Habanero: Machine Learning Will Never Replace Human Creativity

In the fast-paced world of online gambling, staying ahead requires not just creativity but also the agility to adapt to ever-changing market demands. Tony Karapetrov, Head of Corporate Communications at Habanero Systems, joins us to discuss the remarkable strides Habanero has made since our last interview together. From doubling their game release schedule to venturing into booming markets, Karapetrov shares insights into how Habanero continues to innovate and thrive in the competitive iGaming industry.

We've noticed that Habanero has been on a creative spree since our last interview in 2021, rolling out more than 35 new slots. That's hitting the impressive mark of at least one game a month! What's the driving force behind this incredible pace, and how do you keep the gaming experiences fresh and varied for your audience?

Habanero’s content strategy involves striking the balance between keeping up with operator and player demand whilst ensuring our games remain of the highest quality. Last year, Habanero began releasing two new games a month, each delivering a fresh experience to the market which has been a resounding success for our partners.

A culture of creativity is fostered at Habanero and the team is encouraged to think outside the box at all stages of game development. Rather than reskinning our top-performing games, we want each release to add value to our partner’s offering and stand out in a saturated market. By diversifying our content in terms of themes, mechanics, and gameplay, we can ensure each new title can generate excitement from players.

The gaming industry is always on the move. Since our last interview, how have the challenges you face in terms of competition and product development evolved?

The iGaming industry is in a constant state of transience which we combat by remaining agile and scalable. In a constantly evolving regulatory landscape, the ability to quickly adapt is pivotal and this ethos has enabled us to enter a slew of new markets.

Since we last spoke, Latin America has developed as a hotbed of growth and potential bolstered by many jurisdictions in the region recently approving regulatory framework. The state of play in Europe has also continued to evolve with markets becoming more fragmented. This is where our agility comes into action, allowing us to quickly adjust our games to remain compliant in each jurisdiction and adhere to its unique requirements.

AI's influence is growing in every field, including gaming. It's getting tougher to spot the difference between what's AI-generated and what's not. Where does Habanero stand on using AI? Is it more of an ally for you in game development, or do you see it as a complication to steer clear of?

While AI can certainly be used as a tool to aid in game development through automation and streamlining processes, at Habanero, we believe that machine learning will never replace human creativity.

At all stages of game development, we pride ourselves on our ability to tap into the player mindset and to develop concepts that truly excite players while staying true to the nature of a slot, which is an innate skill that no computer can ever replicate. Ultimately, since our content is designed for human consumption, we strive for our games to embody storytelling, graphics, and features that authentically represent our company, ensuring these qualities resonate clearly with our players.

Expanding your game certification in 23 markets is a notable achievement. How does this development contribute to Habanero's international strategy, and what opportunities do you anticipate in these new or regulated markets?

The previous 12 months were a truly exciting time for Habanero as we scaled up our operations and saw some of our most important partnerships to date come to fruition. As we enter new markets and expand in existing ones, our content increases in popularity which opens up the door for even more commercial agreements. In anticipation of this, we expanded the design team in order to create more synergies as well as hiring two new sales agents to help boost our profile across Europe and beyond.

Your innovative promotional features, such as the Jackpot Race, have garnered attention for their player engagement. Can you shed light on the process of creating these promotions and their effect on player loyalty and interest?

Habanero's progressive jackpot, Jackpot Race, is a straightforward yet powerful feature that enables operators to customize the number of winners and allocate varying percentages to different players. This jackpot, designed to drop at specific intervals with multiplier winners, immediately captivates players by introducing a communal aspect to the gaming session. It also empowers operators to generously reward hundreds of players at once.

The importance of sustainability and responsible gaming practices is growing within the industry. Could you explain Habanero's policies on these issues and how you ensure your games remain a source of safe entertainment?

Responsible gaming is an essential practice for the sustainability of our industry as a whole and we firmly believe that every supplier should have its own policies and principles to ensure compliance and safety.

Our proprietary mathematics mirrors that of a land-based casino experience which maximizes the entertainment value of the slot. Additionally, from the outset, we make known that our games are a form of adult entertainment to ensure that there are no blurred lines.

As mentioned, agility is paramount to Habanero and is ingrained within every slot we release to the market. In this, we ensure that all our games can be adjusted to fit all regulatory requirements for any market and more importantly, are future-proofed for any changes.

With Habanero's recent acquisition of a B2B license in Sweden and its growing influence in the Balkans, the company is evidently fortifying its presence in Europe. Could you elaborate on Habanero's strategy for further extending its reach within the European market, and are there any other regions on the horizon where you aim to expand your operations?

We have entered several markets in southern Europe and Scandinavia that we have yet to fully penetrate. Moving forward, we will prioritize forming strategic partnerships to enhance our market presence.

Portugal and Spain are key markets on our agenda, not only promising in themselves but also serving as gateways to opportunities in the Latin American market.

The Balkans is also full of young and lively markets that we look forward to expanding in, particularly in Romania and Bulgaria where we’re set to partner with leading operators.

Habanero has been recognized as a top-tier provider in the gaming sector. To what do you attribute this success, and how do you continue to innovate and stand out in such a competitive environment?

Habanero distinguishes itself in a crowded market by effectively grasping player preferences and crafting slot experiences that stay faithful to traditional elements while introducing fresh concepts. Our proprietary mathematics has always been a favorite among players and has allowed us to appeal to a generation with an affinity for land-based experiences as well as seasoned online gamers. Additionally, Habanero is able to capture players’ attention through captivating and immersive stories, which unfold as the slot progresses, keeping players engaged and entertained both through the gameplay and the visuals.

For Habanero, innovation is about staying true to the nature of a slot while developing thrilling new in-game mechanics. Our most recent Golden Taj Mahal release is a prime example of this, demonstrating our Reel Rewards feature, where a blank extra reel can be filled with enhancements on any spin.

Finally, is there any advice you can give to young gaming studios looking to make their way in 2024?

While iGaming remains one of the most competitive and saturated industries, it still presents a wealth of opportunities, particularly for those willing to think outside the box. Finding a niche and a relatively untapped demographic is also vital for success, in Habanero’s case this was Italy and converting land-based players to the online realm.

Furthermore, in such a dynamic industry there is a need to be agile, dependable and future-proofed for any obstacles that arise.

As our conversation with Tony draws to a close, it's clear that Habanero Systems is not just keeping pace with the iGaming industry but actively shaping its future. Through a combination of strategic expansion, creative game development, and a commitment to quality and player safety, Habanero is poised to continue its impressive trajectory. Karapetrov’s advice to up-and-coming gaming studios underscores a recurring theme: agility and innovation are key to making a mark in this dynamic field. We thank him for sharing his valuable insights and look forward to seeing what Habanero accomplishes next. Stay tuned for our next interviews with the industry’s who’s who.

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