AvatarUX CEO Nicola Longmuir Speaks to VegasSlotsOnline News
Since launching in 2019, gaming supplier AvatarUX has generated a lot of buzz in the industry. The company already has multiple awards to its name for its innovative games, and 2023 is set to bring plenty more new titles boosted through a new partnership with Light and Wonder.
LooneyPop™ has made it into our Slots of the Week
With its retro cartoon design and exciting features, AvatarUX’s latest release LooneyPop™ has made it into our Slots of the Week. VegasSlotsOnline News sat down with company CEO Nicola Longmuir to chat a bit about the game, the benefits of creating your own mechanics, and what the company has lined up this year.
Tell us a bit about yourself and AvatarUX.
I actually just had my one-year anniversary as CEO of AvatarUX. I’ve been in the industry for well over 15 years now. I started off as a project manager in the very early days of online and progressed to be head of Sky Vegas. I then worked for a few different operators in different capacities before moving to the B2B side of the industry through Gaming Realms on Slingo games. Then I became chief commercial officer at Push Gaming for a couple of years before moving to Avatar.
What were those first online projects like that you worked on?
Well, it blows people’s minds these days but I actually worked on the first gambling games that you used to play through red button on your TV. People would play slots through their set-top box on their telly. They used to do really well but technology has moved on since then. I love that the industry is ever-changing.
How has AvatarUX changed since it launched in 2019?
We launched through Yggdrasil as our distribution partner initially. They gave us a platform to get a very small portfolio live to market at first, which has been fantastic. We’re not a huge volume-based studio as we now have just 18 games in our catalog. We’re tying to build new innovative content that the market hasn’t seen and from a quality perspective, we just don’t compromise.
We have eight new games launching this year
We’ve also launched our first RGS which we integrated in 2021. We now push all our portfolio content onto that. Plus we have opened up additional distribution channels. We announced last year that we were partnering Light and Wonder for new games in 2023. We have eight new games launching this year and we are about to announce an extension to that deal to cover some existing games. This will all likely be announced at ICE next week.
How big is the team?
We’ve still got a really small team. We’ve got just 37 employees at the moment all around the world as a fully remote company. That has a huge benefit because we can pick and pool talent. Plus, it’s great for our employees as it means they can work from wherever. We have a lot of staff who don’t have a fixed abode or work and travel at the same time, so they get to experience a lot of things that they wouldn’t get to in an office-based system. It works incredibly well for us.
Which markets are you focused on at the moment?
We’ve seen most traction in the Nordic regions but we are also seeing great results across Asia. The games seem to resonate across a broad category of demographics, including a slightly younger demographic due to the features and volatility.
Do you expect Light and Wonder will help with your progress in North America?
They’ve got such a wealth of experience in that market. We always felt like our content would be popular there, but they’ve solidified that by wholeheartedly embracing our partnership. We’re also beginning to build relationships with operators in Canada and the US. That’s what ICE is about too, building those relationships in North America and elsewhere.
You’ve won a few awards since 2019, including EGR’s slot supplier rising star in 2022. What is the secret to standing out?
It’s great to have that recognition and it validates our feeling that we are building games that are outside of the mold. We have a refusal to stand still, constantly introducing new mechanics and features while also improving the player experience. Innovation is key for us and it’s ingrained in the business. We’ve had huge success with CherryPop™ as a stand-out game, but we refuse to just consistently reskin it because players become savvy to that and we want to push the boundaries.
As part of that mission to stand out, you have created your own mechanic, AvatarUX PopWins™. What is the benefit of this?
In PopWins™ the win symbol is removed and replaced with two new symbols. It’s been a great success story for us and really allowed us to stand out from the crowd.
it’s a great tool to continue to engage and retain players
The important things with mechanics is that it can help to build your brand identity so players can instantly recognize your content. We have seen that PopWins has proven incredibly popular and it’s a great tool to continue to engage and retain players.
In fact, its proven so successful that we’ve started to have interest from other studios who want to use the IP so they can create their own PopWins games. We want to be very controlled about how we do that and work with the studios closely, but that is really testament to how popular the mechanic has become.
Tell us a bit about LooneyPop™ and why our readers should give it a go.
It’s a really fun game! You can get that essence from the art and the animation. It’s a cartoon-style but there’s a bit of an edge to it too that we think will really appeal to players. It’s influenced by print comics from the 50s and 60s, which is yet another great idea straight from our incredibly talented design team.
In this game, we’ve introduced a new mechanic called Zap Reel. It displays special feature rewards on every spin, and each new spin resets the Zap Reel to display a new set of rewards. Then there are various rewards included in this, including Split Symbols, Multipliers, as well as Sink and Reward combinations. It also features a Gamble Wheel and Buy Bonus, and you can extend the Free Spins mode with ten free spins, so there is the potential for big wins.
It is really rich and we can’t wait to get it in front of players on February 23 when it launches to our direct network.
Can you reveal anything more about those eight games you have lined up with Light and Wonder?
Yes of course. We’re showcasing some of these games at ICE. The first which is already live on our direct network is KokeshiPop, a Japanese-themed game with absolutely stunning artwork.
aquatic life battling for supremacy with weapons
We also have ReefPop™ which is a fishing game. Again, we’re always looking for an edge, so it features aquatic life battling for supremacy with weapons. We know that aquatic theme can be very popular but we’re adding our own Avatar twist to that with all the quality of the art and animation too. That one goes live on March 10.
We’re also looking to launch a game in time for St Patricks’ Day with an Irish theme. It’s called Pop o’ Gold™ and will feature a new mechanic called Sticky Pop. In Sticky Pop, the winning symbol sticks rather than being removed like in PopWins. Then one new symbol appears, so the reel still expands on a win but only when the new symbol appears. Then there are a bunch of other new exciting features also.
Read the interview here