Todd Haushalter from Evolution Gaming looks into his crystal ball

tod-haushalter-evolution-gaming

There are a few individuals in each industry who have the effect of making people stop and listen when they talk; Todd Haushalter, the Chief Product Officer (CPO) at Evolution Gaming, is one of them.

Todd visited the Next.io podcast and was surprisingly open and shared his thoughts on Evolution Gaming’s future and new upcoming features that will affect the industry and us players, and much more.

We will share the key giveaways and thoughts with you in this article.

Who are Evolution Gaming and Todd Haushalter?

Evolution Gaming is the iGaming industry’s largest publicly listed company. They are the leaders of live casino games online and behind innovative game shows like Crazy Time, Funky Time, Monopoly Live, Lightning Roulette, Dream Catcher, and players’ favourite choice when it comes to playing live casino games like Roulette, Blackjack, and Baccarat.

Evolution Gaming has also acquired slot studios like NetEnt, Big Time Gaming, Red Tiger, and Nolimit City in recent years.

They have one of the highest EBITDA margins of any publicly traded company in the world, around 70%, and had a record EBITDA result in 2023.

Todd Haushalter is considered one of the brightest minds in product development in the iGaming industry and a key component behind several of Evolution Gaming’s most successful games.

Todd has vast experience in the gambling industry from positions like Vice President of Gaming Operations at MGM Resorts International, Vice President of Business Strategy at  Bally Technologies, and more before joining Evolution Gaming in 2015.

Upcoming Evolution Gaming Features

evolution-gaming-innovations

Being innovative is part of Evolution Gaming’s DNA, as seen in many of its popular live casino games and game shows.

However, the slot side of the business has yet to see the same kind of success in recent years, although they own prominent game studios like Nolimit City, Big Time Gaming, NetEnt, and Red Tiger in their portfolio.

How will Evolution Gaming improve the performance of its slot games going forward, and what does Evolution have up its sleeve to maintain being the number one live provider online worldwide?

Let’s have a look.

One Stop Shop – OSS

How do you improve distribution and get your products out to more online casinos and players when you have so many different studios under one roof while adding new features that players will enjoy?

You put it all together into one platform.

Evolution Gaming calls this their One Stop Shop (OSS).

It has been a big project to try to move their clients (online casinos) into a new platform, and this is an ongoing procedure that will take more time and effort to complete.

Evolution Gaming sees the One Stop Shop as a crucial step for continuous success, as once a casino has the OSS plugged in, it can access all the games and developers under the Evolution Gaming umbrella. Any future acquisitions can also easily be added to the new platform.

Moving all operators to the OSS platform will continue to be a big project. During the migration process, they might temporarily lose some players as new game IDs break certain algorithms and positions in online casino lobbies until everything catches up again.

The real benefits are still to be enjoyed and seen from this project, but Evolution predicts the impact will be huge.

Spin Gifts

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The CasinoWizard loves new features that bring added value, and Evolution Gaming has something quite exciting cooking in the background.

During H1 2024, we should expect Evolution to roll out their new feature called Spin Gifts, where players randomly can win extra spins based on the value of their latest spin.

This will be available on online casinos plugged into the One Stop Shop and basically means that while playing an Evolution Gaming (Nolimit City, Big Time Gaming, NetEnt, or Red Tiger) branded slot, you can win extra spins at random after any spin.

How it works is that a player randomly gets a chance to spin on the Spin Gifts wheel, where a player wins 5, 10, or 20 spins with the value of their latest played spin.

This is an Evolution-funded program and paid for by them.

Will this new feature lure players into betting with higher amounts than they used to, or is it just an increased incentive to keep players spinning on Evo-branded games? Or is it a mix between the two? Only time will tell.

Red Tiger Jackpots available on NetEnt slots

Red Tiger has achieved much success due to the exclusive jackpot feature offered in these slots. While playing Red Tiger slots, you might see four separate jackpots on the left-hand side of the screen.

The two biggest jackpots are then paid before they exceed a specific time. However, online casinos need to turn the jackpots on, so these are not available at all casinos.

Evolution will now add this jackpot mechanic to also be available on NetEnt slots to increase interest in these games.

Multi-play between live casino and slot games

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It has previously been possible to multi-play several live casino games simultaneously, but you have yet to be able to combine live and slot games. Well, that is about to change.

So it won’t be any issues to play Blackjack or Crazy Time simultaneously as you spin on Starburst or any other Evolution-branded slot from now on.

This is a feature that probably many players will welcome and enjoy.

Lightning Storm

lightning-storm-evolution-gaming

Evolution Gaming always has laser-focused attention on creating great games, so when Todd Haushalter says that this is “Literally the best work we have done as a company,” it sets certain expectations, to say the least.

This was created by the same core team that developed games like Dream Catcher (the world’s first game show), Monopoly Live, Funky Time, and Crazy Time and is created for a modern type of player with a shorter time span looking for fast games.

Lightning Storm is a wheel game with added features and different bonus rounds.

Stockmarket Live

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You probably haven’t missed the crash game hype in recent times led by the game Aviator.

Stockmarket Live is Evolution Gaming’s take and twist on that niche. It will be blazing fast and include a game host, while the aim is to try to capture the essence that makes Aviator great and deliver it in a new package.

Evolution has attempted this earlier with their “Cash or Crash” game, which didn’t make a hit, but Todd predicts that Stockmarket Live will perform much better.

Live Spins

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The gambling experience of playing online casino games improves with more advanced tech, and one thing that many industry experts predict will become huge is the social aspect of playing casino games online.

We are used to playing slots on our own while crash and live casino games already have some social aspects in them. What if you could play your favourite Evolution branded slot game together with your friends or when watching a casino streamer on Twitch, Kick, or YouTube?

This will soon be available as Evolution Gaming has acquired the company Live Spins by paying €5 million upfront + a significant earn-out amount when specific targets are met.

Other Discussed Topics

There is a lot constantly happening in the iGaming industry, and Next.io host Pierre Lindh and Evolution Gaming CPO Todd Haushalter also discussed several other topics, including:

  • Artificial Intelligence
  • The importance of brands
  • North American market
  • Competitors
  • VR/AR
  • Nolimit City
  • Crash Games & Innovation
  • Marketing
  • Keys for continuous success for Evolution Gaming

Let’s have a quick look at what was said.

Artificial Intelligence (AI)

The hottest topic in the tech world these last 12 months has been the introduction of Open AI, their tool ChatGPT, and other similar companies.

What impact will AI have on the iGaming industry and Evolution Gaming?

Todd Haushalter said that it will become easier to do everything in tech thanks to AI, as one person will be able to do the work of many. Writing code and doing design will be faster, and AI is great for idea generation, especially on the design side.

AI is also useful for risk and fraud detection and recommends games to players based on their behavior and games.

Overall, it is still in its early days, though. AI should be a complementary tool, and it’s important not to become lazy and depend on it too much.

The importance of brands

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With the increased use of AI, creating new games will be easier and faster, which means that the market will become over-saturated.

Todd’s view on this was that “Brands will be more powerful than ever.”

With even more selection, players will opt to play brands they recognize. Hence, legacy titles like Starburst, Gonzo’s Quest, Fire in the Hole, and more are essential.

Sequels are, therefore, a no-brainer, and the take from this discussion is that we can surely expect to see many more sequels being released in the future.

These iconic titles had time to become popular and recognizable some years ago when fewer new games were being released. That impact still applies today on these games compared to new slots that nowadays get a 2-3-day chance to make an impact before they disappear.

North American market

The US market is predicted to become the world’s biggest online gambling market in the future as more states open up for legalized gambling.

Todd shared some insights about this market.

The US market is still immature as everything is new to them compared to, for example, the European market. Players have yet to learn about live casino games in the US.

It’s a process that will take time, but Evolution is well-prepared and equipped to conquer this market and is already the leading game provider there.

However, it’s an expensive and complicated market as each state requires its own gambling licenses and game studios and has its own regulations. There can, for example, be different Blackjack rules per state.

blackjack-live-casino

USA is very Blackjack-centric, and Evolution has different variations. The 2024 roadmap for the US includes many different versions of Blackjack coming to the market.

Evolution will also roll out different game shows per state, and a game like Craps was created explicitly for this market.

Competitors

There are around 40 live casino competitors today, and a handful also operate in the US market.

Evolution Gaming is the undisputed leader, but Pierre and Todd discussed what could disrupt Evolution’s market share, and Todd also viewed his view on competitors.

First of all, Evolution is constantly on the lookout for what could disrupt them and makes sure to act before the competition. It could mean acquiring a service such as Live Spins, adding new features to their games, or releasing innovative and fun games for players to play.

They have always been game-focused and now also focus on features and tools like bonuses, operator tools, spin gifts, and the possibility to play slots with live games.

Key factors that make it difficult to disrupt Evolution Gaming’s position, according to Todd Haushalter:

  • Operating a live casino business on the scale of Evolution is very complex and expensive.
  • People trust and know the games and the company.
  • Challenges to get visibility from Evolution.
  • Competitors can’t compete on price as operators won’t allow it.
  • Money doesn’t buy success. Not even unlimited money.
  • Land-based and online live casinos are very different businesses. 
  • Evolution has done the things competitors could have done to disrupt their business, like buying Digi Wheel.
  • Great game developers prefer to join Evolution as their games get the visibility and reach that others don’t.

VR/AR

Evolution Gaming is ready for a platform shift if it comes to that, and they have done it before with mobile and HTML 5.

They have plenty of developers ready to step in when the time is right and would start with the most popular games and work downwards.

Nolimit City

After Evolution Gaming acquired Nolimit City in June 2022 by paying up to €340 million (depending on the final earn-out targets reached), some commotion and rumors were circulating of Evolution putting restrictions in place for Nolimit City to tone down some of their provocative approaches.

Todd Haushalter denied these hearsays from being true and said that Evolution would not interfere with how Nolimit City makes their games or have any influence on their road maps. Nolimit City will continue to make the games that their fans love.

Crash Games & Innovation

aviator-crash-game

Crash Games and, specifically, the game Aviator have taken the online gambling world by surprise and become a phenomenon as players enjoy the simplicity and excitement offered by these games.

Todd Haushalter has an interesting view on why these games have become so popular:

“It’s a bunch of things. It creates this wonderful negative/positive tension at the exact same time, and it happens at lightning speed. The plane takes off, and you get that wonderful excitement of I am literally getting richer by the milli-second. That is fun – to get richer by the milli-second, and you know, at any milli-second, it can all end, and so you have the negative attention. That wonderful tension between the two is beautifully balanced and fast. It came at a time when TikTok was shortening all our attention spans”.

Todd also thinks that the dominant mechanism is showing the visual growth of your money going higher, and that is spot on. Another brilliant addition is the social component, where competition among players arises where you can follow how other players cashed in early while others blew up.

Regarding Evolution Gaming’s innovation efforts, Todd looks outside the industry. He prefers to look at user behavior as we no longer compete with Netflix and YouTube but share the attention with them. People play Evolution games while consuming content on these platforms.

Evolution also designs games based on shorter attention spans, as many players nowadays play every other hand instead of every single round.

The Evolution Gaming team asks themselves: If TikTok was a casino, what would it look like, and if technology was not a limiting factor, what would we do?

Marketing

While other game studios like Play’n Go sponsor Formula 1 teams and Pragmatic Play covers the biggest space at the largest gambling conference in the world, Evolution Gaming has gone for a more subtle approach.

Why is that, and how does Evolution Gaming approach marketing efforts?

Todd Haushalter had the following thoughts:

Evolution Gaming aims to reach online casinos’ attention and let them know that Evolution exists. They let the games speak for themselves, and it is not in Evolution Gaming’s DNA to flex.

The industry knows about Evolution and focuses on honesty, clarity, and quality.

While sponsoring an F1 team might be the perfect solution for another company, Evolution Gaming does most of the marketing through the games themselves.

Keys for continuous success for Evolution Gaming

How will Evolution Gaming continue to succeed and lead the industry forward?

Todd Haushalter shared his view and thoughts on this as well:

Evolution has a religious focus on the players and keeping that in the DNA. Focus on the product and the games. “What do our players and partners (online casinos) really want?”

The keys to success:

  • Relentless focus on the players
  • Avoiding distraction
  • Keep our heads down
  • Stay paranoid
  • Try to disrupt yourself every day
  • We don’t ask questions about cannibalization between our games

There is also an open-minded culture within the Evolution Gaming organization where any staff member can approach Todd with new game ideas, and this is also encouraged as you never know where the next idea will come from.

Big budgets are invested in strengthening the products at Evolution, and we will see more of everything going forward.

Todd finished it with some magic words: “If we make the players smile, we will be in a better spot in the future than we are today. “

Final Thoughts

It’s refreshing to see someone as prominent in the industry as Todd Haushalter opening up and letting us in for a while into his space and thoughts about how to approach online gambling and the real important factors. A super focus on creating entertaining and good games while making the players smile is one of the keys to success.

Todd Haushalter and the Evo team are incentivized to make their games and slots more popular, but by adding new features like Gift Spins, we, as players, will get more to play for and sometimes benefit, too.

Evolution Gaming is the biggest stock-listed company in the industry for a reason. They make great games while constantly improving their offering across the board.

Now, with their recent acquisitions in the slots space, we should see them putting even more effort into that segment to make those games and upcoming features even better.

With employees like Todd Haushalter and others leading the company forward, the future looks bright for Evolution Gaming, and it is hard to predict any other studios to disrupt them for quite some time. 

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