Retention through skill games w/Araz Heydariyehzadeh – Chief Commercial Officer at Scout Gaming
Check out our latest interview focusing on retention with Araz Heydariyehzadeh CCO at Scout Gaming
Do operators need to go beyond loyalty schemes and bonuses when it comes to retention? Why?
Retention in the iGaming industry is incredibly difficult to get right. Based on what we know from intenrally and from market research, it is much harder to keep players engaged with online betting brands than it is with other products in other sectors.
The most common retention tool used by operators is of course bonuses and loyalty schemes, and they do work when deployed effectively, intelligently and as part of a well planned marketing strategy. There are some big players in the iGaming industry, like Skybet, who do this very well.
If it’s not done well these incentives are really only effective for as long as the bonus lasts – once the free spins have been used up, the player is no longer motivated to remain loyal to that specific brand and can jump to offers from another provider. Loyalty schemes do keep players engaged for longer, but with most being tough to progress through, they too can have their limitations. Despite this, operators still throw big money behind bonuses and loyalty schemes in order to stand out from their rivals and keep players coming back.
It is important to consider the bigger picture, and other – potentially more effective – ways of retaining players. This means looking at the player experience being offered and identifying ways of delivering even more value and entertainment. For online sportsbooks, this could be launching skill games such as fantasy sports for the first time to give players a reason to return to their book each day, week, or month throughout the season. Operators can also run marketing campaigns and promotions around these games to take retention to the next level.
How can fantasy/social/skill games be used to drive retention rates?
These games are hard to beat when it comes to retention. The very nature of fantasy sports requires players to return to the operators site regularly. In the case of daily fantasy sports, players return to change theoir teams, set captains or make substititions, this deepends their engagement with the operators brand. Our latest data shows that the average player logs in four times a week to make changes to their team. This in part helps to drive some incredible stats for our partners. According to the indexed numbers of users in the Scout Network, there are clear indicators that fantasy sports and especially season-long games boosts retention.
Here are some highlights…
- Churn after 12 months = 30% still active
- Churn after 24 months = 20% still active
- Churn on season-long fantasy tournament players = 50%+ still active in month nine
- Acquisition = +15% more players on a yearly basis after launching fantasy sports
- Time spent on site = fantasy players spend 20%+ more time than regular sportsbook players
Sportsbooks can expect between 10% and 30% of their player base to engage with fantasy sports products which in turn can significantly move the needle in terms of turnover and GGR.
What makes these games so effective when it comes to retention?
Playing season-long fantasy sports requires the player to log in each match day at the very least and usually over an eight-month period. That is certainly the case when tournaments are hooked up to large prize pots which is something we offer via the Scout Network. Fantasy really is a great retention tool by design, but it can also be used to drive cross-sell as, over time, fantasy players become trusting of and loyal to the operator’s brand. Indeed, we have measured a 45% increase in turnover and a 20+% increase in GGR on our partner’s sportsbook users that engaged with our fantasy products compared with those that did not.
How important is the skill element here? And what challenges does it present for operators?
According to a study by the Massachusetts Institute of Technology, fantasy sports games reward skill rather than luck. This conclusion was reached after analysing thousands of win/loss records of fantasy players over several years. The indexed numbers in the Scout Network confirm this conclusion. Given the skill factor in fantasy sports games, players can train their skill set and apply their advanced knowledge of sports to improve their odds of winning. But similar to other skill games, this presents a challenge for operators.
To sustain a balanced game economy, measures have to be taken to ensure that all participants have a fair chance of winning and that even those who are new to the concept have an enjoyable experience. A game economy where only a small percentage of users have a chance of winning is unhealthy and ultimately drains that all-important liquidity from tournaments. That is why we carefully analyse games and ensure a healthy economy for all. This led us to make several changes to our popular Premier League Season game such as reducing multiple entries from single users, prohibiting certain tools used by high-volume players and softening rules around saving free transfers. This ensures that more casual users can come back to play the season game, thus improving retention rates even more.
How can these games be used in wider marketing activity to keep players coming back from more?
It is important to highlight that skill games are far more social and community-driven than sports betting and casino, and season-long fantasy games in particular add an additional dimension to the sport itself. This generates more fan and player excitement, and often throughout the entire season. Players can also improve their knowledge by embracing the community, chatting in the forums and researching insights and advice.
There is a growing content creator market directly involved with various forms of Fantasy sports which really taps in to the community feel for these types of games.
This is highly desirable from an operator perspective. Giving players a single ticket to a season-long fantasy sports tournament is not only cheaper than offering free bets or loyalty schemes, but the incentive lasts for the entire season. When this is combined with the social element of fantasy and how this helps to drive engagement further, it is clear to see just how powerful fantasy sports is when it comes to retention.
In terms of how to market fantasy sports, we have recorded cases where the addition of a targeted fantasy bonus such as a free entry ticket being added to a CRM email reactivation campaign has generated impressive returns. In one instance, the click-through rate was 25x the average and in another case, 2,000 inactive customers were reactivated within 24 hours of the email campaign being sent out.
Exclusive Q&A w/ Nick McDonald, Account Director at Fujitsu
Can you introduce yourself and tell us about your role at Fujitsu?
My name is Nick McDonald, and I am an account director at Fujitsu focused on iGaming.
Can you tell us about Fujitsu and its background in iGaming?
Fujitsu has been working with customers globally in the iGaming industry for around 7 years. In that time, we have continued to grow and evolve our offerings in this space and can now provide and deliver iGaming technology solutions alongside our partners in over 100 territories. Our latest campaign is also being supported by Intel, one of the leading tech companies in the world, with their experience helping us to take our iGaming campaign to the next level.
Can you tell us more about the iGaming products that Fujitsu provides?
There are a number of different offerings we have in the iGaming space. Our core is manufacturing data centre technology, focusing on hybrid cloud, servers, storage, and similar technologies.
However, how we deploy and support these tailored to iGaming companies sets our products apart. One of our primary offerings is PRIMEFLEX. This tried and tested technology solution has helped customers change how they approach cloud and data storage.
One of our main goals is to assist customers on their Cloud journey. Many customers are in an area of Cloud Chaos right now, and we can help support them and work alongside them to help them navigate this and find new solutions in helping them choose the right cloud for the right workload.
We support this journey for iGaming customers by enabling them to utilise our Uscale offering. This allows customers to have their own on-premise technology infrastructure but consume it as a service, giving them the best of both worlds.
Your services to iGaming companies are largely based on data. Tell us about that
The amount of Data generated in the iGaming space is huge. We at Fujitsu, alongside Intel and our ecosystem of partners, can help iGaming companies by utilising skillsets and technology platforms to get the best value from that data and ensure any data generated is kept secure and compliant.
In terms of compliance and regulation, how can Fujitsu help iGaming companies?
Fujitsu, alongside our ecosystem and software partners, can stand up and support varying technology stacks in all regulated territories today. They can approach markets knowing they are backed up and supported by one of the largest global IT providers in the world.
Fujitsu is committed to sustainability, can you tell us more about that?
As a company, we have made a significant commitment to sustainability and have implemented various initiatives to address environmental and social challenges, The company’s sustainability vision is centred around the concept of ‘Human-centric Innovation’, aiming to leverage technology to create a more sustainable and prosperous society. Our partners must share this vision, which is why we work closely with Intel on our iGaming products.
Who are you currently working with in the iGaming industry?
We currently work with a handful of the largest platform providers in the iGaming space, and we have predominantly been focused on these for the past few years. We are now beginning to look for more customers to help in this space following the success we have seen with our products.
Why should iGaming companies choose Fujitsu?
One of the biggest reasons iGaming companies choose to work with Fujitsu is our flexibility. We do not have a one-size fits all approach with our technology. Instead, we work with a range of Hybrid and Cloud software vendors to help customers on their journey.
We also have a huge ecosystem of partners we can work with regarding delivery or hosting within territory backed up by support from Fujitsu, one of the world’s largest Global IT service delivery companies. We continue to be very people-centric and understand the need to pick up the phone and speak to someone about being able to deliver different forms of technology somewhere quickly.
Moving forward, how will you evolve your offering?
Fujitsu, with support from Intel, will continue to invest in our Hybrid Cloud offerings and our growth in the iGaming industry. AI will also be a big growth area for us, helping to create technology stacks and solutions for AI. We also want to ensure customers are looking at AI for the right reasons and delivering these solutions for the better.
Exclusive Q&A with Paul Sampson, CEO of Lickd
One quick thing that came to mind after conducting the interview was: this man knows the industry. So Ladies and Gentlemen, meet Paul Sampson, CEO of Lickd.
For starterrs, Lickd is a micro-licensing and music solutions company that caters to the creator economy. If that sounds obscure, jump straight to the interview, where Paul Simpson talks in simple terms about Lickd and the present and future of the online music industry.
Q. Let’s start with a brief personal profile. Tell us about your background and career?
A. I’ve been working in music licensing since 2005. I’ve worked specifically with stock music, commercial music, and more recently, exploring ways of strengthening the creator economy.
For around five years, straight out of university, I worked in television at a small production company, climbing through the ranks. Throughout this time, I encountered the difficulties of licensing music several times, and so began to take an interest in understanding the nuances and problems that needed solving.
I’d gotten to know several renowned music licensing companies, and in 2005, one of them, Extreme Music, offered me a job in New York and with that, I followed my passion and began my career jump into the music industry. Within about two and a half years in the role, they relocated me out to Los Angeles as the Head of US.
In 2010, a new role brought me back to Europe and I was a key figure in launching the European arm of another U.S. music licensing company. This time, it was not just stock music, but a focus on more commercial music, and unsigned independent acts.
After this, I knew it was time to start acting on the music opportunities that were becoming more prevalent with the boom of the creator economy, and so following that channel, Lickd was born in 2017.
Q. Now let’s move on to Lickd. What led you to found Lickd?
A. Two words led me to found Lickd: Creator Economy. As social media became more prevalent in everyday life in the late 2000’s, the opportunities for music and creators were plentiful and so Lickd was born. A few years later, as the effects on the media landscape following the pandemic have increased the creator economy twofold, we see even more opportunities to continue to seize the moment, and the market.
Lickd is the first music company to ever develop a major music solution for content creators of all kinds. We licence music from major labels and publishers, including current music that’s in the charts and make it available for licensing, legally. Our unique software protects our users on the platform that they place music on, for example, YouTube and Instagram. Platforms like YouTube have built in music recognition software that identifies popular music being used in content, and presumes that all music uses are some sort of infringement of copyright, therefore, persecuting the creator and attempting to police them out of earning revenue.
Lickd’s software is really the magic solution that the platform sits on top of to ensure that not only can creators licence the music but that they’re taken care of and we’re protecting their revenue all the way through to the end of the content journey.
Q. What is Lickd’s specialty?
A. What sets us apart is that we are unique in our offering. We’re working with 10,000+ labels and publishers that are linked to the Lickd platform, including Universal, Warner, Sony, BMG and Kobalt. To engage labels and publishers like that and to preclear their music for any content vertical is something that was once largely thought impossible, but Lickd has made it happen and is helping to secure new revenue streams for creators globally.
Q. Could you talk about your work with key gaming powerhouses?
A. Gaming is obviously an enormous industry, bigger than music and film combined. Any content vertical with that sort of reach has a huge platform, a huge audience to work with and promote music too.
In terms of how Lickd got together with Fortnite and Epic Games; essentially music became part of their engagement strategy, and they started paying more attention to it. Senior teams were asking key questions like: ‘how can we work with artists’ and ‘what sort of artist does our audience want to hear within a game’?
With this comes complexities around licensing and demographics. Gamers who are also content creators often live stream their content or create highlights videos for YouTube. At Lickd, we already know that in-video music on YouTube is an issue and so we collaborate with Fortnite to bridge that gap so that gamers can enjoy the wonderful events that are put on for them, while also being able to then promote and share that content in the ways that they normally would.
Whether this is for ancillary income or additional income on top of a salary, if content creation is a full-time job, Lickd protects creators on those platforms, to enable a more effective creation and lifecycle process for the content they’re publishing.
Q. Could you briefly narrate the content deals you have with music companies and bands?
A. Over the past five years we’ve built a platform that is made up of popular music from 10,000 labels and publishers, including Universal, Warner, Sony BMG and Kobalt. We also work with lots of independent distributors. There’s around 1.4 million songs on Lickd, and another 6 million delivered and waiting to go live. The vast majority of them would be emerging acts and we certainly do our best to help and encourage discovery on the platform.
Q. In what ways does Lickd help creators to monetise their content?
A. I think it’s important to outline that wherever there is opportunity for the music industry online, it will require some sort of micro licensing commercial model, and some sort of proprietary tech, either to enable the licensing or to protect the end user.
That’s where Lickd is perfectly positioned. Our mission is to democratise music for the world’s creators. Our first product looked at creators as video content creators, but as the world changes and the digital landscape evolves, creators will also include builders in the metaverse and big brands on social platforms.
Q. How do you see the possibility of an AI text-to-background-music generator?
A. There’s various ways that AI will impact music. It’s something we’re following closely and it would be foolish for anyone to suggest that any part of the music industry isn’t already seeing some element of business being affected directly by AI. So far we’ve seen AI generated songs, well known songs of one artist being sung in the AI voice of another, and the fact that chords and melodies can be created by simply inputting into an AI, and we’re always expecting more.
The uptake of AI in music creation won’t be instant, but at some point, creators will become of faith with smart tools that allow them to generate music through these new means for use in videos. Although, once created, that music will still need to be licensed, and there will be commercial models that give users access to the tools and/or licensing opportunities for the music created by said tool.
In the metaverse, there will be music collaboration spaces and music production event areas or venues. Generative AI is useful for creating ‘music stems’, and building a sort of catalogue of music elements that can then be used by people collaboratively to start making an entire song – something that was not happening in the past.
An AI can continuously keep churning out new beats and new melodies and new riffs and new instrumental sounds, and people will get together to create music on the fly, and that will require AI generative tools at some scale. I think you’ll see things like musical skins, where Avatars might want their own soundtrack or music identifier. How do I know someone entered the room? Well, I just heard their music handle to signify they’re here. Like boxers have ring walks, there’ll be a version of that somewhere in the metaverse.
We know that there are music metaverses and venues, and metaverse platforms based around music creation already, and there are others on the way. A good example of this is Pixelynx, Deadmau5’s music based metaverse platform. He founded the platform, one that was completely based around the music, but then was acquired by Animoca Brands, a brand with a broad portfolio of web3, blockchain and traditional games, which is a huge web3 holding company, so from launch to exit, Deadmau5 did very well out of the partnership.
Artificial Intelligence and online poker: will technologies change the future of the game?
Today we sat down to talk with Igor Terebinov, Deputy CEO of PokerMatch International, about whether artificial intelligence could kill the future of online poker
AI can launch a new era of poker
The world’s coding geniuses have always considered poker to be the most complex game. Whereas, for example, all pieces are clearly visible on a chessboard, and the strategy itself is calculated for many moves ahead, in poker, the cards of all opponents are closed, so the winning options were selected based on incomplete data. Nevertheless, the machine with a specially launched program managed to master the methodology of using the well-known bluff. Before that, it was believed that machine intelligence was incapable of deliberate provocation and that only a human could bluff in poker.
Speaking about the beginning of a new era of poker, we can say that we are all already in it. Poker is a game that never stands still and is constantly evolving, and we can already see how much it has changed since its creation or over the past few years. However, it’s too early to say that AI will replace human speaking skills. It can be argued that artificial intelligence can make a significant contribution to the development of poker and change its dynamics, but it is a mistake to believe that it will start a new poker era. The game of poker is a challenging task for AI as it requires decision-making based on uncertainty and incomplete information. Thus, AI can help players make more informed decisions and improve their game strategy, but it cannot completely replace a player.
It is expected that the development of artificial intelligence will have an impact on poker as the technology improves over time. Currently, artificial intelligence is not flexible enough in terms of strategies and is very expensive to use. Therefore, it is not yet used in real online games.
How artificial intelligence is used in poker
I have to admit that artificial intelligence can be a useful tool for poker players, helping them to make more informed decisions and improve their game strategy. However, it is important to understand that the use of AI in poker does not guarantee victory at all, as the game of poker depends primarily on random factors and the intellectual and psychological skills of players.
AI in poker can perform the following functions:
- Game strategy development: AI can be used to develop optimal poker strategies that can help players make more informed decisions during the game.
- Data analysis: artificial intelligence can analyze large amounts of data that can help determine optimal strategies and predict game outcomes.
- Probability analysis: AI is able to analyze the probability of a particular combination of cards appearing on the table.
- Predicting opponents’ actions: analyzing the behavior of opponents and predicting their actions during the game.
- Determining the opponent’s level: analyzing the opponent’s gaming style and determining their level. This can help players adapt to the opponent’s playing style.
Ethical and legal implications of using AI in poker
First of all, it should be remembered that the use of artificial intelligence in online poker is illegal in many countries and can lead to serious legal consequences. As I have already mentioned, the game of poker is based largely on human skills, such as reading facial expressions, making strategic decisions, and understanding the game and behavioral characteristics of other players. Using AI to influence the outcome of the game contradicts the ethical principles of the game and may harm the experience of other players. If you personally want to improve your poker skills, artificial intelligence will not help you in this, but will only harm you. After all, over time, you may lose your intuitive abilities and skills of behavioral characteristics of your opponents.
Moreover, the use of AI can lead to a threat to player privacy, as some of them can access poker players’ personal data and use it for their own purposes.
Can AI “kill” the future of online poker?
I would say no, it is almost impossible. Yes, artificial intelligence can harm gaming in its classic sense – users will play for money, not pleasure, using AI algorithms and tactics. Players may stop improving their skills by trusting artificial intelligence. Some argue that AI may kill the original spirit of the poker game, as the winner may no longer be the one who can read opponents and calculate everything in advance, but the one who can memorize the most patterns and apply them in the game.
That is, AI can harm online poker, but it does not mean that it will completely replace human intelligence in this game. After all, poker is a game that requires not only computational abilities but also intuition, experience, and the ability to read other players.
In general, the prospects for the development of artificial intelligence in the field of gambling can be useful if they are used to create fairer and safer conditions for the game.
The future of the poker industry in general
The poker sector has long been one of the most popular and profitable gambling industries. In recent years, the online poker market has expanded significantly thanks to innovative technologies that continue to be constantly introduced into the game. Therefore, all indicators and favorable development conditions point to an increasing demand for online poker among users.
Gamification will become a separate development vector. Gambling will increasingly move towards gamification, become faster and more interesting. We can already see trends when users choose a platform to play not because it has the best conditions, but because it has some unique feature, you can boost your level, character, get achievements, etc. To some extent, our niche competes with games, video hosting, and other entertainment platforms where users come to get their own kind of dopamine.
Let’s not forget about artificial intelligence. In the future, AI will definitely be used to create interesting and dynamic gaming situations that will adapt to the player’s level and style of play. Also, AI can be used to create more realistic virtual opponents using VR technologies that will take into account all possible game development options.
The use of blockchain technologies in poker will also grow rapidly. Blockchain will be used to store and exchange information between players, such as game history and results. This will help to increase the transparency of the game and reduce the possibility of disputes.
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