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Johan Törnqvist, CEO and co-founder of Play’n GO, sat down with NEXT.io to reflect on recent successes, how regulation is re-shaping the way games are built, and what motivates the Play’n GO team after almost 20 years of creating leading online slots.

NEXT: What were the highlights of 2023 for you/Play’n GO? What achievements did you make during the year?

JT: Each year I’m asked this question, it becomes tougher to answer! Play’n GO is now operating at such a scale and across so many regulated markets (more than 25 at last count) that every week we’re delivering something that makes me really proud to lead this company.

In 2023, we made great commercial progress and released some of the best games Play’n GO has ever produced, with more than 50 premium titles going live. But let me highlight a couple of things that stand out for their innovation and daring.

Firstly, we launched Play’n GO Music, a dedicated imprint that showcases the original music that features in our games, often via collaborations with fantastic artists including the Czech Symphony Orchestra and KEANA.

And secondly, we secured a landmark partnership with the MoneyGram Haas F1 Team, so the Play’n GO logo is displayed on the team race suits, including at the recent Bahrain Grand Prix.

I pick these two highlights as I think they perfectly capture where Play’n GO is as a brand right now, not just innovating but challenging assumptions of what casino entertainment can be.

NEXT: What themes or trends did you see emerge across the online casino sector?

JT: Regulators, stakeholders, and most importantly, the general public, are now increasingly understanding just how important it is that online casino is offered in a sustainable fashion. This has been a drum we’ve been banging for many years now, and we’re seeing the wider industry getting on board with it more and more.

I’ll give you one practical example. You probably know that we haven’t included ‘Bonus Buy’ features in our games for many years now, because we believe them to be a dangerous and not sustainable way for people to play. We’re not only seeing regulators following our lead by banning them in many markets, but the general public is also now more aware of the harm they can cause.

We recently asked polling company Opinium to gauge the views of ordinary people in Sweden on the issue; 69% of those polled supported a change in regulation to ban them in the country, and a remarkable 55% of slots players also wanted them banned.

For us, this confirms what we’ve known for a long time: that online slots need to provide genuine entertainment and value to players if they are to maintain a sustainable future.

NEXT: How was 2023 different from previous years?

JT: One area I’d like to highlight is that 2023 was the first full year Play’n GO had an established presence in regulated markets in the US. We originally entered the country in 2022, and our progress has been rapid since then.

You don’t need me to explain how significant an opportunity there is in the US, and we were always of the belief that we couldn’t rush into the market without a firm plan for it. I think that view has been vindicated, as in less than two years we’re now licensed in Michigan, New Jersey, West Virginia and Connecticut, and partnered with several leading operators such as BetMGM, PokerStars and Rush Street Interactive. It is now a vital part of our geographical mix, and it’s only going to increase in 2024 and beyond.

NEXT: What are you most looking forward to in 2024? What did you learn in 2023 that will impact how you approach 2024?

JT: Much of Play’n GO’s success over almost 20 years has been down to our ability to think long-term while still adapting to shorter-term challenges. This has meant we make the big strategic decisions – like focusing on sustainable, entertainment-first products – while still remaining agile enough to be first movers when new opportunities emerge, as we’ve done, for example, in Latin America.

So 2024 for us is all about staying true to our principles, while at the same time remaining light-footed and open-minded enough to take the risks required to drive forward genuine innovation. And of course, we’ll continue to push ourselves to the limit in terms of our release roadmap; we have plans for even more games than we put out in 2023!

NEXT: What big changes will we see across the industry this year? What are the most exciting markets, products or developments to watch in 2024?

JT: The direction of travel for our industry is now very clear. Online casino games need to offer genuinely entertaining experiences, firstly so customers choose us over the countless other options they have, and secondly because regulators around the world are no longer tolerating anything that might be construed as exploitative of the player.

As I’ve mentioned, that’s a challenge we’ve been focused on for many years now, but it is also one where there is now unprecedented competition. We have to up our game each and every year, and doing exactly that is what keeps us getting out of bed every morning. We’ve released some absolute blockbusters over recent months – Garagantoonz is one of my personal favourites – and we’ve got a pipeline packed full of future classics to deliver in 2024.

Johan Törnqvist is CEO and co-founder of Play’n GO, where he’s been delivering the world’s best casino content since 2005.

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