Interview: Ambitious Yggdrasil celebrates ten years in iGaming19th July 2023 9:37 am GMT
As Yggdrasil celebrates its ten-year anniversary, Gaming Intelligence speaks to CEO Björn Krantz about the supplier's journey so far and what to expect during the remainder of 2023.
This year has already been a busy one for the casino games developer, with a string of new game releases and further expansion into new regulated markets.
“It has been a fantastic journey so far and we could not be more proud of what the team has achieved and the passion we have seen across all borders,” says Krantz.
The supplier is now present in over 22 regulated markets with 160 direct customers, and its content is currently live with over 1,000 customer brands.
“The plan for this year is to release 70-plus new innovative premium games to local and global markets, and these games are a combination of Yggdrasil in-house produced Core games as well as games delivered together with our Masters partners,” continues Krantz. “I couldn’t be more proud to be working with such a talented team of professionals, always having a 'nothing is impossible' mindset.”
However, this journey has not come without its challenges since he assumed the position of CEO in April 2022, taking the reins from founder Fredrick Elmqvist.
“One of the biggest challenges has been the sudden change of the micro-economical climate in consumer behaviour, especially in Europe,” says Krantz. “This, in combination with improved regulatory responsible gaming measures.
“It has been very important for myself and my management team to remain focused and that we prioritise our delivery roadmaps in light of our strategy and to do this we need to be in full alignment on the direction our company is taking, with all the teams in our organisation. That is a very important collaboration,” he explains.
An increasingly competitive iGaming market has also set some challenges, but Krantz believes that innovation and taking risks is integral when it comes to tackling these challenges.
“Our part of the business is hyper-competitive and that is why it is of the highest importance that our strategy is clear and that we do not deviate from our core business and focus,” he explains. “We always need to push and challenge ourselves, we need to understand what we need to do to differentiate ourselves in order to provide appropriate value to our customers.
“You need to continue to take certain risks and push innovations and differentiation forward,” Krantz adds.
Customer and player feedback has also been an integral part of Yggdrasil's strategy for success.
“I would say passion for gaming is a crucial part of our mindset, and we work with 360-degree feedback looping to get relevant insights from customers and players on our offerings, performance and service levels, this to better capture our players needs.
“This feedback is processed in tight dialogue with customers and streamers, as well as within our own Business Intelligence data and internal reflections,” he explains.
This customer feedback enables the supplier to create innovative solutions across its new and existing content.
“Innovation for us has always been a part of our DNA and culture, we are known for our industry first innovations such as BOOST gamifications, and we also have our disruptive regulation-ready development toolkit, GATI, so innovation has really supported Yggdrasil to accelerate its global strategy.”
For Krantz, innovation, taking risks and customer feedback all go hand in hand.
“We form an outside in perspective in our view as a company, and we have to take risks and support innovation, which is at the top of our aesthetic agenda and customer feedback assists us in this, as well as helping us gear and update our content towards their needs,” Krantz says.
“We understand how important innovation is and how much it is a benefit for the company and for the bigger picture and we are proud that over 50 per cent of our received industry awards have been around innovation.”
Innovation and Game Engagement Mechanics
Yggdrasil is famed for its innovative Game Engagement Mechanics (GEMs), its YG Masters program, and expanding portfolio of content.
GEMs are designed from a player experience perspective. Each of the GEMs define how the slot game is played, bringing new elements to game play that ultimately boost engagement and winning potential.
The company currently has a library of ten high performing mechanical frameworks, including Gigabox, MultiMAX and DoubleMax, to name a few.
“We have a total of 50 games live today which are built on our high performing mechanical frameworks and I would say that approximately 30-40 per cent of our new in-house produced games utilise existing GEM mechanical frameworks,” Krantz points out.
Among its latest releases, Ragnawolves features a new GEM with a WildEnergy mechanic, and StarFire Fortunes features the supplier’s tenth GEM - the TopHit mechanic.
“Both of these frameworks have been designed to maximise the player experience and optimise the time and excitement within each game play,” says Krantz.
The GEM offering is utilised by Yggdrasil’s YG Masters program partners, which was first introduced in 2019 and allows third-party game developers to access the company's content development toolkit, GATI (Game Adaptation Tools & Interface), that develops and distributes games through Yggdrasil's network of operators.
“Our Masters program adds relevance into the company’s local and global portfolio,” says Krantz. “The company’s partners are very talented and innovative and have their own creative twist, I think that’s important.
“A significant upgrade to the program would be the opportunity for our Masters partners to license our GEMs mechanical frameworks.”
At the moment Yggdrasil has 30 GEM games live on the Masters program, where partners can use the company’s mechanical framework IP in their game production.
“We are grateful for our partnerships here and we see a win-win for all in involved," Krantz continues. "We always discuss the nature of the program and tightly collaborate with our partners to enhance the value of the program."
Krantz believes that the competitive iGaming market, while challenging, has not deterred Yggdrasil in its ambitions.
“Our business environment is very competitive and its not easy to come up with new disruptive ideas or even push innovative improvements on an existing idea,” he explains. “So, it’s important that we always push ourselves and that we are genuinely interested to understand our customers needs and give them content which follows market trends and market movements and together with our data driven operation. I strongly believe that we can create a foundation where we can discuss and post new ideas and improvements.”
Innovation is not only limited to products.
“It’s important to innovate throughout the entire company whether its innovation driving a higher degree of automation or improved scalability that makes us more agile in ways of working," stresses Krantz.
“However, putting that aside on the product side of things we will push or come up with new high performing mechanic framework innovations, the GEMs as we call it, and fine tune mechanics and further optimise game retention,” he adds.
With so much attention these days on Artificial Intelligence (AI), this is also an integral part of Yggdrasil's focus this year.
“We are already integrating AI within our gaming development process, and we are excited to see where this could take us, but in current productions we see some very positive efficiency rewards as well as outstanding player experiences, so we will push and maintain focus on AI and its development," Krantz says.
While the company is still in the early stages of using AI, Krantz believes that there is an exciting journey ahead for the industry, which is shaping how the company can optimise AI within its operations.
“We like what we see, we see good benefits and value so far and we are excited to learn more in how to grow this even further into our portfolio strategy," he says.
Roadmap for second half of 2023
Yggdrasil is looking forward to an active year ahead, with the company almost doubling its output compared to last year.
“We will have plenty of innovative premium exciting games coming out this coming year and we are very proud of the ramp up of Yggdrasil core games which we produce in-house,” says Krantz. "This ramp up is in response to customer and player demands, and is a key part of our global portfolio growth strategy."
This has also been fuelled by Yggdrasil's expansion into additional regulated iGaming markets, which the company has been actively pursing this year.
“I would say that we have a very strong pipeline of new market entry opportunities in Europe,” reveals Krantz. “We will see Bulgaria and Croatia being added to our regulatory mix in the near future and we see LatAm as an interesting emerging market.”
In January, Yggdrasil received approval from the Lotería de la Ciudad de Buenos Aires (LOTBA) to provide its slots to licensed operators in the Argentinian capital, which opened its iGaming market in early 2021.
Among the initial launches in the jurisdiction will be titles featuring Yggdrasil’s popular GEMs, as well as games from the YG Masters program. Yggdrasil made its first move into Latin America with a launch in Colombia last year.
“All in all we have a clear regulatory market strategy focus and we will see more market entries in LatAm as this is viable for our strategy," Krantz says.
The United States is also an important and growing market for Yggdrasil.
“We are live in the US with two games and of course the US market and entry strategy is very important for us, which we have a long-term growth plan for,” he continues.
Yggdrasil was also one of a slew of iGaming suppliers to receive new B2B gaming software licences in Sweden.
“We have our historical heritage in Scandinavia, and we have a big fanbase of players in Scandinavia, particularly in Sweden," says Krantz. "This is an important step from the regulator and we are proud to be part of the licensing scheme.”
In addition to new market entries, Yggdrasil recently announced the consolidation of its games team and in-house studio by forming a new gaming unit within the company.
“This is an important step to make sure that we have a very calibrated view on the end-to-end production from content to development and that we unify our local and global portfolio strategy under one gaming unit," Krantz explains.
“We are in exciting times with a lot of positive development at the Yggdrasil. We are very happy with that and I’m sure that the positive impact will also be shown in our company going forward.”
Yggdrasil has come a long way in its first ten years, and further milestones and innovations await in the future.