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With younger generations of players now the target audience for operators and suppliers we are seeing an increase in non-traditional content hitting the market, including multiplayer and crash games. European Gaming spoke to a number of providers on the importance of innovating and evolving the casino offering to better suit player preferences.
Nikolay Illiustrov, Head of Games at Playson (NI)
Thomas Smallwood, Marketing Manager at ESA Gaming (TS)
Ivan Kravchuk, Chief Executive Officer at Evoplay (IK)
Arcangelo Lonoce, Head of Business Development at Habanero (AL)
What makes non-traditional content exciting in a market space where ‘slots are king’ and does this new genre make way for more innovation in iGaming?
NI: We believe that the fact that many younger customers arriving in online casinos are doing so without any prior knowledge of slots, be them online or land based. Whilst this is a challenge, it is also an opportunity for innovation.
Younger generations have grown up not just with different cultural influences but different forms of entertainment, such as mobile games and entertainment apps. Online slots are often a new experience, and it is not clear to them how games like this function. A game’s maths, features and even basic functionality are often alien to them.
To win them over and create longer playing sessions, developers need to provide context that is familiar to this audience. For example, we see lots of attempts to create “mobile-style” slots that relate to mobile games such as Scatter slots or Cluster Pays slots.
TS: I think it is natural that most operators want to appeal to a broader base with the content they offer. We all “consume” content on our mobiles differently than we did a few years ago, so from an acquisition perspective, as well as cross-selling from one vertical to another, non-traditional content gives more opportunities to engage with a different audience and retain those whose tastes are changing.
Non-traditional content gives more opportunity to innovate, but we certainly feel that this innovation is driven by what we see happening within certain demographics or sectors, rather than innovation for innovation’s sake. So, with purpose, non-traditional games like our sports-themed Goal Mine and Basketball Mine which have exciting goal or free-throw rounds, can genuinely attract new players. The same is true of our crash-style games, the format of which allows us to think outside of egaming norms.
IK: Evoplay has established itself as a leader in delivering innovation to the online casino space in many forms. With an aim of reforming the iGaming industry, we lead the way with unparalleled slots and instant games, featuring pioneering concepts that have never been seen on the market before.
Our flagship title, Star Guardians has become the perfect solution for millennial gamers, who now comprise 23% of the wider population. This generation has grown up surrounded by video games and new technologies, and naturally are in search of iGaming experiences that mimic the same excitement as modern products, while providing gambling elements to the play.
Another great example is our recently launched crash game, Goblin Run, with a runner mechanic and competitive spirit making the most of the industry’s obsession with crash-style experiences in recent months. We took a classic framework and introduced aspects of gamification, adding skins, ranks, and chat functions to enhance the social aspect and competitiveness of the experience. These titles alone demonstrate just how far we have come in terms of forcing our way into non-traditional content, and where we are heading on this impressive trajectory.
AL: Looking at the evidence, you can see that non-traditional content has been quite successful in our marketplace. Just look at crash games for example – they appeal to sports punters a lot more than slots do and have seen a meteoric rise this past year, simply due to the fact that they present a fresh idea of interaction and function at a fast pace, with multiple results being delivered in a limited amount of time. This makes them very appealing to players who might not like to spin reels and wait for wins.
I think most of the industry has come to the consensus that we need more non-traditional content, as currently it’s appealing to certain types of players. With that being said, we know that not all non-traditional content has proven successful with slot players. So, whether or not non-traditional content can be used to cross-sell slots, operators would be wise to target segmented demographics – such as those from different verticals.
What are the challenges when creating non-traditional content to ensure it appeals to the target audience?
NI: First and foremost, game design needs a lot of consideration. You need to rip up the rule book and consider options that will appeal to those who are not familiar with classic slots. This takes time, effort and investment and there is no guarantee that you will get it right every time, so it requires patience too. Given that niche solutions can be difficult to scale, you have to accept that there is a strong element of risk involved.
Lastly, and more importantly, you have to consider regulations. When entering a market with new mechanics you can’t be confident from day one about compliance, or how long the new game type will take to obtain all necessary licenses. There are very few overnight successes.
TS: Our lightweight mobile games do appeal to a large audience, therefore perhaps the biggest challenge is a lack of belief in non-traditional content. For example, although we can see in the figures the extent to which our EasySwipe™ games generate new revenue – and even help to increase turnover on sports – it requires the vision on the side of the operator to embrace this.
The flip side is that early adopters will also be able to learn more from the non-traditional content we, and other providers, develop. This intelligence will feed into bespoke content and of course greater power in acquiring a new generation of customers.
IK: If we’re talking about our 3D games, the main complexity lies in the implementation of various innovations in a cross-technology environment. To pull this off, it requires a thorough and fundamental development of every single component of a product. We often meet the challenge of implementing a concept’s design in the backend, while the adaption of our games to mobile platforms also requires a high level of attention to detail, especially in terms of the user interface and experience.
Thanks to our game engine Spinential, we can easily modify our products depending on market peculiarities and regulatory requirements. In addition to this, the engine allows us to add gamification elements to our titles, such as Bonus Buy and Jackpot features, making them even more attractive to audiences and operators.
AL: I can only speak for the non-traditional content we create ourselves, for example the content we produce wouldn’t necessarily appeal to those that want the crash games experience. But they will be presented in a different way from our traditional products. Take our Orbs of Atlantis title for example, the video slot doesn’t feature reels but is a game based on physics – where up to 80 different symbols fall and crash against each other, with adjacent symbols creating wins. This shows you can provide a mathematical model which is quite slot-based but deliver it in a way which appears to be different to slots. It’s important to cater to different demographics that might be more interested in a slightly different experience to the one you find in slots. As far as we are concerned, we ensure that our production follows a strong mathematical model that you generally find in slots.
Creating content that’s less traditional will naturally come with some challenges depending on who you’re targeting. If you want to attract those that like quick results, virtuals or live sports then you must ensure that your non-traditional content speaks to them on a cultural level. It all depends on your demographics and what you have in mind when you created the product. At Habanero, the non-traditional content we create is primarily aimed at slot players, as we have a strong understanding of the experience they’re after.
How do you expect this genre to develop in the near future with player preferences forever evolving?
NI: This genre has already shown promise when it comes to development and meeting player preferences with the advent of crash and multiplayer games. The former cater for players who feel quite comfortable betting but demand a quick and simple format.
Meanwhile, multiplayer games represent a great opportunity of attracting emerging demographics, bringing a social element into games creates an illusion of playing together with millions of other players. This feeling of being part of a community and share a gambling experience has great potential.
Tournaments could be also an example of a multiplayer approach, but not traditional tournament mechanics with a leaderboard and single winner. Instead, they provide a competition between teams where players can communicate with each other and create a more social and engaging experience.
TS: We will continue to produce our sports-themed Mine series, with Tennis Mine being released later in the year and new crash-style games to follow. At the same time, we will look to learn from the end user to see how we can do things better. Our ethos is about being simple, fast and mobile, so providing we do not waver from this we are happy to continue evolving the content we produce.
From a wider viewpoint we are discussing with operators how we can tailor our games to suit their specific markets, so there will be more bespoke content in the future, and bespoke in this sense will mean more than just adding a logo. We feel a degree of localisation is a potential game-changer for non-traditional content.
IK: I am confident that non-traditional content will continue developing and involve more providers as they become inspired by the positive experiences of other industry representatives. While there will always be demand for traditional slot content, the demand for ground-breaking products will only increase as the industry grows, giving developers a huge scope to deliver creativity and innovation.
The main obstacle for other providers is the risk associated with emerging technologies that are still new to them. We have seen this with the HTML5 revolution, and we are seeing it now with innovations like the metaverse. Having spent several years experimenting with solutions and developing our leading game engine, we already know what to expect and how to make the most of this innovation, while others need to start afresh.
AL: It’s hard to say, but the evidence shows that these games are here to stay because they tap into the culture and psychology of key demographics. It won’t take anything away from traditional content, but you can see everyone experimenting with designs that communicate fresh themes and experiences to an audience, whilst working out of a mathematical model that the audience is more familiar with.
Some companies have proven to be very successful and have grown very quickly in this space; this doesn’t seem to be a fad and appears to be something that taps into player culture. If you look at the way the market is evolving, then you will notice that there’s a type of restlessness from stakeholders to deliver different experiences to players.
Look at fishing games in Asia: they have proven tremendously successful in that region but they’re something which might not work elsewhere for a number of reasons. With non-traditional content you always have to consider player experiences which happen outside the realm of gambling and seamlessly combine this with suitable mathematical model – you’ll always need to maintain that gambling core that appeal to the demographics you are speaking to.