Derik Mooberry Q&A: How the US market compares to the rest of the world

May 19, 2023
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Derik Mooberry, CEO of Zitro USA, speaks about innovation in the US market vs global success.

Thanks for joining us! How has your first year gone as CEO? And what has your proudest achievement been so far?

A year just zips by pretty quickly. It’s been an exciting year and it’s been a time of growth for us. I think there were four employees when I started, and we’re about 20 now, so we’ve had quite a bit of growth here in the US. In all honesty, that’s probably our biggest achievement. Before you can have great success, it really starts with the foundation of building a team. We’ve assembled a great group of people that have joined us here in the US, and we’re starting to get our products out into a large number of different locations and casinos throughout the US. We think we have just a tremendous future in front of us.

I think casino operators love choices. They love having lots of opportunities to buy from different people. They love the fact that people are innovating and that’s exactly what we’re doing here at Zitro. We’re coming out with a lot of exciting new products. We’re different from a lot of what I would call smaller vendors – and I say ‘smaller’ because we’re small here in the US, but we’re really not small globally. Around the world, we’ve got over 1,000 people. We operate in over 60 jurisdictions around the world, and in the US people are just getting to know who we are. But I think people are saying, “This is a company who can innovate. This is a company who has exciting products.”

What do you think the most successful game has been in the US market so far? And do you know what makes it so popular?

For us it’s pretty simple. We’ve got a standout game. It’s called 88 Link Lucky Charms. It’s been our best game and it’s performed extremely well – in some cases up to two times house average at casinos, – which is just exceptional. It’s usually the game we lead with. Every time we go to a new customer they say, “what game should we take from yours, because you have a vast library of products?” We like to go with one we think is shown to be a proven winner – and the 88 Link Lucky Charms has been exactly that. I think it combines a lot of features players like. A lot of popular games now obviously have the Asian graphics that it does. It also comes as a multi-game with four games built into it, usually in the US.

We choose just one of the four to launch with, but the four games are slightly different graphically; similar mathematically but a little different. Graphically, it’s got a Bet Up feature on it where the more you bet you acquire more of the symbols, giving you more chances for bigger and better bonuses. So when the player’s on that lucky winning streak and they feel like betting a little more money, it gives them the opportunity for that as well. It’s got the ever-popular – what we call – Bonus Link feature, which is the bonus round that creates all the excitement for them. We think it’s got a lot of common things players like and I think that’s why it’s resonated. Here in in the US, literally almost everywhere we’ve done great.

Do you think there are gaming trends in the US that differ from markets in other countries? You mentioned Asian graphics being popular. Is that a general 2023 trend rather than US?

I’m going to answer this in two different ways. I think great games transcend the world – I really do. I think a game that’s great can be popular almost anywhere in the world. I think if you’ve found that great combination of math and graphics, and found a really intriguing way to entertain the player; I think that can transcend regardless of where you are in the world. However, the flipside to that is there are certainly little differences you see around the world, in terms of player characteristics. The average consumer can vary differently, even here within the US, forgetting the rest of the world. The gambler on the Las Vegas Strip is slightly different, obviously, than the gambler who might play at one of the Native American casinos. The person who’s coming to the Las Vegas Strip is coming for a three-to-four-day experience.

They’ve got a budget they’re trying to maintain over those three to four days. They’re trying to maximize their time on a device during those play periods. The person who’s coming to more of what I would call a localized casino has probably a smaller, finite amount of time, right? They’re coming in for maybe an hour or two – maybe with some friends – looking to have some enjoyment. Ideally, in those kinds of situations, the player probably either wants to win big or go home. Because their time is a little different: it isn’t a one size fits all. But I do find that there are some trends, though. Great games do seem to be great almost regardless of where they are. That could be throughout places here in the US or it could be internationally. We’re very popular in Mexico and a lot of the Latin America markets. Obviously, Spain is a fantastic market for us as well. So we’ve found great games work all over.

Which states are you live in right now? Have you seen any differences between those states?

We’re live in four states: California, Oklahoma, Florida and Wisconsin. The gambler profile is different, even among those states, because there’s different products in those states. You have different demographics, different regulations and different regulations on how the products work. You do see some slight differences there, but not anything tremendous so far. This is really kind of just the beginning for us.

We hope to be in probably anywhere from 10 to 15 states by the end of the year. We have approvals to enter a bunch more very soon. You’re going to start to see Zitro products in a lot more locations around the world or around the US in particular.

We saw a recent partnership with KGM, which will put you into Connecticut, Ohio and New York. Is that correct?

Yeah, we will. They’re our distributor partner on the East Coast. When you’re a small manufacturer like us in the US, sometimes you need partners to help leverage your success. KGM is one we just recently announced a partnership with and they have deep roots in sales force already in place in a lot of those East Coast locations. We look to leverage their infrastructure, including their service technicians and their sales personnel to help launch Zitro products in a large number of states on the East Coast.

Do you know when that will be?

We intend to launch our first games with them as early as May (at press time).

We’ve seen a lot of focus on video bingo and video slots. Is that your primary focus in general in the US?

Obviously, video bingo is our roots. That’s how the company started; that’s what got us going years ago. We’ve transitioned to video slots as well; traditional, as we call them, Class III gaming devices . The third segment we’re also in is the digital space: online gaming. We’re a player in that segment as well, in terms of what we’re focusing on. Though, here in the US, we’re really focusing just on traditional Class III slots. The video bingo products we leave for more of the Mexico market and some of the other Latin American markets. But what we’re really focusing on is trying to grow our land-based slot business here in the US. Then there’ll be a point in the future, once we get the land-based slot segment established, when we’ll look to focus on a digital push as well. That way we can give the player that omnichannel experience where they could play the best of Zitro games, both online and in a land-based casino.

We’ve seen your slogan for Zitro saying, “Winning is not about luck.” Can you explain a little bit about that and how you keep people engaged with games beyond just that lucky feeling?

The message there is two-fold, in my opinion. It’s about the consumer, them picking a machine they find enjoyable and us providing the right entertainment experience for them, which keeps them coming back again and again. I think, “winning is not about luck” is also about Zitro the company, too. Success comes through a lot of hard work, a lot of dedication, a lot of focus on customers, casino operators and ultimately the end consumer as well. If you do the right things, you will ultimately end up winning. It takes a lot of hard work and dedication to do that. That’s the message for us and we think it resonates well for both us as a company, and also the consumer as well.

It’s a customer service ethos as well as a way to play the games?

Absolutely. And that’s the message we want to tell. If we execute on those fronts, I think the growth story here in the US is going to be something we’ll be talking about for some time. 

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