New slots on the block: The newcomers, part 1

13 May 2019

Following iGaming Business’ roundtable with the slot studios looking to take on the market leaders, we speak to some of the newcomers to the market, discussing why they are entering one of the most competitive verticals in igaming.

In our last slot roundtable we focused on suppliers that had already begun developing a presence in a highly competitive market. The likes of Design Works Gaming, Relax Gaming and Yggdrasil have already begun to prove that there is room for them.

The studios featured here, however, have it all to prove. They are only just making a push to grow their client base and games portfolio.

What unites the three is that for relative newcomers, none are particularly new. Kalamba Games founders Steve Cutler and Alex Cohen, for example, are industry veterans. Cutler has roles at Kindred and GameDesire (formerly Ganymede) on his CV, while Cohen lists Tangelo Games, Quickspin and International Game Technology among his former employers.

The others, BF Games (pronounce Bee Fee) and Evoplay Entertainment, are spin-offs of larger suppliers. BF Games has been active in the industry for around five years. Even for a studio with the backing of a larger parent, growing a meaningful business in the online casino industry is desperately difficult.

Considering the number of games released each month, is it enough just to offer higher quality content than your competitors? Do you need to do more to stand out?
Alexander Levchenko, CEO, Evoplay Entertainment (AL):
As it stands, the current quantity of slots available on the market is far bigger than the market really needs. Players are bombarded with a raft of new offerings on the market – and if you need to stand out, you need to offer more than higher quality content.

Games should never be just about flash graphics and big money wins. it’s also an experience – in line with that, player’s expectations of quality, storytelling and trying something actually ‘new’ should be met. 

Steve Cutler, CEO, Kalamba Games (SC): Quality over quantity is certainly a continuing trend we observe when discussing strategy with our operator partners. What constitutes quality is the million dollar question of course and has a far reaching definition. Our game design is data driven and we monitor an array of KPIs that ultimately translate into identifying and driving  ‘what makes operators more successful?’ and ‘What is it that payers love to play?’

Piotr Szpoton, CEO, BF Games (PS): The performance of a game depends on a lot of things, including the market it’s addressed to. We believe in creating new games that are localised to specific markets combined with high quality.

In some markets, players prefer simple graphics and high volatility over more complex mathematics and graphics and in some markets, it’s the other way around. We created games such as Stunning Hot, Stunning Hot Deluxe and Book of Ming that became very popular in Germany and other Central European countries. However, in other markets with different preferences, we have Magic Hunter and Dragon’s Power, which are increasing in popularity. A perfect example is our newest Aztec Adventure, which is a stunning 3D graphic game that we think will get a great following in the Nordic countries but probably not in Germany and Eastern Europe.

There seems to have been a push to offer ancillary features to improve player retention and engagement alongside games; do you feel this is necessary to give your products more chance of succeeding?
SC:
The customer/player decides and there are many player demographics and geographies to consider. In simple terms, a game may be popular in Germany but less so in Scandinavia, for example.

This is where a data driven approach, coupled with a consultative collaboration with operators, is key to establishing a continuous feedback loop into game design and create the most engaging experience for a variety of player demographics. This in turn makes operators more successful.


AL: Playing a game alone is no longer enough. Alongside traditional player retention features such as jackpot systems and tournaments, we need to again look outside of our industry at other areas of gameplay to improve retention.

Fortnite and similar games provide a great example of ancillary features that players enjoy. In our case – that would be our work with the skin reward system implemented in our RPG slot Dungeon: Immortal Evil. When the hero wins over the Boss at the end of a bonus game he is rewarded with a unique skin that serves for hero customisation.

PS: They can certainly help to improve engagement though in some cases, players can find them annoying. Very often providers go way beyond the initial scope of the game, making it unnecessarily slow or overwhelming. Ancillary features should be just an add-on to help build up the players’ relationship with a game rather than be the main scope of it.

Do you feel operators give new games developers enough support to gain traction in the market?
PS:
Some yes, some not. Business-wise, it is understandable that picking up new fresh content can be a gamble for operators. However, if their gamble proves successful, the reward is fairly generous on both sides as the operator will have a competitive advantage by having new content to offer to its players and the game studio will have its content on the market.

SC: With increased competition and regulatory fragmentation in the operator space, coupled with a proliferation of content that is somewhat lacking in innovation, our data-driven quality over quantity approach is striking a chord with operators, particularly the larger ones. Thus far we have seen nothing but enthusiasm for our content, collaborative approach and underlying design strategy.

AL: The market is saturated with games. If every one of the industry's 200 game suppliers delivers one game per month, it’s already 200 new games for an operator to feature monthly.

Instead of operators giving support for traction in the market – I believe that games developers should be doing more to support operators with games that are actually innovative. The industry needs to aim for quality not quantity: high-end quality content that stands out and keeps players coming back for more.

Read parts one and two of the first installment in the 'New slots on the block' series, and come back tomorrow for second of the newcomers roundtable.