states, Michigan and West Virginia, as well as the Canadian province of Ontario. With no signs of slowing down, Wazdan will soon be entering Pennsylvania and Connecticut, as well as releasing new games with innovative, engagement-boosting features. We caught up with the company’s COO, Michal Imiolek, to discuss its aggressive expansion and its plans for the future.
How would you describe the company’s first year in the US?
Everybody knew when it first appeared that the US opportunity was a massively appealing one, but we have been truly taken back by the uptake of our games in the states that they have been rolled out in.
There is a huge amount of cultural crossover between America and Europe, so we were confident that our games and mechanics would resonate with US players considering they have been tried and tested in a more mature market. What will be interesting is seeing US customers’ tastes develop as they become more discerning.
With that in mind, we’re working to have our portfolio feature a mix of established content from our existing catalog and innovative new games. As well as that, we’re making significant headway through our unique games range with pioneering features, innovative reel arrays, attractive bonuses, and new ways to win.
Of course, this rapid progress doesn’t mean it hasn’t been a challenging year on the other side of the pond. Introducing an offering that has been successful in a mature market doesn’t necessarily translate to immediate uptake in a brand-new one – rather the sector will need to constantly monitor and learn from the situation in order to ensure continued success.
What have been the most important factors in appealing to the US player base?
There is absolutely no doubt that a mobile-first offering is essential to appeal to the US player base. A recent report indicated that a staggering 95.3 percent of slot players use mobile devices. Players in every jurisdiction are constantly on the lookout for something new, and the US is certainly no exception. Nowadays, new features don’t just need to be entertaining but also functional and easily understood at the same time, so often it is not a case of reinventing the wheel and more a case of finding a niche in the market.
It’s still early days, but the initial signs are that the US iGaming market is as seismic as anticipated. There are some wrinkles to be ironed out, and the sector has yet to crack customer needs, expectations and preferences, but the sheer potential of the landscape will make this effort well worthwhile.
What do you expect from the US opportunity going forward?
New Jersey is the number-one state in terms of iGaming revenue, with Pennsylvania and Michigan in second and third place. All three states generated an impressive $1bn in gaming revenue last year; a record no state had achieved before this, and we expect this momentum to continue.
However, there are significant barriers to entry that don’t exist in Europe. The challenges presented by the fragmented nature of the developing landscape are well known. Every jurisdiction has its own distinct licensing requirements, which vary greatly from state to state, representing a high cost in terms of resources and the amount of time it takes to be granted a license.
The country’s size, scale, and potential are different from any other market, but this is also balanced out by operators and suppliers having to be regulated in individual states, which means high regulatory costs and barriers to entry for many of them. This will require a deft hand and careful attention to how customer preference sways, but the gains justify the input.
What should operators be doing to maximize retention?
While a great deal of operators in the US have made player acquisition their priority, which has made sense as the market is not new, those looking to succeed in the long term should now turn their attention to retaining the customers they have already accumulated. This is easier said than done, of course. There are many factors to consider, including customer service and quick payout, but the most important element is making sure the customer enjoys the product.
We are glad to say that our products, including Hold the Jackpot titles Power of Gods: Hades, Sun of Fortune, and Fortune Reels, have seen positive uptake. However, the reality is that this is a new market, and we are still identifying what will resonate effectively with its audience.
Of course, few tools are more effective in acquisition and retention than innovative jackpots, and it has become apparent that the US audience is strongly receptive to the dynamic. Given how iconic jackpots have been in US land-based casinos, this shouldn’t surprise us, but our Hold the Jackpot bonus series has undoubtedly captured imaginations. US players appreciate a great deal of control over their gaming experience, with customizable volatility being highly regarded. With that in mind, we have ensured our proprietary customization tools are available, enabling audiences to set their games to what suits their style of play best.
Interview originally published on GamblingNews.com