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Vibra Gaming: understanding Latin American culture key to success

By - 22 April 2020

Kickstarting a series of features on tailoring products for Latin America, G3 discusses the intricacies of creating games specifically for this emerging market with LatAm specialists, Vibra Gaming. Ramiro Atucha, CEO of Vibra Gaming, explains how the developer tailors its games specifically for a LatAm audience and the importance of market research in order to understand the cultural nuances between different regions.

What’s Vibra Gaming’s background in the online sector?

I believe we have a very interesting background in all our departments. There’s a lot of industry know-how with some of us leading online gaming companies for many years before joining forces to become Vibra Gaming. I think our power comes from people who are passionate about what they do, diverse skills from past experiences, and the energy given by the opportunity of doing something interesting in the growing LatAm market.

Spieldev rebranded as Vibra Gaming at the beginning of this year. Could you outline the strategy behind the rebrand?

The rebrand to Vibra Gaming was due to an expansion that moved the company away from its original vision and inception. We believed a new name was needed in order to communicate this. Our goal is that the company and the brand will become the de-facto leader in the region.

Of all the markets, what was it about Latin America that was most attractive?

LatAm is fast becoming the biggest emerging market in our industry, which in itself is an attractive proposition. Our understanding of the various markets in Latin America, coupled with our experience over the last 10 years as well as an in-depth understanding of regulated European markets, really allows us to offer a differential to our partners, both present and future.

How has your experience of European markets informed Vibra Gaming’s approach to the Latin American market?

I think our European experience brings a lot to the table. We have proven ourselves able to develop great games for the most demanding and mature markets out there. We understand players and have an internationally competitive, quality product offering. Also, from a technical standpoint, we know our products meet top international standards, having been accepted by the largest operators and approved by jurisdictions with the highest levels of compliance, including the UKGC, Isle of Man and Malta among others. In conclusion, I think our background allows us to become a strategic partner both to international and local operators. We have the experience, our standards meet the level required and we understand LatAm.

Starting from a blank canvas, how and where do you begin the research process?

Researching and understanding the singularities of each market are a fundamental part of what we do and what we sell. Localisation is far more complex than a mere translation and adding local currencies, understanding cultural differences is key. Levels of player maturity: if they play, what do they play? What do they like? Each country is different. You have to walk the trenches and research the history of the street markets. They are used to very different games in different places and the same thing happens with sports betting: know the level of sophistication or complexity that players are used to and develop products accordingly. That’s where we believe the starting point should be and research is key to that.

Once you have conducted research, how do you localise content based on your findings?

Localised content has to do with what people want. Walking the streets, going to the unregulated markets, talking to the players there and seeing what plays successfully. Also showing them European products and having them tell us what they like and what they don’t, understanding why. Then you can truly develop localised content and not just an adaptation. Also when you launch, you may want to go with less volatility to help them understand the game and gain confidence while their money lasts longer. Other promotional tools are important such as free spins and tournaments. You have to give players the chance of a friendly learning curve that helps them evolve rather than challenging them from the start. Games that they are familiar with help a lot, then go to more complex products till they reach European style games. Eventually all players reach a maturity level but we believe it’s better if we help them enjoy the experience all the way through.

Does the research influence everything from artistic style through to mathematics, or do you have a house Vibra Gaming formula that can be tweaked to individual markets?

There is no formula that applies to all markets because they all have their singularities, maturity levels and a different relationship with gambling in general. On the other side, there are quality and technical standards that have to be met in order to develop successful games for the most competitive markets, and we have done that for more than a decade. At the end of the day, a good game is a good game anywhere in the world from a product perspective. However, from a player’s standpoint, that can be very different and you have to take them into account providing products they like and are somewhat familiar with. We are from LatAm and we feel we know what they want. We have worked in regulated European markets, and we know what is required there too. So I think that’s our special formula, talking the language on both sides.

How important is market research to the success of a game?

Market research is huge to the success of a game. Even in a generic game you have to cover the bases and make sure it is culturally appropriate, for example. When going into a new market, it becomes even more important not only because it needs to be appropriate and relevant but also because it needs to consider player experience. Understanding the player’s starting point is key in order to offer products they are comfortable with. Guiding their learning curve is also a way of earning their loyalty and gaining a competitive advantage.

In Europe and Asia, we often see recurring game themes. Are there thematic stereotypes in the LatAm market?

This is a great question. My understanding for LatAm is that titles with a very local flavour have not been successful in general. On the contrary, in Asia regional themes work great. Each market in LatAm has its own preferences in a number of different ways. In Argentina, players are really into Egyptian and mystical themes and players also like aspirational Vegas-like games. Irish themes are successful practically everywhere but in Ireland. Brazil loves video bingos. I believe there is no general rule that applies for LatAm, although there are themes that work well in general which can be combined with functionalities and game dynamics that are preferred by players in one country or another.

How do the cultural differences between different regions, for example Argentina and Brazil, alter player preferences?

Language is an immediate and very clear cultural difference that differentiates Brazil from the rest of the countries in LatAm including Argentina. Brazil is Portuguese-speaking whereas the rest speak Spanish. But setting that aside, one of the main cultural differences in my opinion is each country’s particular experience with gambling. Argentina has a culture of highly accepted and validated land-based casinos, whereas in Brazil they banned casinos many years ago. This creates players with very different level of maturity and therefore playing preferences. Brazil has no exposure to top international land-based companies like Aristocrat and IGT, whereas here in Argentina, video bingo doesn’t work so well.

Is there a tacit line between being culturally respectful across different regions, or are such boundaries broadly the same across Latin America?

As mentioned before, the main difference is language between Brazil and the rest of LatAm. However, there are language differences between the Spanish speaking countries as well. In terms of culture, markets are very different but general themes can work across them. The key here is to tweak game dynamics such as volatility, messages, promotions and specific offers to cater towards each market. This goes well beyond translating an existing game. It has more to do with a proper level of analysis of each country and the development of according products as an entry level for that specific player’s preferences.

Are there further adjacent markets of interest to Vibra Gaming at this time or is the focus solely on LatAm? What would you consider a successful next 12 months?

We want Vibra Gaming to become the friendly strategic partner for European operators who want to launch in LatAm. They know we can deliver products that meet their quality, technical and compliance requirements because we have done it for many years now. We also want to become the ideal partner for land based operators in LatAm that want to expand into the online gaming industry. We are local and know their culture but we also work under strict international quality standards that allow us to deliver quality games competitive worldwide. Our aim is to make products that are successful and sought for well beyond our own region.

Ramiro Atucha is the CEO of Vibra Gaming, a platform and content development project specialised in the emerging LatAm market. Atucha has more than 15 years in the igaming industry, co-founding slot development and platform company Leander Games for 10 years. During his career, he has specialised in content development and distribution, compliance and regulated markets navigation.

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