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OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR RETAIL BRANDS IN 2021 – Q&A with Robert Dowling, CCO at Singular

George Miller

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OPPORTUNITIES AND CHALLENGES FOR RETAIL BRANDS IN 2021 - Q&A with Robert Dowling, CCO at Singular
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

  1. What are the differences between operating online vs brick-mortar operations (understanding the differences first before discussing what the synergies might be)?

It is a common misconception that having successful brick and mortar operations guarantees online success. These two sectors, although intertwined, are two unique, and very complex ecosystems that require different approaches and technologies for each, even different skill sets. To be successful in both areas, you have to understand the cultural biases, psychological factors, and technology implementation to take advantage of both verticals.

Land-based betshops attract players that enjoy placing a bet with their friends exchanging information prior to placing the bet. This is all part of the pattern of the social gambler. For this type of player, location can be an even bigger factor than the brand itself. However, this does not mean that the social gamer will not go online to place a bet. With the increased use of mobile betting, this has even intensified. Online operators have come up with a number of social features like live chat, live dealers, and options for social sharing of bet slips to recreate the community feeling. In some instances, the engagement between the player and the dealer is reinforced even further via live dealers. For successful online operations, operators must invest in seamless technology that allows their land-based operations to interact and link players to their online portals. For the player, it is essential to experience a seamless transition from the offline to the online space. The seamless technology allows players to start the game at their favorite betshop and continue playing from the comfort of their home.

 

  1. What challenges operators face when building seamless retail+online operations?

The number one challenge is legacy systems that need to be integrated with modern technology. This also implies that we need people who will understand and be able to manage modern technology. Second, the knowledge gap between what is required and what is actually delivered. The delivery requirements for online operations can be very different from the ones for a retail shop. For example, customer services need to be tailored for the online expectations of the player. We have to keep in mind that we are still an entertainment industry and make sure the brand does not lose that social and fun element to it when it goes online. Moreover, as already mentioned, the player should enjoy an easy transition from offline to online and vice versa with access to their seamless wallet, access to the same games, and betting options. Casinos can take a step further by live-streaming the dealers that are currently present in the physical location.

 

  1. What are your recommendations for a retail brand that wants to shift towards online operations? What is the best strategy and approach?

We will see an increasing number of operators going online, and there is only one right way to do this is.  Build a unique player journey that delivers a seamless experience for the players from start to end. One way to do this is to acquire an online brand that has the experience and licensing requirements for online operations. This is the right choice if time is of the essence. Another option for the operator is to partner with a platform provider that has experience with taking brands online and flexibility to deliver tailored solutions for each operator. In addition to the technology, operators need to choose a team having experience and time to guide them through the process.

 

  1. Covid has changed the consumer behavior; we see a strong move to online; What does this mean for retail operations in 2021?

In 2020, retail experienced a lot of hardship and evolution caused by the frequent opening and closing of the physical betshops. This has added pressure on high-street stores with traditional retail operations to move online. In my opinion, the focus in 2021 will be on two strategic points. Firstly, strengthening the online market share while also taking advantage of newly-regulated markets. Second, operators must take a step back, review their offering and identify the weak link, the product that might be falling behind the competition and work on innovative features for their customers. For retail brands striving to take their brand online, a technological strategic alliance that can facilitate scaling while still enhancing the retail offering would be the right way forward.

Additionally, in 2021 we have a number of sporting events that create vast opportunities for growth for both established brands and startups. The pandemic and the push towards online has evened out the playing field for experienced operators and newcomers. Although established brands will enjoy higher trust and loyalty when going online, they need to bear in mind that if the user experience is not on par with the competitors, they might lose the advantage based on their brand recognition.

 

Interviews

Exclusive Q&A with Andrey Vajdyuk, Head of Business Development for NetGame Entertainment

George Miller

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Exclusive Q&A with Andrey Vajdyuk, Head of Business Development for NetGame Entertainment
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

How has 2021 begun for NetGame Entertainment?

We’re incredibly pleased with how the year has begun as it’s seen us deliver on our key growth targets in Q1. Against the backdrop of an unforgettable 2020 for the industry, we worked tirelessly to set the perfect foundation and it’s allowed us to seamlessly focus on new jurisdictions, promotions, aggregator and platform partnerships.

Our creative games studio has been busy with several hugely popular releases that included the latest in our Book of Nile series and Fruit Cash Hold ‘N’ Link. Another milestone for the business since the turn of the year was the launch of crypto currency and it means we now work with all world currencies.

NetGame Entertainment’s creative studio continues to release a wave of successful slots, what makes these titles standout from the crowd?

Our creative team and studio is second-to-none and deserves all the plaudits for the positive reception of NetGame’s titles. The team has been curated over time and is perfectly positioned to drive the business forward through designing exceptional iGaming experiences.

Supporting the innovative thinking are outstanding graphics, fair and trusted math and a combination of interesting features that each help deliver the best experience to players. Particular attention is paid to our bonus games and multiplayer elements that both have positive impacts on player engagement and retention.

Engaging bonuses feature heavily within NetGame Entertainment’s slots, what impact do these have?

Bonuses add to the fun for players and make games more exciting as we constantly strive to make every user’s experience interesting and enjoyable. NetGame’s bonus games are synonymous with our brand and there are various levels to the in-game features. One component that players love that’s present in some of our titles is the option to buy different starting levels within the bonus game to give a greater chance of success.

We are proud of our Progressive Jackpot Series Game and these have really added to player engagement and therefore life-tme-value. Other NetGame features include Free Spins, Buy bonus feature, Gamble feature, Tumbling reels, Hold N’ Link, Pick’em Game, Fortune Wheel, Super Laser, Multiplayer Mode, Totalizer, Pay-any Symbol and Quick cash.

The Fishing Kingdom slot has a multiplayer element, is this something that NetGame Entertainment will introduce more?

Fishing Kingdom has been incredibly well received and the results have been beyond encouraging. The game has been beautifully designed, but the standout feature is the multiplayer element. Given the results thus far, we plan to develop these styles of games and there will be another three launched during the remainder of the year.

How do slot series, such as Book of Nile, perform when compared to standalone titles?

We’ve been thrilled with how warmly the public has taken to the Book of Nile series. Magic Choice launched in February as the third installment following Revenge and the Lost Chapter. The Egyptian series is packed full of fun features and builds a narrative across the three games that players have really engaged with. Book of Nile is one of our most volatile games and that really adds to the breathtaking experience on the reels. Our series games and standalone titles perform equally well with our partners and that’s thanks to the creative team’s commitment to fun, thrilling and rewarding experiences. The key for us is having a diverse library of games to suit all our partners’ demands.

What are your business expectations over the next 12 months?

The next 12 months promise plenty for NetGame Entertainment and we have high expectations on delivering on our action-packed roadmap. One core element of that strategy is that we’re close to obtaining our MGA license and you are the first publication we have shared this information with.

Later in the year we’ll also be revealing some more details on some major arrangements with big aggregators and operators. These significant deals will allow us to expand NetGame’s reach in the market and give more players the opportunity to fall in love with our proprietary titles.

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Interviews

Exclusive interview with Petra Maria Poola, Head of Business Development and Operations at OneTouch

George Miller

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Exclusive interview with Petra Maria Poola, Head of Business Development and Operations at OneTouch
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

We sat down with Petra Maria Poola, Head of Business Development and Operations at the mobile-first casino game developer OneTouch, to discuss how suppliers should adapt their products to the geographic regions which they are targeting.

Is content localisation a myth?

No – for those who get it right, it’s an invaluable acquisition and retention strategy. What do we mean when we talk about localised games? Put simply, it’s a title that’s tailored to a specific geographic audience.

And it takes a lot more than just changing the language to do that. From both a visual and technical perspective, adapting your content to individual target markets can do wonders for engagement.

For example, there are obviously still places lacking in internet coverage, particularly in growth regions such as Latin America. For suppliers trying to enter those territories, that makes it all the more important to ensure that your games don’t take up too much storage, and can be easily downloaded by those with an older smartphone model or a slower internet connection.

Do you localise your games? If so, how? And which regions are they tailored to?

Here at OneTouch, we think it’s all about striking the right balance between creating international hits with cross-cultural appeal, while also producing content for specific local audiences.

Our recent release, Ganbaruto Battle, draws inspiration from the great Japanese tradition of sumo-wrestling. It features a renowned Estonian wrestler called Baruto Kaito, so its appeal is likely to include, without being limited to, players from that country.

Equally, classic casino themes such as Ancient Egypt and Vegas-style fruit symbols often generate global popularity. Our timeless slot title, Forgotten Pharaoh, has achieved tremendous and widespread success by drawing on the former theme.

One might expect that our basketball-based slot MVP Hoops performs especially well in markets where that sport is popular, but it’s actually proved a hit in regions where basketball is not generally followed by the wider population.
Finally, we expect our upcoming title Live Crash to reach a transnational audience, because it is a crash-style title similar to those enjoyed in the crypto-gambling space – which is rapidly gaining followers from around the world.

We research every market diligently to understand what its players want in precise detail. Localisation has proved a successful strategy for OneTouch!

Are there any aspects of game development which are internationally uniform, and do not vary based on where you are in the world?

Some aspects of content development require more localisation than others. Failing to geographically adapt your game from a visual perspective might mean that customers might not want to play it. Failing to do so from a technical perspective, meanwhile, could mean that they are not able to play it.

However, there are other stages of the game development process which are not subject to regional variation. With the exception of a game’s volatility, mechanics do not tend to vary all that much on the basis of geography, unlike technical and visual effects.

Similarly, sometimes localisation isn’t just about adapting to cultural or infrastructural differences, it’s simply a case of knowing the ratio of land-based to online players within the market you are targeting. It’s all about creating an enjoyable entertainment experience for the end user by paying heed to their specific cultural context. Get that right, and you could be onto a winner.

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Cryptocurrency

‘What is the role of social media within real-money gaming, and how will this change in the years to come?’

George Miller

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'What is the role of social media within real-money gaming, and how will this change in the years to come?'
Reading Time: 2 minutes

 

We sat down with Tom Leadbetter, Head of Marketing at multiplayer casino game developer FunFair Games, to discuss the increasingly important role played by social media within the modern-day gambling industry.

The casino industry’s use of social media is fundamentally outdated. Specifically, the world of iGaming has yet to understand the true value of community engagement.

The crypto space, by contrast, has long been ahead of the curve. That includes crypto-gambling, which places community at the heart of its acquisition strategy. Yes, many in the real-money gaming sector post about their activity, but that’s rarely followed up with a conversation.

That’s why FunFair Games uses social media to start a two-way dialogue with its community, stimulating discussions on platforms such as Discord, Reddit and Telegram, as well as more conventional social channels like Twitter, where we’ve got more than 35,000 followers.

I doubt there are many companies in the real-money space who use Reddit, but we’re proud to call ourselves pioneers in the gambling industry’s use of social media. And with a current membership count of nearly 17,000, as well as 72,000 page views in January alone, we’ve found the platform to be a fantastic engagement tool.

Keeping your community engaged takes more than just emailing a newsletter without response. We live stream our games at the prototype stage, and ask for community feedback on the names of the characters found in our titles.

In that regard, social media is a great way to garner instant feedback on your content. The crypto index is much younger, boasting a higher level of popularity among Gen Y and Z players than the mainstream casino sector.

Crypto is therefore a useful predictor of things to come. If the emerging generation of player wants more community-driven experiences, it’s likely that social media will prove key to the gambling industry’s future.

There’s a tendency for the real-money sector to fear community engagement. In some ways, that’s understandable: scroll through Twitter these days, and most of the stories you find about gambling tend to be negative.

That negativity, though, stems from a lack of trust. That’s a word you wouldn’t normally associate with the world of gambling, but social engagement allows you to cultivate it. Most of the feedback we get is positive, but our community often flags potential problems too. We don’t shy away from spirited discussions and debates with them – it’s not that everyone agrees, but that everyone cares.

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