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Meet Toni Karapetrov from Habanero

Interview with Toni Karapetrov, Head of Corporate Communications at Habanero

This March, Habanero software provider celebrate a record-breaking start to 2017, with clients’ gross gaming revenue derived from their collection of titles over the past 12 months, growing by an average of 15.3 % month on month. The huge progress makes this software developer one of the fastest growing ones in the industry, with their current performance showing no signs of slowing down.

Habanero Enter European Market

In Asia, Habanero are considered to be among the best suppliers in the market and have recently strengthened their presence in the region, following a deal to provide a mobile platform and content supplier GWIN with its suite of games. Similar deals were reached in Europe, with SKS365 in Austria and iSoftBet.

As Habanero are approaching European market, we have decided to talk to Toni Karapetrov, Head of Corporate Communications at Habanero about their new strategic partnerships and ambitious expansion plans for this year. In addition, you’ll find out how their online slots are being created, to what extent do bonus games matter to players and how long in advance do Habanero usually plan their future releases. Make sure to read our interview for all the additional info!

In Asia, Habanero built a reputation and is considered to be among the top four providers in the market. What’s more, you have recently entered the European market, as well. Since it is a big strategic move, can you please tell us a little bit more about it?

We have done very well in Asia over the last two years and our online slots have established a real fan base there. Many of our slots have very obvious Asian themes and maths models, which have huge appeal, obviously. But many more have universal appeal and are suitable for any market, particularly mobile-focused ones.

It is important to tailor games to players, but it is also important that they have wide-spread popularity too. Our games have very rich graphics, interesting maths, and high-quality sounds, which are very important for European audiences. We’re in the process of getting all of our titles certified for European markets, so it won’t be long before they are widely available over there.

A few weeks ago, you have signed a deal to distribute your online games via iSoftBet. What is the main purpose of this strategic partnership?

It is to further that European expansion. We have worked with game aggregators very successfully and feel the iSoftBet deal could also be mutually very beneficial. They have got a great platform and a wide data-base of customers in a number of territories and, in taking Habanero’s games, they now have some great new content which isn’t over-exposed in Europe at the moment.

We’re very confident that they will get us in front of lots of new players. If they like what they see, as I’m sure they will, then more will ask their operator for Habanero games. It’s all about spreading the word that Habanero has something fresh and new to share with slots fans.

Habanero has big expansion plans for the year, and you have already agreed to provide your games collection to mobile platform provider GWIN, 1xBet, and Austrian operator SKS365. Can you share some of your further expansion plans for this year?

We are in negotiations with a number of other operators and game aggregators, so watch this space! We recently exhibited at the ICE exhibition in London for the second time and were really pleased with the amount of interest there was in our games.

We’ve developed a good reputation for producing good quality content consistently and that is what online casinos and their players want. We’ve reached out into Eastern Europe with 1xBet Casino and Western Europe with SKS365 and plenty more people are keen to host our games too. I won’t name names at this stage, but I would expect Habanero to feature with more brands in the next 12 months.

It has been a great start of the year for Habanero, as you’ve implemented a raft of new deals. What does that mean in the terms of organic growth?

Our growth has been phenomenal. Over the past 12 months, we’ve been growing our Client Gross Gaming Revenue by an average of 15.3% month on month. A lot of that is organic growth, which means players have tried our games, liked them, and kept on playing them. We’re not resting on our laurels, though, and have plenty of new content coming out in the coming months. We don’t believe in standing still and want to make sure we’re always pushing the boundaries when it comes to graphics, themes, and maths models, as well as always delivering games players want.

By offering the high-quality games that are designed beautifully, you already match leading software giants such as NetEnt, Microgaming and Play’n Go. How hard is it to succeed in the iGaming industry nowadays?

It is very nice to be compared to game studios like that, given how quickly we’ve developed in such a short space of time. But, yes, you’re right – it is hard to succeed. Competition is very fierce and there’s a real survival of the fittest out there. Players won’t play poor quality games – and neither should they have to – so you can’t dine out on a good game that you created a few years ago. It’s about moving the needle forward each and every time.

Habanero online slots are mostly famous for their attractive bonus features. To what extent do these additional bonus games matter to players?

Bonus games are what make slots and slots players tick - they are the endgame, as that’s where the big money lies. They always have to be the culmination of any game. But players appreciate that they’re not going to hit them every single time, as they wouldn’t be bonus games if you did.

As a result, we’ve always believed that ‘travelling is as important as arriving’ by which I mean that the base games have to be very entertaining too. It is these that players see the most of, so they have to be compelling and fun. We also vary maths models so that bonus features are easier to hit on some games. The sense of anticipation is what makes slots so enticing.

Can you tell us a little bit more about the slots process creation itself and how much time does it require for your team to create one from scratch?

There’s a good couple of months that goes into each game. We don’t cut corners or copy our old games. It’s about coming up with a new concept and taking it from the drawing board to real life. We’ve never been afraid of tinkering with a game until we get it right.

We’ll even scrap or place games on the back-burner of the development pipeline if we begin to realise it is not going to meet the required standard. When we say standards, we’re talking about all levels here; the concept, the likely player experience, the expected traction with the player, the entertainment value in the graphics and the sounds, and last but not least, the maths.

I think when you start putting out sub-standard content just to say you’ve got a new title then you’re on a slippery slope. You cannot produce a smash-hit game each and every time, and you never know how they are going to go down with players until they’re live, but that has to be the aim. It is so competitive that there is no room for mediocrity.

Where do you get the inspiration from and how long in advance do you usually plan your future releases?

We have a roadmap for the coming year, with a release in almost every month. That gives you an indication of how much planning goes into this and how long in advance we conceptualise our games. At shows, we always have at least four or five games fully playable as a sneak preview of as yet unreleased games.

In terms of inspiration, we take our cue from a number of different sources. That can be popular culture, history, myths and legends, or just out of leftfield, depending on how avant-garde our designers are feeling! We’d all love to say that a particular theme or topic will a smash hit and that, of course, is the point of branded games. But sometimes you just have to let players loose on games and see if they like them. You soon find out, that’s for sure!

Super Twister, alongside the newer releases such as Koi Gate, Fire Rooster, Fenghuang, stand for some of the most popular online slots with vivid graphics and intelligent math. Which one would you single out as the most successful you’ve created so far?

These have all been popular, as you say. But a recent release that has performed exceptionally well has been Jugglenaut slot. For those that don’t know it, the game has a dark circus theme and it’s fair to say that it’s probably not for the faint-hearted. But it has proven to be very popular with players wherever they’re based.

We have high hopes for Koi Gate slot, which has started very well, according to the data on hand. In contrast to Jugglenaut, it is very tranquil and relaxing, whilst still enjoying that build up to the feature, which is important for that sense of anticipation. It’s important to have contrasting games like this, as different people like different slots. Fa Cai Shen slot, though, has been our most successful game thus far, looking at the numbers. There is definitely something to be said for building an appealing central character.

What are your future ambitions for 2017, can we expect some new games any time soon?

We have a game called Bird of Thunder coming out in April, which we expect to be well-received. Then there’s a panda-themed game in May which features everyone’s favourite bear. There’s then an action adventure one in July, which we’re confident about too. The great thing is you don’t have to wait too long for a new Habanero game. As well as producing quality titles, we’ve developed the ability to produce them very regularly, which is a great sign of our evolution as a company.

Where do you see the future of online gambling?

That’s a big question to end on – and the honest answer is I don’t know. But I would think that we will see more and more tailored content so that players can play the games they want to play. This speaks to the big buzzword ideas today of gamification and player personalisation.

Habanero is 100% focused at the moment down that track. I think we’ll also see more and more quality games emerge as technologies develop. For instance, all our slots are developed in HTML5. But keeping up with these advances and making sure they are always relevant, vibrant, and fresh, will be the main challenge for game studios like Habanero. But I’m confident we are part of that future – and you’ll be hearing a lot more from us in the coming years.

We would like to thank Toni Karapetrov for taking the time to answer all of our questions and we wish Habanero lots of luck in the future and many successful releases!

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