Q&A: Play’n GO CEO Johan Törnqvist on launching in North America and building for a sustainable future

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Play’n GO CEO Johan Törnqvist talks exclusively to iGaming NEXT about going live in the US, the art of building games and why the company is leading the charge towards a more sustainable industry.

iGaming NEXT: As we approach the end of the year, what would you say has been Play’n GO’s biggest achievement of 2022? 

Johan Törnqvist: It’s impossible to sum up an entire year in a few lines, but I think it’s fair to say the highlight of 2022 has been our launch in North America. We’ve gone live in both Ontario and New Jersey, are poised to go live in Michigan shortly, and are on track to expand into other regulated states.

Our move into the US in particular has been years in the making; we didn’t want to rush into things until we were certain we had the correct approach. We’re now working closely with partners in these new markets to ensure Play’n GO’s games deliver the same, breathtaking experience players elsewhere around the world already enjoy.

iGN: Is the focus now firmly on the US? 

JT: We’re certainly working hard to expand our footprint in the US, but our focus is always on regulated markets globally. Just north of the border in Canada, we launched earlier this year in Ontario.

We’re already enjoying a great reception among players in the province. Latin America is another region that’s really exciting right now, with jurisdictions such as Peru, Chile, Argentina and others introducing (or soon to introduce) sensible new gaming frameworks – and that’s before we mention the potential of a regulated market in Brazil. We’re now active in more than 25 regulated markets globally, and as long as lawmakers worldwide continue to see the bulletproof logic in legislating for sustainable online gaming, that number will continue to increase.

But we will never forget where we came from, and our European business is still hugely important to us. I think we are well positioned to significantly grow our footprint in regulated markets like the UK, Italy and Spain, in addition to continuing to build upon our strong Nordic base.

iGN: Let’s talk about your games. How is your approach to building casino content evolving? Is the process different to what it was 10 years ago?  

JT: I think “maturity” is the right word. There are core fundamentals when it comes to building great casino games, but there are also uncountable variables that mean you can’t just repeat a formula and expect success forever. Look, we’re probably best known for Book of Dead, which is one of, if not the, most played and beloved online casino game ever. If it was a question of just recreating that, everyone would be doing the same thing. Many have tried, of course.

What we do is empower our team to drive the process and build the games they are passionate about. We have amazing people who are capable of creating astonishing games, but they need that freedom. We can then back that up with local market knowledge, our understanding of our players and other factors so the games find their right home. The ever-changing challenges of building these games is what keeps us coming back for more.

iGN: Play’n GO is one of the most talked about suppliers in our industry. So tell us something we might not know about the company. 

JT: I think a lot of people still don’t quite appreciate how seriously we are taking the challenge of creating a truly sustainable industry.

It’s quite simple in our view. If we don’t protect and nurture the industry we have right now, there simply won’t be an industry in the future to make games for.

If we as an industry are providing a bad experience that turns players off, they’ll quite quickly wander over to another form of entertainment. For us, that kind of thinking impacts the games we make and don’t make, the markets we enter and the ones we do not.

Let me give you a concrete example.

We believe that we have a duty of care to our players, and so we build all our games with that in mind. We could make any game with any mechanic we wanted to, but we choose not to make certain game types like Bonus Buy games because we don’t believe those games lay on the path to a sustainable industry.

We have left literal millions on the table by taking the decision to not make Bonus Buy games, but we felt it was the right thing to do to ensure players had a good experience with our games. The regulators in the UK and the Netherlands agree with us and have banned Bonus Buy games. So the question for both operators and suppliers in other jurisdictions to ask themselves is – why are you offering Bonus Buy games at all?

Responsible gaming is not solely the responsibility of the operator in our opinion, and we continue to set the standard when it comes to building great games that don’t rely on exploitative mechanics. Games should focus on entertainment and fun, win or lose you should always have had a great time enjoying that game session.

We’re absolutely focused on delivering a sustainable future for our industry and I’m really excited that Play’n GO is not only playing a vocal part in that discussion but is leading the way with our actions as well.

The future of our entire industry depends on all of us taking a long term view.

Johan Törnqvist is CEO and co-founder of Play’n GO, where he’s been delivering the world’s best casino content since 2005.

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