Yggdrasil Gaming CEO Fredrik Elmqvist spoke to SBC News about building its own platform iSENSE, the challenges of local regulation and the thinking behind its slightly obscure company name.
SBC: What does it take to take a gaming developer brand from an unknown entity and newcomer in the space to one that’s well known and respected?
FE: Innovation, creativity and hard work. We’ve grown extremely quickly because we identified that taking a customer-first approach to slots provision would prove popular with operators.
We understand what operators are looking for in their slots and accordingly have developed tools that help them market and promote games to their customers.
This customer-centric focus, including our collection of in-game promotional tools BOOST™ and social sharing tool BRAG, has really set us apart from the competition. It is not enough to create great games anymore; operators are demanding a world-class promotional infrastructure alongside the titles. Our long list of industry-firsts has really powered this stratospheric growth.
SBC: How integral has the use of the iSENSE 2.0 platform been to Yggdrasil’s growth?
FE: Very early in the Yggdrasil journey, we decided to build our own platform that would smooth integrations and give us the flexibility to innovate. At the time, some considered this a risky move; most games developers didn’t bother with their own platform, and most were still developing games in Flash.
We broke from the mould and were among the first to commit wholeheartedly to HTML5. We could only make that decision because of the deep, strategic understanding of the slots sector that we possess.
Since then we’ve continued to develop our iSENSE platform. The most recent iteration, iSENSE 2.0+, features a new, minimalistic UI for both mobile and desktop and facilitates in-game deposits, allowing players to go to the deposit screen with a single click without leaving the game client. We will continue to innovate around iSENSE 2.0 as it is central to the Yggdrasil offering.
SBC: Game certification is locally regulated and yet you aim to launch each game across your jurisdictions at the same time – how much of a challenge is this and why do you take this approach?
FE: This has become less of a challenge and more a case of business as usual for us. We now have licences in the UK, Malta, Gibraltar and Romania, while also certifying games in Italy. We work with many major operators who are operating across multiple jurisdictions. It can be frustrating for these operators to see a game or feature working well in the UK but not be able to roll it out in Italy, for instance.
That’s why we aim for simultaneous launches wherever possible, allowing operators to better coordinate marketing campaigns and budgets. Fortunately, we have one of gaming’s strongest legal and regulatory teams at hand to make this possible. We are particularly excited for the launch of our Jungle Books slot in September, which will go live at the same time in all our jurisdictions.
SBC: Can you tell us about the choice of the company name – Yggdrasil?
FE: We wanted a name that was easy to pronounce! If you look at the B2B gaming space, most opt for combinations of terms such as ‘Play’, ‘Gaming’ or ‘Net’. We felt we needed something more creative to reflect our approach to games.
Yggdrasil is an immense tree in Norse mythology that connects nine worlds, and we felt it nicely reflected our Scandinavian roots. It also gave us the freedom to develop a strong brand and challenge conventions on how B2B gaming firms can be marketed.
SBC: You were named Slot Provider of the Year for the second year running at the EGR B2B Awards; how important are such accolades?
FE: These awards mean a lot because they are acknowledgment from our own industry that Yggdrasil is doing something different. I’ve long believed that if we as a sector do not constantly strive to push forward online casino, the whole industry will suffer.
Obviously, our strong commercial performance is vindication that our model works, but these awards show that we are also fulfilling this mission. It is also fantastic that the hard work of the entire team is rewarded – none of this would be possible without the dedication and creativity of Yggdrasilians.
SBC: You recently ran the Yggdrasil Coding Challenge in your Polish office – will you be going forward with more initiatives like this?
FE: Recruitment is one of the major challenges both Yggdrasil and the broader gaming industry faces. We have grown quickly in Poland, and have recently opened a new office in Krakow city centre, on the site of an old brewery.
To recruit the very best talent, we’ve realised we need to place Yggdrasil at the heart of the city’s technology and art communities. Events such as the Coding Challenge are a way of introducing Yggdrasil to these communities in a fun and creative way. These events have been well received so far, and we’ll certainly continue hosting similar functions.