The lowdown from GoWild CEO Itai Zak on owning their own platform, game positioning and what they want to see from suppliers
iGB: Can you give us some background to GoWild, such as how long you have been around, what your main markets are and how big is the team?
Itai Zak: GoWild was launched in 2008 and has been on a steady growth path ever since. Today we operate several brands focused on a number of key markets, particularly within the UK, the Nordic region, and Germany.
Originally a Microgaming casino, in early 2017 we embarked on a rather complicated migration to our own proprietary iGaming platform, GoWild HERO. This platform is connected to more than 30 leading game providers, giving players access to more than 1,500 unique games.
Since we control it, this new platform also gives us much more flexibility to launch innovative concepts, offerings, and campaigns, faster than ever. This responsiveness in turn helps us continue to evolve, based on our players’ actual needs, which results in an unsurpassed user-experience.
This growth trajectory was further augmented by our successful launch in the UK in November 2017, following our acquisition of a Remote Casino Operating Licence. In fact, the performance of GoWild UK exceeded our expectations from the start, with the casino’s popularity spreading at an incredible pace through 2018.
During this same period, we also saw exceptional growth in our core markets, as well as overall improvements across all main KPIs.
All these developments, across markets and technology, have of course resulted in an expansion in terms of personnel, with a team of some 200 professionals now supporting our many endeavours.
Which recent slot titles are performing particularly well for GoWild?
The slot titles which are performing particularly well for GoWild are actually the NetEnt classics like Starburst. NetEnt’s more recent Jumanjii slot game has also proven a hit from the get-go, as has the Book of Dead game from Play’n GO.
In the UK, several Scientific Gaming and Greentube titles are also performing particularly well, as players there seem to really love them. But overall, across the board, I’d have to say that the slot classics seem to work best.
Which supplier’s content performs most strongly and consistently for GoWild, and why?
As you know, there are many casino software providers on the market, and we’re currently working with about 30 of them. In general, the bigger providers like NetEnt, Microgaming, Evolution, Scientific Gaming, Novomatic and others such as iSoftBet, and Play’n GO tend to lead in terms of popularity and play.
In other words, it’s quite clear that different software providers and different games are preferred in different places. No one provider fits all markets which means that even with 30 software providers powering our platform, there is a market for everyone.
In fact, we’ve found that by offering a good mix of games from different software providers, we’re able to deliver the best content to each market, and give pretty much all players the games they like.
You take content from a number of suppliers. From your side, what would you like to see them do better or more of?
In all fairness, the software providers are constantly coming up with new games to attract customers. Usually these are classic games with a twist or new themes for games like slots. This is great for the marketing buzz, but the industry as a whole could use more innovation.
For example, we’d like to see more abilities and tools embedded in the games to better engage with players and interact with them in real-time. Ideally, the suppliers would have some kind of open API which allows the operators to immediately interact with players based on specific trigger events – such as a big win or a big loss.
Unique ways to interact and communicate with players in real-time, is from our perspective, key to improving the content provided and in turn enhancing the overall customer experience.
How do you decide the position of games on your homepage? Is it purely down to what players are playing and staking on, or do you use other tools and techniques to make this more dynamic?
We have a dynamic system which analyses the performance of our entire games catalogue on a weekly and monthly basis according to a wide range of parameters. It is much more than looking at basic things such as the least or most profitable games.
For example, the system considers such things as the popularity of the games, including aspects like how many bets were placed on the game and how many unique players played the game in any given timeframe.
This analysis is done per country and per player segment, in order to gain an even deeper picture of engagement and to personalise each player’s experience as much as possible.
Of course we also have specific algorithms regarding how to promote new games and how much exposure to give them. Bottom line, it’s fair to say, we’re using some seriously strong technology and stats to get the job done, both on the homepage and elsewhere.
What would you say are the major challenges for a CEO of a pureplay online casino in 2018?
The challenges I’ve faced in 2018 as CEO, are basically the challenges that all online casinos face over time.
This is a super competitive space, which means we need to always be on top of our game, diversifying our business and entering new markets. This is particularly true as the challenges of regulation and strict compliance mount.
We’ve grown a lot over the last three years, and plan to continue growing. To do so we have a lot of ambitious plans in the works, especially in terms of product and UX.
To meet these challenges and expand, we need a dedicated team, which of course, is a challenge in itself. It’s not always easy finding good people and retaining them. That’s why we invest a lot of effort in identifying and attracting the right employees, with proactive measures to encourage them to excel year-over-year.
It’s important to us to maintain a culture of excellence throughout the company, and make all GoWild employees feel like they’re an essential part of something big.
What is your primary focus for the product side of the business over the next 12-18 months?
Our focus over the next 12-18 months will be on the product side, expanding our footprint in our core markets in a number of ways.
For starters, we’re in the process of creating a totally unprecedented marketing approach for our UK players that will eliminate the use of bonuses and promotions in the way that they’ve been used up until now.
Beyond that, we’re continuing to put a huge amount of emphasis on personalisation tactics, so that we’re able to offer each and every individual player as personal an experience as possible. While we’re certainly pioneering in that realm, we know there’s much more to do!
In terms of our overall business plans – we’re also planning to launch a new brand focused on the Nordic and German markets, looking at virtual games and sports betting to launch new product verticals, and expanding the GoWild brand into one new regulated market in 2019.