October 29, 2021 Online, Interview

Fantasma Games: coming to America

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The Swedish game designer, fresh off European success, is bringing a unique design approach to the US. Cameron Saunders speaks to Fantasma's commercial director, Fredrik Johansson on past and future plans, and what it really takes to adapt to new markets.

Can you tell me about your history in the gaming industry? 

I started off as an operator, working for LeoVegas and ComeOn!, filling out their Australia and New Zealand market. This was back in 2010. In 2016, I started Fantasma Games together with a friend of mine who, as a former world champion in Quake III, had a lot of gaming experience. We started discussing the need for something new and saw an opportunity to create interesting content. 

We took our inspiration from the gaming industry and applied it to iGaming. We saw that, more or less, all the games produced back then looked the same and had the same feeling about them, so we started to investigate how we could improve the offerings. It wasn’t until 2019 when we released the game Flower Fortune, the first game that put Fantasma on the map. It’s a Megaways game that has a progression to it, so that the more you play, the more features open up. This encourages more player engagement. 

Flower Fortunes was a top seller on European and Asian platforms. It is a fairly complicated game, too, with seven levels continuously unlocking, so that it is more like seven games in one. We were really happy about its success after spending a period trying to find our niche in the market. It was nice to know that we were going in the right direction. Our strategy from day one has been to produce unique games like this. We always wanted to create something new and interesting for the players and operators. Our goal has never been to mass produce content and release as many games as we could. Today we produce about six games a year. 

Did the company grow during the pandemic? 

Absolutely. We saw that more and more people were playing online. We saw good growth there. We released Heroes Hunt – our best seller so far – right at the beginning of the pandemic. People staying home during the pandemic meant that they were playing more online.

What are your plans for the US market? 

We are now in the process of releasing our first game into the US market. We are releasing this one through Scientific Games. It’s a big step for us. We did an IPO on the NASDAQ First North in March which was successful, so now our strategy is to infiltrate the US market. We are also looking into acquisitions.  

The US market is a big step. I’m here to meet up with all operators that are working in the market. I've been looking at it for a long time, but it wasn’t until last year, when we entered into the agreement with Scientific Games, that we would become more heavily involved. The first game, as you can probably guess, is always the most complicated. Our deal with Scientific Games will be key as we establish Fantasma Games as a leading casino providor. 

Our first US game was meant to come out in August but was moved to late November. It is called the Wins of Nautilus and we are very excited about its release. Still, now that we are up and running, it should be easier to release games. Next year we are aiming to release six into the US market. 

What challenges have you encountered with expanding into this new market? 

Finding the right games and finding the right team of people to operate them. It’s always tricky. Thankfully, being a European operator, we have experience with this. In Europe there are many markets – Germany, Spain, Italy, etc. Hopefully it will be slightly easier because it’s just one single market. 

Since we are new here, though, it does mean we have to work with operators. We can learn a lot from them. We have been working hard, forging relationships with operators over here so that we can fine tune the games. I take that information back to the team in Stockholm and we adjust accordingly, trying to produce a something that is marketable to the US market. 

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