Suprnation have been claiming accolades for their fresh take on the competitive casino space
Ivan Borg meets with founders Joakim Stockman and Henric Andersson to find out why they’re drawing rave reviews.
Everyone loves it when an underdog punches above its weight, but no one ever really expects it to happen on a consistent basis. Eventually, the expectation is for the bigger players to throw their weight around and take the lead. SuprNation are bucking this trend – every time they redefine expectations for themselves, they somehow manage to exceed them anyway. When I sit down for a chat with SuprNation CEO Joakim Stockman and COO Henric Andersson, I had expectations of my own – what with Voodoo Dreams and NYspins already on their record, and Duelz Casino looking like a winner already.
What followed was more of a surprise. For one thing, the SuprNation offices are pretty unique. They chose to convert a classic building into one of the most vibrant workspaces I’ve seen – and that’s an understatement. The aged venue contrasts with the dynamism of the team. It feels like walking into a palace after a revolutionary overthrow. More importantly, while most C-suite execs are often overly measured in their dealings with the likes of me, Joakim and Henric are both remarkably and refreshingly candid throughout our conversation.
They tell me how they conceived the company as colleagues sharing a flight. That fateful conversation was followed up, and before long they had set off on their own, and went about looking for funding – a process that they make look deceptively easy. “Once that idea was born, I think neither of us kind of could let it go,” Joakim tells me. “Down the line we decided ‘Okay, let’s give it a shot’ and went out to try to raise money and build the company that we want to build. We got funded in late 2015, early 2016 – since then we’ve been working full speed on doing what we believe is innovative in this industry”.
Henric explains that while they were working together for their previous
company, they learned a lot of the lessons that would underpin their ambitions for SuprNation. “We identified when we were laying down the strategy and the positioning of our product that everyone was moving rapidly to ‘mobile-first’ and having a great mobile product. Our conclusion was everyone might not be there yet, but very soon everyone was going to be there to the point that it’s not going to be a competitive edge. We felt we would, of course, need to have a fantastic mobile product, but to also have something else. Having a fantastic mobile product is purely hygienic in the long run. Once you have a great mobile product, then what? We wanted to go for ‘then what?’ right away”.
It’s been a few years since the lightning flash of inspiration seared across both their minds, but Joakim believes that the industry has developed even more. While a number of gaming companies, including some big names, have botched their transition to mobile – no need to mention them here – Joakim believes we’ve moved beyond mobile-first.
“To be honest, we’re thinking not really mobile-first anymore,” Joakim explains. “We’re thinking mobile-only. Then the desktop comes on top of that. You have to go for a mobile product, and it needs to be state-of-the-art”. The logical next step is the question of differentiation. If the industry has indeed fully woken up to the need to shift towards mobile, and has attempted it with varying degrees of success, it stands to reason that it can’t be relied upon to get a leg up on the competition. I ask them what they actually did to capitalise on the prescient hunch at the very outset of their enterprise. The answer, it turns out, is gamification. While there’s a number of gaming luminaries preaching this particular concept, Joakim and Henric have really followed it up with actual implementation into their core strategy – and it really shows with products like Duelz Casino.
“I think our advantage today is not primarily having a good mobile product – it’s the extras that we offer on top,” Joakim explains. “There are still companies out there who don’t have a mobile product and against them, of course, all of us who have a very good mobile offering, or good mobile UX and so on, have an advantage because most gaming happens on a mobile device now. But I think our advantage is still sitting mostly on the unique selling point that we have with our gamification”.
Henric explains that the idea, and even more so the level of implementation of gamification elements into the gambling experience, have evolved over the years. He also points out that SuprNation is not after a trumped-up loyalty programme disguised as gameplay. They’re after the real thing, not a sideshow, and are investing a lot of effort into weaving it seamlessly into the overall player experience.
“The younger audience requires a lot more engagement to be stimulated and excited, a lot more human interaction,” he tells me. “When you play against someone else, or compete to some extent, you also end up with bragging rights if you win. That’s very clear in the videogaming industry. What we’re doing with a new brand is that we take that space and bring it together with gambling. We’re just coming from the other direction. That’s when videogaming and gambling start to merge, especially with the younger demographics but also people like us. People in their thirties and forties today play games. When my father was forty he didn’t play computer games. He would still consider it childish if I play. But forty-year-olds today play Candy Crush or Fortnite”.
Both founders agree that the traditional casino experience will still be in demand. “I don’t think we believe that casino only will die out,” Joakim concedes. “But there is a kind of new category that merges computer gaming, mobile gaming, and casino gaming. That will definitely evolve as a clear market”. Henric agrees – “There will definitely be segments who want these two to be merged. There will be segments that don’t care about that, who just want to gamble”.
I’m then ushered into a room rigged for an actual demo of their latest project – and the one they’re most proud of, by their own admission. Duelz Casino has been turning some heads in the industry, and I wasn’t immune. The game features an array of features that would be normally found in an RPG. “Will this type of product appeal to every gambler?” Henric asks. “The answer is ‘probably not’. We don’t need all of them though. If it appeals to a segment, however big that segment is, we’d probably dominate that segment. As soon as someone who likes this sees it, they can’t play it anywhere else. For anyone else who tries to copy us, good luck! You have to invent it”.
Joakim expresses the level of pride that comes with the great feedback they’ve been receiving by some of the most jaded observers of the industry – “I mean it’s from all sides of the industry: media partners, affiliates and providers. Everyone’s had the same reaction. They would have never had this reaction from just talking about it because there’s been a lot of talk in this industry about innovation and so on. In general, to move to this space, we feel like we are among the first movers, and like Henric said we don’t need everyone to embrace this. We just need enough people to like this kind of experience”.
As my conversation with the two founders winds down, it’s clear that their ideas are well worth buying into. In an industry with a lot of replication, their desire to be different is backed up with planning and execution to match, Yes, SuprNation is still a relatively young, small company. However, I’m not sure we’ll be able to call them an underdog much longer – this puppy looks like it might get pretty damn big.
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