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Non-traditional content roundtable

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Non-traditional content roundtable
Reading Time: 7 minutes

 

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.

Interviews

Go direct – Fantasma Games strengthens partner collaboration with proprietary platform

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Go direct - Fantasma Games strengthens partner collaboration with proprietary platform
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Check out our latest Q&A w/ Fredrik Johansson CEO and Founder, Fantasma Games

 

Fantasma has recently launched its own FantasmaXpand platform, could you please let us know more about this initiative?

We have seen exceptional interest and demand for Fantasma’s premium and innovative online slot games and we wanted to take our offering to the next level. Launching our own platform, which we call FantasmaXpand, is a strategic initiative driven by our operator partners’ desire to collaborate more closely with us to improve overall business operations and access to our portfolio of games and wider development capabilities. The desire for deeper collaboration from our operator partners clearly indicates that our focus on providing high-performing slots with engaging game mechanics has enabled us to take this next important and natural step to support our partners’ local and global business growth strategies. It is very important for us to maintain the highest level of trust and reliability as we roll out Fantasma Xpand to our network of operator partners and the team we have built at Fantasma is more than capable of doing this.

 

How will you use FantasmaXpand to deliver more value to your operator partners?

We are all very committed to maintaining the highest level of quality assurance in everything we do, and we follow a clear plan as we expand our operational capabilities to our partners. In short, FantasmaXpand will provide local and global operator partners with a truly reliable, scalable and seamless gateway to access Fantasma’s “beyond gambling” portfolio of premium and innovative content, along with easy-to-use gamification tools. FantasmaXpand will also enable us to drive continued operational excellence while offering our collaborating partners outstanding flexibility and a reduced time-to-market (TTM) for our premium roadmap and the rollout of new innovative features and functions.

 

How does it enable you to push the boundaries with development?

We pride ourselves on having trustful and meaningful long-term relationships with our partners. FantasmaXpand will allow us to capitalise on these close partnerships and expand our joint collaborative initiatives both locally and globally, in a way that means our partners will be an integral part of how the FantasmaXpand roadmap is prioritised and developed. This means that our teams can focus on enhancing the technology roadmap, tuned and calibrated to our operators’ specific needs, which in turn enhances the overall strategic business partner value we bring and the experience our operators receive when accessing our premium offerings.

 

Why don’t all studios have their own platform? Does it bring challenges? If so, what?

Fantasma has seen outstanding growth from its operations to date, and as mentioned, our FantasmaXpand initiative is a direct response to our operator partners wanting to expand their overall business relationship with us. Not all studios have the strategy or capability to achieve the organisational readiness required to roll out such initiatives. Instead, many studios choose to focus solely on content development, which may be absolutely fine for them, allowing others to do the heavy lifting. Being ready and planning ahead has been key to maintaining focus and quality in legacy operations, and it is crucial for us not to impact the trust and reliability we have built with our operator partners over the years. As an organisation, you need to be prepared and willing to follow through on strategic initiatives that truly matter for continued sustainable growth in a hyper-competitive environment. One challenge may be daring to take this next step. But with our operator partners behind us, it has been a natural and necessary step for us to take.

 

Does FantasmaXpand help you enter new markets? If so, what markets have you got your eye on?

FantasmaXpand allows us to be in full control of our business strategy in close collaboration with our operator partners. From a go-to-market perspective, this is crucial, as seamless rollout and release management are necessary to maximise business value for us and our partners. FantasmaXpand is currently certified in many regulatory markets, and we will continue expanding the reach of FantasmaXpand in close collaboration with our partners. In terms of market reach, we currently offer our premium content in all of the major regulated markets in Europe. Our clear organisational objective is to be live with FantasmaXpand in all our regulated markets globally. However, like any expansion, we will implement a phased rollout approach for FantasmaXpand as this is the only way to ensure we don’t drop the ball with our legacy operations and partnerships.

 

What other developments from Fantasma can you share with us?

We have seen exceptional performance from our 2024 games portfolio, driven by titles such as Gold Pigger, Circle of Sylvan, Pirates Multi Coins and Shadow Summoner Elementals which have surpassed all KPIs. The US market has developed exceptionally well for Fantasma, and we have our eyes on LatAm as an exciting emerging growth market with plenty of opportunities to explore. In addition, our operator partners will benefit from a very exciting roadmap for the rest of the year. This, combined with the rollout of FantasmaXpand, means I am very excited to build continued positive momentum together with our partners. I am very optimistic about the future and our current momentum.

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Interviews

Gaming Corps: scoring big with football-themed games

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Gaming Corps: scoring big with football-themed slots
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Check out our latest Q&A with Graeme Savill, Account Management Team Lead at Gaming Corps

 

We’ve just seen EURO 2024 come to a close – was the result of the tournament what you expected it to be? Did any teams surprise you? 

It’s been a fantastic event overall and I was lucky enough to attend some of the games in person during the first couple of weeks of the tournament. My team, Scotland, failed to qualify out of the group so my time in Germany was very short-lived but the experience of being there to watch my country with our fans was incredible and I have amazing memories of the trip. In terms of surprises, I’d say Georgia and Turkey both defied the odds of last-16 qualification and had great tournaments while the two finalists, England and Spain, were both worthy of the chance to lift the trophy with Spain ultimately coming out on top.

 

There doesn’t tend to be much cross-over between sports bettors and slots players. In your view, what opportunities do major tournaments such as EURO 2024 present to gaming providers when it comes to engaging with new audiences? And how did Gaming Corps achieve this?

It’s true that the two segments do vary considerably in their betting preferences and patterns, but these bi-annual football events (the World Cup being the other) create huge opportunities for the industry as a whole. Creating collaborative content and working with tier-one global sportsbook operators has proven a very successful strategy for Gaming Corps while for our partners it allows them to enhance their casino offering and engage more deeply with their player base. We have several football-themed games within our Arcade portfolio including Penalty Champion, Plinkgoal, Football Freestyler and Samba Soccer that operators can access to help do this.

During June and July, we’ve seen record player numbers introduced to these products through cross-sell efforts so it’s been very advantageous to have these included in our offering. In preparation for the event, our product worked around the clock to roll-out dozens of bespoke branded versions of these games which have been front-facing on casino pages with many of our operators. The feedback we’ve received is that during EURO 2024, many casual sportsbook players have enjoyed being introduced to a different style of casino games like our Crash, Mines and Plinko verticals as they deliver a more compelling experience than traditional style casino games such as slots and roulette.

 

What’s the secret to creating slot titles that appeal to both demographics of players? Should more game developers be turning their attention towards creating slot titles centred around major sports tournaments?

Creating slot titles that appeal to both traditional slot players and sports fans requires a thoughtful blend of themes, features and mechanics that resonate with both audiences. I believe the key to success is around thematic relevance, so creating games for and targeting them to players around key events in the sporting calendar. This allows operators to build hype on the game and players love timely and seasonal titles as a way of being gently guided away from the classic products on the market and towards non-traditional content. Throughout June, a large majority of operators have offered a dedicated category with sports-themed casino games for players to discover which has benefited us immensely as they have stocked more titles from our diverse portfolio. Engaging gameplay features are critical like within our Penalty Champion game where we’ve included the sports-related shootout which adds an extra layer of excitement and engagement. Likewise, balancing game mechanics is important; games must be simple enough for traditional casino players to understand but include exciting elements that appeal to sports fans, such as dynamic animations and fast-paced action. These keep players entertained and eager to sample more products themed around their favourite sports.

 

With player acquisition costs at an all-time high, how can slots developers retain players onboarded during tournaments such as the EUROS and perhaps introduce them to other iGaming verticals? 

There are so many variables here but yes, due to acquisition costs, players must be retained to maximise player lifetime value and loyalty.  One example would be the use of in-game advertisements to promote other verticals. This could mean offering free spins in slots for trying out a new sportsbook feature. This is something that we want to work on together with our operator partners for the remainder of 2024 to maximise the opportunity. Likewise, the bundling of promotions can be highly effective in encouraging players to try different types of games. My belief though is that player engagement and communication is the most important factor whereby the strategy actively engages with players on social media platforms to create a community and keep them informed about new products and promotions. This is very true in countries such as Brazil where influencer marketing has been extremely strong in the overall marketing mix.

 

We have the Olympics coming up in a few weeks’ time, and then the restart of domestic football calendars. Can we expect to see any more sports-themed titles coming from Gaming Corps? 

Yes, I do believe that sports-themed casino games will continue to evolve and will be used by operators to attract and retain players. We’re always looking to innovate and bring something new to market and we’ve discussed our latest vertical Smash4Cash and how we can introduce a sports element to it. This approach has already brought us big success in the Mines, Plinko and Crash verticals.  We have also been working on games outside of football. Due to operator demand, we did create an ice hockey-themed game which we launched with a localised approach for countries in the Nordics and to enhance strategic partnerships with branded versions of the game for certain operators. This is a fun and engaging product and I’d say watch this space for future sports-themed games that take a similar format. We aspire to become an industry leader in creating fun, innovative and engaging sports-themed content and from the success we have achieved with the first few games we have developed, we too will be lifting the trophy in next to no time.

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Interviews

Altenar’s global expansion: Sam Hill outlines plans for growth in LatAm, Europe, and Beyond

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Altenar’s global expansion: Sam Hill outlines plans for growth in LatAm, Europe, and Beyond
Reading Time: 3 minutes

 

Can you elaborate on Altenar’s specific goals for global expansion? What regions are Altenar focusing on for growth?

We’re not interested in limiting ourselves, so we are actively exploring several global expansion opportunities. Our highly customisable product can be tailored to any region, and we have the content library to support a global audience. Leveraging our existing customer base and success in Latin America, a market where we are already well-established, makes perfect sense. Specifically, Brazil, Mexico, Colombia, and Peru are regions where we have seen strong results and hold further growth potential.

There’s no reason why we can’t expand further across Europe too, where we already have a foothold, and Asia, a largely untapped market for us. Can we do more to establish a stronger presence in the Asia-Pacific (APAC) region? Absolutely! Growing the business globally is a key focus.

 

You have nearly 15 years of experience in the industry, including roles at Betgenius, BetVictor, and IMG. How will your experience be leveraged to help Altenar achieve its global ambitions?

My sales experience and track record in the content and data space were likely factors in my hiring. My network is fairly extensive and a useful asset that can be leveraged to Altenar’s advantage. In my previous roles at IMG ARENA and Genius, I managed a significant portion of the global sales team, including overseeing territories that are key target areas for Altenar.

Altenar stands out as a leader in this area, excelling in both proprietary content delivery and seamless third-party data integration. Our partnerships with over 20 third-party sportsbook suppliers allow us to deliver the broadest and highest-quality content portfolio – a critical advantage for any operator in a competitive market.

 

Can you provide some examples of how Altenar might tailor its approach to different regions?

The foundation of success in different markets is always providing the right products. While UI/UX and front-end features offer customisation options, bespoke solutions are also available. Operators can request or configure custom settings in the backend, including margins, bet limits, customer profiling and across our extensive proprietary bonus engine.

UI and UX are key elements. For multi-territory operators, we offer flexibility in content presentation. They can choose the sports, competitions, markets, banners, bonuses, and bet boosts they want to display. Our deep bonus tool capabilities allow for territory-specific customisation, and operators can enable or disable frontend features based on their needs.

However, differentiation goes beyond just the user experience. Our experienced and dedicated account management team provides exceptional support. We strive to execute any individual operator’s trading strategy, whether they prefer a hands-off approach or a more involved one. We provide the operational support needed for either scenario.

Finally, we can cater to specific market demands. In Brazil, for example, we offer a deeper selection of domestic sports content. This allows operators to differentiate themselves and provide what customers want, ultimately leading to better customer acquisition and retention.

 

Growing Altenar’s revenue and securing high-profile global partnerships is a key aspect of your role. Can you elaborate on the types of partnerships Altenar is looking to establish, and what qualities define a ‘high-value customer’ for Altenar?

I have great confidence in Altenar’s product offerings. We have a well-established reputation for excellence, but we need to continue raising brand awareness and communicating the value we deliver. My goal is to increase awareness of Altenar’s capabilities among high-profile brands.

We are targeting different partnerships. Casino operators are leaving revenue on the table when it comes to sportsbook, that we are perfectly placed to help them recognise. Another major focus is speaking to established operators in various territories. Can Altenar take their brand to new markets, where they can leverage their potential for growth? Even North American operators today will naturally be looking south at LatAm. We can then leverage their brand recognition in new markets. It is a broad remit but ultimately we will leverage the quality of the Altenar product and the strength of the relationships we have to capitalise on our growth potential.

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