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Roundtable: New Mechanics

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Roundtable: New Mechanics
Reading Time: 15 minutes

 

Eye-catching graphics and familiar themes have become a staple in iGaming, but to truly captivate players and stand out from the crowd providers are continually developing new and innovative gameplay mechanics.

We spoke to a host of leading game developers and providers about creating new features, exploring the challenges and rewards of crafting a fresh experience and the long-term benefits of diversifying a provider’s portfolio with unique experiences.

Participants include:

Suki Sandhu, Chief Product Officer at Gaming Realms

Raj Varadarajah, Games Producer at Realistic Games

Ihor Lozynskyi, Senior Game Producer at Push Gaming

Andrzej Hyla, Chief Commercial Officer at Wazdan

Ivan Kravchuk, Chief Executive Officer at Evoplay

Iryna Dragulina, Game Tribe Leader at Playson

Josefin Uppeke, Head of Games Production at ESA Gaming

 

Every studio is looking to create the next Megaways success. How does your dev team know they’re on the right track during the creation process? Do you seek player feedback during beta testing?

Suki Sandhu: Our game development process includes various methodologies and frameworks aimed at fine-tuning a new game concept or mechanic ahead of launch. This is supported by a wealth of data around player behaviour and engagement metrics from previous releases. From this, we create a game pitch which encompasses problem statements, outcome-driven innovation, a journey map, storyboard and of course, a functional prototype that we can use to test the concept.

From here, we begin to seek player feedback initially via our internal teams followed by customers and where possible, players. Our long-standing relationship with numerous operator partners means at times we ask their permission to speak to players directly about our new innovations to ensure we are on the right track and that we are meeting and exceeding both our own ambitions and their needs.

Raj Varadarajah: The development of a Realistic Games title is a product of thorough research. We may have an initial game idea, visual concept or mechanic in mind but before pressing ahead with development we carry out extensive research. Internally, our passionate team dissects any idea, exploring its potential and identifying areas for improvement. Externally, we tap into market trends, researching to ensure our creation stands out in a crowded landscape. But more importantly, we want to know – will it truly resonate with players? Will it keep them engaged and entertained? Having early prototypes of our games allows us to refine and polish the title throughout its development cycle, ensuring that it delivers an exceptional player experience come launch day.

Ihor Lozynskyi: We are blessed with an incredibly talented team at Push. We’ve seen incredible success with our back catalogue of hits and a key part of what makes them so great is the mechanics that sit at their core such as those that nudge, reveal and collect along with our proprietary Cluster Link™ and Push-Up™ creations.

Our Cluster Link™ mechanic, for example, has been at the heart of several games since it made its debut in Jammin’ Jars and triumphant return in our new release, Retro Sweets. Having been enjoyed by players in Giga Jar, Jammin’ Jars 2 and Retro Tapes, it offers familiarity to players and lends itself well to these titles. These slots have become top performers with fans demanding more innovative Cluster Link™ titles.

The kind of feedback we receive gives us the confidence to make Cluster Link™ the basis of new games and we get this from conducting play-testing, feedback-iteration loops. As much as we back our dev team, we also want to reach out to the player community and get their opinions on how games play and feel.

Our most recent launch, Retro Sweets sees the return of our Push Bet™ mechanic. Introduced to great acclaim in Razor Returns, it increases the likelihood of triggering the bonus game. This time around, Push Bet offers the flexibility to score a guaranteed one or two wild candy symbols on each base spin by increasing the bet by 2x and 4x respectively.

Retro Sweets is another example of us keeping the potential high and breathing new life into the mechanics that players have loved in the previous games.

Andrzej Hyla: To put it simply, by carrying out a rigorous process involving thorough market research. This includes utilising data analytics to track player behaviour and performance indicators of previous games. Knowing what bodes well and what encourages game retention allows us to refine our search when identifying opportunities and emerging trends for new releases.

At Wazdan, our core aim when developing a new slot is to ensure we are creating as stimulating an experience as possible for our players. It is, therefore, imperative that they too play a prominent role in each game’s creation. Team Wazdan is full of passionate players, so when it comes to developing our slots, we know from experience what helps us gauge reactions and refine releases. This contributed significantly to the creation of our famed Cash Infinity™ and Hold the Jackpot™ mechanics.

Creating new mechanics is always a roulette and you can never be sure what will appeal to players. Sometimes you have to take a little risk. As was the case with our Coins™ series, in which we released a game without base game wins for the first time on the market. At our core, when designing games, we aim to engineer the world’s most rewarding casino game experiences.

Ivan Kravchuk: At Evoplay, our aim is to develop a portfolio that features a mix of experimental and proven mechanics. The base ensures business stability, while our experimentation focuses on discovering popular mechanics and fostering our uniqueness.

Developing new games or mechanics is always a complex process. To ensure we stay on track, we gather feedback from casino managers and players, rely on our own experience, and analyse internal and external data. In markets where we’re not yet operating, we also communicate with potential partners for additional insights. This data-driven approach ensures that our games resonate deeply with a wide array of preferences.

Iryna Dragulina: At the heart of our strategic endeavours, player engagement continues to be our foremost priority. Our development team is dedicated to not only crafting potential hits but to establishing a robust feedback mechanism throughout the game development phases. We actively engage diverse focus groups, whose insights directly influence our product roadmap, ensuring that our games meet and exceed player expectations. We place immense value on player feedback, viewing it as essential to our development process. It’s this continuous loop of feedback that allows us to adapt and evolve our games, ensuring they resonate well with our audience and maintain high engagement levels.

Josefin Uppeke: When considering new game mechanics, we analyse existing performance and look to refine them slightly to enhance their appeal. Frankly, reinventing the wheel at this stage is challenging. If a mechanic has proven successful for others, that’s enough validation to believe our version will also resonate positively. Ultimately, however, it’s the players who determine its success.

 

What are the challenges and opportunities of launching a new mechanic?

Suki Sandhu: From a player perspective, education is the primary challenge when launching a new mechanic. We want everyone to have a positive experience when playing any of our games and understanding what they are trying to achieve and how the mechanics work should underpin players’ reasoning for choosing one of our titles. Additionally, being a responsible iGaming company, regulatory requirements are also paramount, and ensuring our mechanics meet the caveats of each market we are live in can be a challenge. Creating content within these boundaries also offers an opportunity however, as the additional time spent on each game to guarantee its compliance allows us to further fine-tune the experience we are presenting.

Mechanics within iGaming have had incremental innovation over the years and have been influenced by external factors such as the evolution of mobile, social, land-based gaming, gamification, video games and localised traditional games. Whilst titles have become more complex, players have equally become more educated about slots through this evolution.

We’ve created a loyal base of Slingo players, who fully grasp the features that underpin a Gaming Realms release. This allows us to innovate on other factors within the gameplay, specifically around any IP integration or contemporary slot mechanics to complement the core Slingo concept.

Raj Varadarajah: We take a unique approach to game development and measuring success. While healthy competition exists between providers, our primary focus isn’t just attracting the most players. We prioritise crafting exceptional player experiences. Therefore, we assess triumph by how deeply players engage with our games via metrics like the number of spins each player has on our titles.

When we release a new mechanic such as 1-2-Inifinity in our most recent slot Maxiplier it presents a risk, as you never know how the market and players will respond to something entirely new. Players may not initially gravitate towards it and therefore impact the number of spins they would typically put through one of our slots. Alternatively, players seeking a new experience may increase the number of spins they would play as they discover what a feature is and do so through playing. This risk and reward may feel like a gamble but it keeps players enthused as a collective and ensures the industry continues to innovate.

Ihor Lozynskyi: Developing new mechanics is always a risk but the potential is ever-present to create something which becomes the next industry staple – taking risks that can elevate games in the player’s favour is one of the things that keeps us motivated and engaged throughout R&D.

The competitive nature of the industry and the many talented teams at our peer’s studios necessitate focus and dedication. But quite apart from that, we’re fervent game creators and are lucky enough to enjoy careers in designing the games that we’re so passionate about. The process, while challenging, is an incredible amount of fun and we’re always anticipating the next runaway success.

Andrzej Hyla: Launching a new mechanic is very much a double-edged sword scenario. The benefits are boundless if executed correctly, however, there is a degree of uncertainty regarding player reception and market acceptance. Striking the right balance between innovation and maintaining a sense of familiarity is imperative.

Wazdan’s Coins™ series is a prime example of this. Although innovative new features are consistently added to each of the released titles, the core gameplay continues to contain the same unique math model with no regular symbols in the base game and player-favourite mechanics, such as Cash Infinity ™ and Hold the Jackpot™ that have guaranteed its success. Both existing players of the series and those who are seeking a fresh slot experience are therefore drawn to the game.

Boosting player retention and increasing gameplay sessions is also a key opportunity that launching a new mechanic presents. Through our Infinity features like Cash Infinity™, Sticky to Infinity™ and Collect to Infinity™, players enjoy an increased winning potential and therefore a higher level of engagement.

Ivan Kravchuk: The most difficult part of launching something novel and different is getting your audience’s attention. This happens across various forms of entertainment, not solely in iGaming. Take, for example, the film industry -new movies with uncommon themes are rare, and often tend to be low-budget. This cautious approach helps find interesting subjects while reducing financial risks associated with possible lack of viewer interest.

Finding the winning formula may not be easy, but very rewarding. It reminds game providers to keep trying new things. To succeed, you need to be brave enough to try something new.

Iryna Dragulina: Introducing new mechanics in game development inherently involves balancing risk and innovation. Our team commits significant time and effort to each project, emphasising the importance of learning from every phase. This process demands resilience, as perfecting new mechanics is not instantaneous.

Continuous feedback introduces unique challenges, requiring our development team to be both adaptable and persistent. These stages are crucial for understanding and mitigating potential issues, ultimately refining the game mechanic to meet our high standards. By embracing these challenges, we turn potential setbacks into valuable learning opportunities, continuously enhancing our capability to innovate effectively.

Josefin Uppeke: Launching a new mechanic presents both challenges and exciting opportunities. Convincing players to embrace something fresh amidst a sea of established favourites can be daunting. However, successfully introducing a new mechanic can lead to heightened visibility and differentiation in the market, potentially propelling the game to new heights of success.

 

Which new mechanics are you currently developing and what should players be expecting from them?

Suki Sandhu: We are working on numerous new trademarked mechanics that will work concurrently with Slingo or offer gameplay differentiation within the bonus round. Re3ls™ is the first of these trademarked mechanics and will be a feature within the upcoming release Slingo River Re3ls™. This brand new mechanic provides players with lives in addition to cash prizes as they climb the Slingo ladder. We also believe some of the mechanics we’re designing internally will create great standalone gaming experiences for players.

Raj Varadarajah: We have just launched our new title Maxiplier, which boasts the fresh mechanic 1-2-infinity. It can award players infinite respins by landing two scatters in the first two reels. This triggers an infinite number of respins and transforms the scatters into wilds. This provides wins throughout with as many spins as possible until the third scatter lands thus beginning the bonus and ending the respins. It positions players in a win-win scenario where they of course want to enter the bonus round but equally want to continue with the infinite respins and gathering wins.

Ihor Lozynskyi: We can’t divulge any teasers at this point about what’s on our slate as they’re still in the early development stage, but we can promise that we’ve got plenty up our sleeve.

We take the learnings from each release and use the insight to pour fresh innovation into new, unique mechanics and games that we’re pretty sure won’t have been seen in the industry before.

There are several things Push Gaming fans – and slot enthusiasts in general – can be excited about.

Andrzej Hyla: Although we are remaining tight-lipped on current mechanics in the pipeline, I can confirm that we have a host that are soon to be announced that will continue to elevate the player experience. There is a clear focus on developing already existing features, in future titles.

Just to name a few examples; in 36 Coins™ we have merged Cluster Collector with the Sticky to Infinity™ feature, in Hot Slot™: 777 Cash Out Grand Platinum Edition we added Sticky Multipliers and in 9 Lions Hold the Jackpot™ will include Lions Bonus Game, in which Grand Jackpot is only one click away.

Ivan Kravchuk: At Evoplay, we’re not just dedicated to crafting games with trendy and classic mechanics. Instead, our aim is to excite players by delivering a fresh concept to the market. Currently, one focus of ours is introducing more sports-related titles. With major sporting events such as the Olympics and the Euros due to take place this summer, we’re aiming to develop mechanics that replicate the same excitement as watching your team in action.

In our pursuit of innovation, we leave room for experimentation in our instant and flagship games, which gives us more space to examine new concepts. Here, our game producers have the freedom to explore fresh approaches to creating online casino hits, investing the time and dedication needed to develop groundbreaking mechanics.

Iryna Dragulina: As a leading developer of Hold and Win games, we continuously innovate to introduce fresh variations to this beloved format. We are currently developing an exciting twist to the traditional gameplay.

Our focus is on enhancing player engagement through innovative features such as ‘3 Pots’ and ‘Hit the Bonus’. These additions are designed to cater to a diverse range of player preferences and have already received outstanding feedback from both operators and players. This positive response is instrumental in shaping our future developments.

Our primary goal remains to create mechanics that not only entertain, but significantly enhance the overall gaming experience.

Josefin Uppeke: Currently, we’re exploring a twist on the classic cluster pay mechanic. By infusing it with new elements, we aim to create a gameplay experience that feels familiar yet distinctive. Players can anticipate a fresh and engaging approach to cluster pays, offering a board game feeling within a slot. Stay tuned in the coming months to find out exactly what we’re talking about – we can’t wait to unveil it!

 

How do you ensure the end user is educated about the mechanic and therefore seek out the game upon launch?

Suki Sandhu: From a product perspective, if we feel the mechanic is intrinsically innovative enough that players may need additional branding to highlight extra functionality, we will emphasise this within the feature itself, ensuring best practices and that users fully understand the mechanics they are presented with.

From a marketing perspective, we carry out Q&As with leading affiliates to also educate players about titles in advance of their launch. However, we endeavour for our features to align with the flow or narrative of a game, meaning this educational process isn’t as much of a necessity as it may be for others as the mechanics perfectly fit the unique Slingo gameplay.

Raj Varadarajah: We educate our players about new mechanics and innovations in a variety of ways. When initially developing a title we carry out a lot of research to ensure as much as we can that there is a desire for this type of new mechanic within the market. Additionally, before a launch, we use our successful relationships with affiliates to educate players about new mechanics, set expectations and seed excitement. Upon launch, we align with some of the most respected and influential slot streamers to visually show their audiences many of the newer elements in our titles ensuring they are knowledgeable and playing in an informed and educated way.

Ihor Lozynskyi: Marketing our games and the features that drive them is a vital part of the launch cycle. We want to seed anticipation well in advance of launches so that, on launch day, players have a level of familiarity that makes their first play sessions as enjoyable as possible.

We engage in interviews, and deep-dive features across several formats that explore the nuances of the mechanic and how players can make the most of their gaming without having to refer to the rules.

Andrzej Hyla: There are three key steps to ensuring the end user can easily digest the mechanic and feel intrigued to try out the game once launched. Clear and accessible instructions are located in the help panel, which ensures players clearly understand the mechanics before gameplay begins. We also utilise social media to promote the mechanics and share comprehensive information about the title, enticing players to keep their eyes peeled for launch day.

Last but not least, during gameplay, non-intrusive pop-ups deliver information about game mechanics, ensuring players are well-informed without disturbing their in-game experience. We design our games so that all features are intuitive enough that players do not need to refer to help or other descriptions. This is a key factor in creating rewarding experiences.

Ivan Kravchuk: In the highly competitive iGaming world, the success hinges beyond simply creating a flashy game. From the start, we’ve grasped this and put a lot of effort into crafting unique marketing campaigns to help players get acquainted with our games featuring innovative mechanics.

This approach consistently leads to good results. For example, the marketing campaign for our instant game, Penalty Shoot-Out, during the last World Cup was carefully planned and fruitful. This success inspired us to create the sequel, Penalty Shoot-out: Street, which captured even more attention worldwide and boosted our partners’ business metrics.

Additionally, we use tournaments, quests, and other popular promotional tools to effectively introduce our games and attract more players to them. These marketing efforts allow us to showcase our distinct features and innovations found within our portfolio.

Iryna Dragulina: Our approach to introducing new game mechanics focuses on creating an intuitive user experience, significantly reducing the need for players to access help sections. We achieve this by integrating brief, informative pop-ups at the start of each game, which succinctly explain the mechanics and features. This initial interaction is designed not only to enhance player understanding but also to enrich their overall experience from the outset.

Furthermore, we employ engaging, easy-to-follow animations that showcase the main features of the game before gameplay begins. This visual introduction helps players grasp the core concepts quickly and effectively, ensuring they are well-prepared to fully enjoy the game upon launch.

By prioritising clear communication and engaging educational content, we ensure that players are not only well-informed about new mechanics but are also excited to explore them, thereby increasing the likelihood that they will seek out and return to the game.

Josefin Uppeke: Ensuring players understand and appreciate the mechanics is paramount to the success of any new game. Therefore, we are particularly attentive to tweaking the math models to minimise the occurrence of dead spins. We meticulously design our games to intuitively guide players through the experience, minimising confusion and maximising enjoyment. By focusing on clarity and accessibility, we strive to captivate players from the moment they start spinning.

 

With a new generation of players continually entering the iGaming market are these innovations developed with them in mind? Or is the primary demographic existing slot enthusiasts?

Suki Sandhu: Slingo is a genre of its own and we’re creating games which cater for all generations of gaming enthusiasts. Slots are a natural fit for this genre, but you will also see social and video gaming influences in our upcoming portfolio of games. Whilst this inspiration may lean towards a newer generation of players, our core titles will always revolve around the Slingo genre which has a broad demographic appeal.

Raj Varadarajah: We aren’t necessarily looking for our games to appeal to a specific demographic, many of our slots have attributes that align with classic slots or AWP machines. However, we blend these elements with contemporary innovations and modern themes creating a unique experience that will appeal to a broad spectrum. Our portfolio of titles has evolved in recent years and we now have a broader demographic of returning players who tend to be younger than the enthusiasts of classic games that we once focused on. Additionally, being one of the pioneers of the mobile market, which tends to attract a younger audience, there is no doubt that our slots by their very nature, are continually steering towards a newer demographic. While our games are enjoyed due to all the innovations and new mechanics within them, they don’t present a barrier to entry therefore we can appeal to a wider section of players.

Ihor Lozynskyi: Like any provider, we try not to limit our scope when it comes to new products. As much as we espouse our ‘Players First’ motto, we’re a business and don’t want to pigeonhole ourselves and limit the success potential of any new game.

Our increased roadmap is pivotal in ensuring we have the right diversity in our content, released with the appropriate amount of frequency to keep up with demand. Slot creation is a challenging task but for Push, it’s also a labour of love and something we’re dedicated to perfecting.

Andrzej Hyla: Our innovations will always remain inclusive, ensuring they are designed to provide familiarity to existing slot enthusiasts, but also to capture the attention of younger generations entering the iGaming world and to accommodate their contemporary preferences.

At Wazdan, we recognised the growing trend of mobile gaming among new players and created the Extremely Light series which offers optimised gameplay for mobile devices, by providing faster loading times and extended battery life. For our long-term enthusiasts, we engineered the Hot Slot™ series fitted with an old-school charm for those particularly fond of straightforward mechanics, taking a more minimalistic approach and pairing it with innovative in-game mechanics. Ultimately, our goal is to provide rewarding experiences that resonate with all types of players across the iGaming world through our diverse portfolio of games, whether they are newcomers or seasoned veterans.

Ivan Kravchuk: As mentioned, we believe in catering to the diverse tastes of players across different demographics and regions. While innovative games often appeal more to younger players, classic slots are still popular among casino enthusiasts. However, individual player characteristics can’t be ignored. In some cases, a captivating slot can engage a next-generation player just as effectively as an instant game can entice slot fans.

Recognising the importance of blending user experience (UX) design with effective marketing strategies, we aim to make our games more engaging and user-friendly. Therefore, we continuously enhance them with vibrant special effects, top-notch graphics, an easy-to-use interface, immersive sound, and new themes.

Iryna Dragulina: Our game innovations, fueled by insightful data, captivate both newcomers and seasoned players alike, setting a high bar for entertainment across our dynamic portfolio. We’ve noticed a thrilling shift: a new generation craves the fast-paced thrill — quick bonuses and rapid-fire gameplay. This shift challenges us to rethink traditional engagement strategies. Yet, strategically our games are designed to engage everyone without prioritising a specific demographic.

This broad approach not only enhances our appeal across different player segments but also positions us well to continuously adapt to evolving market dynamics, ensuring relevance and excitement in the ever-changing iGaming landscape.

Josefin Uppeke: With a new generation of players continually entering the iGaming market, our innovations are crafted with a diverse audience in mind. We aim to cater to both seasoned slot enthusiasts and newcomers alike, acknowledging the evolving tastes of the newer generation while respecting the preferences of existing players. By offering a blend of familiarity and innovation, we strive to appeal to all types of players.

Interviews

Amplifying horse racing: An inside look at how Altenar is diversifying its platform in partnership with SIS

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Amplifying horse racing: An inside look at how Altenar is diversifying its platform in partnership with SIS
Reading Time: 4 minutes

 

Industry heavyweights SIS and Altenar are both well-respected suppliers in the industry, known for delivering memorable sports betting experiences. After penning a new deal to boost its horse racing offering, Antonis Karakousis, Director of Operations at Altenar, is joined by Andy Kelly, Head of Commercial Partnerships at SIS to discuss the huge benefits in play.

 

How did the partnership come about?

Andy Kelly: One of the biggest goals for SIS this year is continued geographic expansion. Having signed a host of international deals, we are looking to enhance our reach, a key strategy to support this ambition is to partner with leading platform providers that have big networks worldwide. Altenar has an impressive client base and being able to collaborate will only serve to benefit both brands. Our extensive product range appeals to operators in search of added value, with 24/7 betting content to drive new operator revenue streams across racing, competitive gaming (esports), and live number draws.

We have hit the ground running with Altenar, with our teams demonstrating a willingness to cooperate and implement strategies in providing products to operators efficiently, with no disruption to existing offerings.

Antonis Karakousis: The collaboration with SIS is a significant milestone for us.. The decision to add a racing provider to our in-house sportsbook stemmed from our commitment to offering a diverse and engaging sports betting experience to the users. Recognising the popularity and global appeal of racing products, we sought a reputable partner who could deliver high-quality content and a seamless integration process.

 

What excites you the most about the partnership?

Karakousis: The breadth of SIS’ offering, including its extensive portfolio of horse racing services, real-time data, and streaming solutions, aligns seamlessly with our commitment to providing diverse and engaging content to users. We look forward to the positive impact this partnership will have on our platform and the satisfaction it will bring to our operators.

Kelly: Our partnership with Altenar provides us with the opportunity to offer the full SIS product range to a host of new operators across the world through a single integration. The deal means we can get more eyes on our products. We are launching with over 74,000 racing events every year, with our range of live fixed odds numbers draws to follow, with Competitive Gaming events-based sports simulation product completing the product offering. It’s about providing Altenar with a range of premium, highly engaging content that creates fresh revenue opportunities around the clock, through exciting short-form events.

It has been great to see both sides sharing insights to ensure smooth and seamless processes in delivering content to a wide range of operators.

 

How has the integration worked so far?

Kelly: The integration process has all been smooth so far, aided by the experienced and very capable technical teams on both sides. Together we will be able to offer bettors more round-the-clock opportunities across the product range, initially starting with our live racing content. Having worked with platform providers in the past, we are confident that we can continue to get our products to market through Altenar quickly and seamlessly.

Karakousis: Working closely with the SIS team, our technical experts have engaged in a concerted effort to ensure a smooth incorporation of their products into the Altenar sportsbook. We are pleased to share that the integration has exceeded our expectations on several fronts.

 

Are there any more products in the pipeline?

Karakousis: Our collaboration with SIS goes beyond the launch of the horse racing product. We have exciting plans in the pipeline, with both greyhound racing and lottery games set to be introduced in the near future. There is no doubt that SIS’ product base is one of the most respected  in the industry and has elevated our offering to a wider audience. Additionally, as 2024 progresses, we expect the horse racing product to expand further, bolstering odds on some of the world’s premier race meetings.

Kelly: We are constantly looking at enhancing our existing product range to serve the evolving needs of operators. This has previously been demonstrated by our expanded range of live fixed odds numbers draws, with high-frequency Fast 15’s designed to keep bettors engaged with a new draw every three minutes.

We will also continue to grow our live racing content offering across the world. We have the rights to some of the biggest and most prestigious international races in the world including all contests at Saudi Cup and the Dubai World Cup, to name a couple. Having rolled out fixed-odds betting in Colorado with bet365 recently, we are hopeful that other US states will follow suit.

There is also the possibility of adding a wider array of sports simulations to our SIS Competitive Gaming offering to ensure localised appeal.

 

How do you foresee 2024 going in terms of this partnership?

Kelly: We believe the rest of the year will bring mutual success and growth for both SIS and Altenar. We are already seeing the positive impact of our partnership, with collaborations across multiple departments, working together cohesively to meet the challenges of the market together by delivering a product range that engages bettors and provides additional revenues for operators globally. With our combined efforts this is certainly achievable.

Karakousis: As we look ahead to the rest of the year, we are highly optimistic about the trajectory of our partnership with SIS and the impact it will have on the Altenar sportsbook. The collaboration has already laid a strong foundation with the successful launch of the horse racing product, and we anticipate several key developments and milestones in the coming year.

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Interviews

Time to get into the gamification game

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Tomer Baumel, Founder at CEO of Solitics, talks about why personalised gamification is the best way for operators to differentiate and bring tremendous added value to their players

Differentiation. This is something that operators strive for but, in reality, is very hard to achieve. If you take a look at the online betting and casino experiences available to players in any given market, it’s hard to come across many brands that truly stand out.

Most offer the same welcome bonuses, similar games/odds, the same payment options and deploy the same tactics for fostering loyalty once the player has signed up and deposited for the first time. But loyalty must be earned, and right now, casinos and sportsbooks are not doing enough.

For many, retention is a tick-box exercise based around level-up loyalty schemes, offers sent out via email and SMS, and the occasional generic pop-up message that aims to keep players engaged with the sportsbook or casino – usually with free bets or free spins.

The majority of players will be familiar with these tactics and are sufficiently smart and savvy to know the sportsbook or the casino brands do this to encourage them to play for longer.

There is nothing wrong with operators taking this approach, but it is boring at best. Retention should be fun and exciting, and there is a lot that casinos and sportsbooks can do to be different to their rivals and add tremendous value to the player experience – value that will ensure they stick around.

How? Personalised gamification.

Gamification has been an industry buzzword for some time now, but few operators have yet to truly incorporate it, and personalise it using data, into the overall player experience. Personalisation is how how operators will unlock the huge potential gamification offers for both acquisition and retention, and ultimately differentiation.

Not only can gamification be used to transform the user experience across multiple touch points, but it can also be used by operators to drive certain player behaviour such as making a deposit or continuing to play even after a run of losses.

Gamification comes in many forms, but at Solitics, we have just launched a new Gamification Module that includes Gamification Widgets with highly customisable mini-games that operators can use to elevate the player experience to boost both acquisition and retention. Mini-games are the perfect gamification tool. They can be combined with promos and bonuses to help the brand connect with the players and build trust.

Because the experience is gamified and highly customised to players’ preferences and playing patterns, operators can guide users’ behaviour in a way that is authentic, allowing them to generate a much higher life-time value from the players than when they are incentivised by traditional or generic offerings.

So long as mini-games can be customised and configured, operators can be smarter in how they bonus and run promos that are far more effective while avoiding overbonusing and overspending.

For example, if you would like a player to log-in each day to claim a daily surprise, instead of offering £5 bonus upon log-in, the operator can engage the player with daily challenges such as ‘login and get a daily surprise’.  During this mission, player will get to spin the wheel to determine his daily prize, and also see an interactive map of his progress. From managing the bonus economy point of view – since the widget is entirely customized by the brand. This actually adds excitement for the player while reducing the bonusing cost for the operator.

Positive, fun experiences also generate advocacy, with players recommending the brand to others.

Personal gamification widgets are also a powerful driver of acquisition, especially when deployed as part of the onboarding journey through game introducing carousels, or spinning a prize wheel to determine the welcome bonus they receive.

Of course, operators need to be able to differentiate through the mini-games they offer to their players otherwise players will once again find themselves swimming in the sea of sameness. This is why we have ensured our mini-games offer unrivalled opportunities for customisation and personalisation including brand colours, content, bonuses configuration, all of which are easy to change.

With Solitics, marketers can choose from a pre-set library of games and customise them, or they can create their own games from scratch, all from a single UI, with no need for heavy development resources.

That said, it’s still important for the right games to be delivered to the right players at the right time and this requires the use of data and segmentation.

Our solution is built on top of the operator’s data house which allows marketers to be incredibly granular in terms of who gets the game, the accompanying bonus, the communication that goes with it and the channel via which it is deployed. This is all done through a single platform and UI.

Despite the potential personalised gamification offers to take the entire player experience to the next level, and for brands to be heard above the noise being made by the competition, the majority of operators have yet to really get behind it.

We believe that our solution is a game-changer here and those that get in the game will be surprised by just how effective gamification can be when it comes to acquiring and retaining players at scale while offering a strong USP for their brand or brands.

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Interviews

Exclusive interview with Steve Rogers – Founder and CEO at Playbook Fusion

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We recently sat down with Steve Rogers – Founder and CEO at Playbook Fusion and talk about several important aspects that shape the game studios industry.

What made you want to launch a game studio given the incredibly competitive nature of the market?

Because we have identified a gap in the market in which we can offer something truly unique. There is a large audience of players who enjoy sports-themed video and mobile games, and the ownership and skill required to master titles such as FC Ultimate Team, and who also like to place a bet on their favourite sports, teams and players. Right now, there isn’t a game format that brings these two worlds together, but Playbook Fusion is allowing them to collide to provide an entirely new experience that these consumers will absolutely want to engage with.

The addressable audience for our games will be broad but it is currently one that operators are struggling to engage. This goes beyond those who bet on sports to include those who are simply sports fans, gamers who enjoy management format titles and who are light-touch gamblers, virtual sports players looking for ownership over their teams and fantasy sports players seeking round the clock action.

In all instances, our strongest appeal will likely be among the next generation of players – those who are unlikely to walk into a retail betting shop or have a bet on the Grand National, but who are engaging with mobile and video games, social media and streaming.

 

How will you leverage your industry experience to lead Playbook Fusion to success?

I have more than 20 years of experience in the industry, and this has enabled me to amass a deep understanding of key factors required in bringing successful betting products to market, such as regulation, compliance, content deployment and ultimately what goes into making a hit game. I have been delivering RNG sports games to operators for various companies for a long time now and have good relationships with the right people within most of the major tier one and tier two brands, opening up a clear path to deploying our games with the biggest operators in the business. My experience has also taught me what a good game looks like and has allowed me to identify the gap in the market that Playbook Fusion has an ambition to fill.

Where I lack experience or in-depth understanding, I have brought in experts including video and mobile games veteran, Santiago Jaramillo. Santiago has more than 13 years of AAA gaming experience and has previously worked as Creative Director for EA Sport’s FIFA Franchise and was Executive Producer of MonopolyGo! He was also Head of Sports at Dapper Labs where he conceived and created NBA Top Shot, an award-winning, first-of-its-kind product anchored in blockchain technology.

Our complementary skillsets will absolutely be key to ensuring the future success of Playbook Fusion.

 

How will you stand out from your rival studios? How will your content offer something new to operators and players?

The level of ownership, the persistent progression within the games and the ability for skill development that each of our titles will offer will set Playbook Fusion apart from its competitors. We are working on a range of innovative mechanics that will allow players to boost the capabilities of their teams, which in turn will increase the chance of them winning. Gameplay will include acquiring or earning packs that players can open to strengthen their lineup before they decide what kind of contest they want to engage with. There’s really nothing like this in the sports betting space at this point and this strong, clear point of difference is what is already allowing Playbook Fusion to stand out and catch the attention of sportsbook operators.

 

Bringing together the worlds of gambling and video/mobile gaming is a tough task. How have you approached this? 

It comes down to building a team of the brightest minds and creative talents from both industries. From the gambling sector, we have sought to hire dynamic individuals with a passion for sports and who understand what the next generation of sports bettors are looking for. Then, from the gaming sector, we have Santiago and a growing team of designers and developers who have an in-depth understanding of the mechanics behind successful video games. We are bringing the edges of these industries together and creating an environment in which everyone can learn from each other. I truly believe that we have a game-changing concept and with the team we have in place, we can bring it to life and disrupt the industry.

 

Can you share some insights into your first game? What will it look like? How will it play? Who has it been developed for?

Our first game will be a football title. Football is the biggest sport globally and will allow us to hit the ground running with a game that has mass market appeal. It will take the football manager format, with players able to build a team by acquiring and trading players. They can also do things like buy packs and reveal cards that all help in strengthening their team. They then compete with others across several game types including seasons, player vs player and in contests with friends. Players earn points based on the performance of their team, which are posted to a real-time leaderboard. The more points players accumulate, the more league levels they clear and the more rewards they earn. Betting is a core part of the game loop but, unlike more traditional virtual sports games, the bettor will have a much greater sense of ownership over the team they are betting on, just like in real sports betting. We plan to replicate this format for other sports including basketball and cricket.

 

Why should sportsbook operators partner with Playbook Fusion?

Our games will enable operators to generate incremental revenues from existing player groups, particularly Virtual Sports and Fantasy players, by offering a more engaging betting experience on a 24/7/365 basis. Also, our games will allow them to tap into a new, lucrative but hard-to-reach audience. These are not traditional sports bettors, but rather the next generation of customers looking for social, fast-paced gameplay where they can improve and display their skills and strategy with the chance of winning money – the YouTube, Fortnite, tech-savvy generation that will become a sportsbook’s core player base in the coming years.

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