iGN: How would you categorise Play’n GO’s first year in the US market? What are the major differences, if any, between the US and other highly regulated markets?
JT: For us, it has always been important to do things at the right pace. Of course, there’s the temptation to push to be the first to market in new jurisdictions, and especially in the US, but we’d rather do things our way. So, we’re taking the time to build those deep relationships with operators, listening carefully to feedback and paying attention to how things are progressing.
This mindset has served us really well, because in a little more than a year we’ve gone live in three states (New Jersey, Michigan and West Virginia) and expect to add a fourth in Pennsylvania to that list imminently.
These states are responding very positively to our games. Operators are very open to working closely with us and building the types of true partnership we love. Remember, the US igaming market as a whole is still in its infancy, perhaps with the exception of New Jersey. The revenue potential is obvious, but when it comes to things like game type and preferred mechanics, the character of these markets is something still to be clearly defined.
That said, we are seeing a few early trends. Play’n GO was the first studio to deliver grid slots and these are doing very well in the US. These games require a huge amount of expertise to build, so we’re in a great position to drive innovation here.
Our library of more than 350 premium titles is performing strongly. I’ve always said that really great content is often consistent across markets, and that’s certainly proving the case for us.
iGN: Do US consumers prefer a different type of playing experience than European consumers? Does the US market require a separate strategy?
JT: Before talking about differences, it’s important to remember that wherever they are in the world, players love great games with engaging storylines that provide entertaining experiences. That’s what keeps them coming back for more.
This is particularly true in the US, where unique traits are beginning to emerge. American operators are really doubling down on differentiation in their casino lobbies, perhaps more so than in Europe and elsewhere. This doesn’t necessarily require a wildly different strategy, but it does present certain opportunities. For instance, our vast portfolio is a huge asset for those operators looking to offer something a little different.iGN: Online sports betting has had more success in regulating across US states than iGaming. Do you expect iGaming regulation to expand in the coming months and years?
JT: We will absolutely see iGaming expand, although I don’t think it will exactly mirror online sports betting. More important than the expansion, however, is the regulation that comes alongside it. There’s already quite a spread of approaches in the sports betting space, and some states are changing things like taxation levels. This will continue to evolve.
If we’re talking igaming specifically, a lot of the focus from regulators is on advertising and promotional activity. I’d hope they consider game types and mechanics as well. We’ve talked a lot about how we think Bonus Buy features can be harmful to players and our industry more widely, and we’ve taken a stance by not including the feature in any of our games. Regulators and stakeholders in other markets are increasingly agreeing with that view.
Gaming should be about entertainment. We want to help build an industry that can thrive for decades to come, and that means prioritising the player experience and the joy it can bring over short term revenue.
iGN: Why is the US market important for the regulated gambling industry? What do you think the impact of a strong US-based operator set will be on the global industry over the next decade?
JT: The potential scale is simply unmatched anywhere else. The big US listed gaming businesses will shape the future direction of our sector for the next decade, and that process is already well underway.
We’re in an extremely interesting moment in igaming history right now. These US giants need to grow, and if the domestic market doesn’t expand quickly enough for that, they will seek opportunities elsewhere. But at the same time, exposure to the stock market could cause issues when working in pre-regulated jurisdictions.
It’s a huge chance to change the global industry for the better, set higher standards and define the type of responsible, sustainable business we all want to be in. I welcome it with open arms.
iGN: Finally, will we see you in Las Vegas for G2E?
JT: Of course! We’ll be at booth 4030 in the new iGaming Zone this year. It’s only our second year exhibiting at G2E – although we’ve attended for many more – and we’ve already needed to double the size of our stand.
Now we are licensed in four states, this show is important for more of the US-based industry to continue to get to know Play’n GO. Our ‘We Are Game’ campaign is set to feature heavily, and we’re confident it will resonate with everyone.
Johan Törnqvist is CEO and co-founder of Play’n GO, where he’s been delivering the world’s best casino content since 2005.