We caught up with Magdalena Podhorska-Okolow, VP Commercial – MD Europe at Light & Wonder, to discuss the changes in her role since joining from Authentic Gaming, the current climate of the European market as well as gain an insight into Light & Wonder’s future plans for the continent.
Thank you for taking the time to talk to us Magdalena, you spent five years in various roles at Authentic Gaming before becoming VP Commercial – MD Europe at Light & Wonder. Can you talk us through the transition and what your role entails?
The biggest shift in my role would undoubtedly be the products I am responsible for. Naturally, my time at Authentic Gaming saw me focus on live casino, with live roulette the priority. During that time, I was up close and personal with the vertical and paying slightly less attention to developments within the pure RNG/slots world. However, that is not to say I wasn’t in touch with it having worked at NetEnt prior to Authentic.
There is quite a lot of overlap between my new role at Light & Wonder and my previous role, especially in terms of the markets. Here, I am responsible for Europe and South Africa, which are two regions I am very well versed with. In terms of the day-to-day, my role involves not only looking at the product, but also the content and commercial strategies.
The two companies are quite different in terms of market position, Authentic Gaming is continuing to grow, broaden its reach. They and still have a handful of markets to enter and operators to launch with, whilst Light & Wonder is more about maintaining its leading position in the market through nurturing existing partnerships and ensuring our strategy is on point and future proofed for winning in the region. Having worked in both RNG and Live Casino, I can say they’re both extremely competitive verticals, however within the RNG space, there is far more ‘contenders’ out there with an estimation of some 1,000+ studios out there producing games.
The European landscape is notoriously fragmented with jurisdictions having vastly different regulations to the next, has this proven to be a headache, or has it offered Light & Wonder the ability to carefully segment their offering?
The fragmented nature of the European landscape has definitely provided us with challenges; however, this has become a competitive advantage for Light & Wonder, as we have such a rich history and a strong presence in nearly every regulated European market.
We are currently finalising entry into the remaining few jurisdictions we are yet to enter, the most recent of which being Switzerland. Our presence in Europe has been a huge strength of ours and our customers are delighted to have access to so many regulated jurisdictions through our Open Gaming System that will deliver not only our content, but also provide access to other third-party content and exclusive content build on our platforms only available via Light & Wonder.
While we have mastered the fragmented regulations, it is important to understand the cultural discrepancies – there are many different regions with induvial preferences – it doesn’t make sense to have a one size fits all approach. In order to satisfy each market, you have to produce informed strategies to create the most appropriate and effective roadmap for each, which can be quite a complex task.
Light & Wonder recently released Wonder 500 in the United Kingdom, what was the company’s thinking behind this, and can we expect this innovation to be rolled out in other countries in months to come?
Wonder 500 looks to revive classic retail titles, bringing them into the current realm of iGaming. Light & Wonder’s land-based portfolio is incredibly strong and to be able to digitise some of our most famous games is a huge advantage. This strategy has proven exceptional in various markets, and we genuinely believe Wonder 500 will flourish.
Wonder 500 is about far more than simply lowering the maximum stake, it gives our customers something new to penetrate their audience with as well as offering a unique experience to players. Players will hit bonuses far more often than in a standard version of the game and have the highest chance yet of hitting the maximum 500x win. Wonder 500 provides an attainable opportunity to win the jackpot, which in turn provides players with another good reason to play the games.
While this is a unique offering for the UK market, at the same time, this is also a reality for a lot of EU operators who are applying a global approach to player safety and extending the lifespan of their players. However, as I previously mentioned, each EU market is so unique, and while we intend to use Wonder 500 for some markets, others are more interested in higher stakes and bigger wins. Thus far the series have been extremely successful in the UK, and we are very proud that our strategy was spot on.
What opportunities in Europe most excite you, are there any jurisdictions that stand out as ones to look out for across the remainder of 2023?
We are very excited about South Africa, especially given our extensive land-based presence in the region. We’re working really hard on entry and are very close to being able to offer the same top-quality Light & Wonder content to players that we offer elsewhere.
The Balkans also presents a window of opportunity. Croatia, in particular, is one on our agenda and one of the few European countries that we have not gone live in yet. We have a lot of partners with licences there and we’re currently assessing this region as our next market entry.
We also have the exciting potential to bring talented studios to the forefront of the European market through Playzido. We have ten studios that have already signed up to build games on our platform which has given us the capabilities to bring highly talented emerging designers to the market.
Of course, each of these studios has its own USP and brings a fresh, new perspective to the market. This gives us the chance to provide custom game requests to our operator partners which is something we’re quite excited about right now.
Finally, can you give our readers an idea of what new games, features and mechanics they can expect in the coming months?
While I can’t give away too much, from an EU perspective, we’re focusing on localised games. At the moment we are developing specific games for the Italian market where we are using classic themes and mechanics that are already popular with Italian players. Alongside this, we are building games for Greece, Belgium and the Netherlands and have some custom game plans up our sleeve.