Cutting through to the US player

11 September 2019

Nik Robinson is CEO at Big Time Gaming. He has been at the forefront of the industrysince 1996 when he founded New Tech Media, which was sold to News Corp and subsequently merged with Orbis to become Openbet.

In light of Big Time Gaming’s recent launch in the New Jersey igaming market, iGaming Business spoke to Nik Robinson, CEO at BTG, to discuss the slots landscape in the US market.

BTG has launched in the market with its games going live on Golden Nugget’s online casino via Scientific Games’ Open Gaming System (OGS), representing an expansion of a partnership that has seen the developer’s titles become some of the best performing on the platform.

While key learnings from Europe and other markets can be shared across to the US, the fact remains that the market there must be considered independently, and strategies should consider the unique factors to the region. This, Robinson explains, is a lesson that he has incorporated into the company’s strategy. “As we enter any new market, we know that slow and steady wins the race. Indeed the US market is nascent, players seem to be bound to games they feel most familiar with.”

As a result of this, he says, some strictly online brands are struggling to cut through in the US: “Players will be looking out for land-based staples such as Cleopatra and 88 Fortunes and may not give an established European provider a second look. “From our standpoint the land-based slots are apples and the lion’s share of European market slots are oranges; roughly the same shape but with a different flavour. At Big Time Gaming, we think players need to be more involved as we’re not just competing with other providers, we’re competing for players’ time against everything the internet has to offer.”

Licensing Megaways

The Megaways mechanic is a random reel modifier system that sees any given spin produce a different number of symbols across the reels. It is licensed in the US via Scientific Games.

Some of BTG’s recent success stories, such as Raging Rhino and 88 Fortunes, have been built under licence by Scientific Games. Both will be launching in the US over the coming months and Robinson is bullish about their prospects. “These titles alone, even if Bonanza is a slow poke, will give Megaways instant recognition,” he says.

Robinson feels that the bigger picture of this development stems from the significance of the mechanic itself, calling it the “true evolution of slot machines”. “If we look at slot machines,” he continues, “we had almost nine decades of three-line slots before they evolved to single-line five- reel AWP club slots in the 1970s to eventual 20-line five-reel video slots in the late nineties, to 3x5 243 ways and eventually up to 4,096 ways in the noughties and then nothing else significant happened.”

Strategising slots in the US

In the US, high volatility games aren’t as appealing as in other markets, Robinson says, but this is something he is looking to change with the introduction of the Megaways mechanic: “Players are used to small wins and small play time. We are bringing the exact opposite to the market – big wins and extended play time – with the chance of life-changing wins, even with small stake spins.”

The scene for slots streamers or lack thereof, from Robinson’s perspective, is perhaps also impacted by the prevalence of low volatility slots currently available in the market. This is another element that he expects the introduction of Megaways will change: “Megaways games are almost as much fun to watch as they are to play. Streamers will come and their viewer bases will grow, and I have no doubt that US slot streaming will become the biggest and most active on Twitch, as players begin to look up Megaways games and see them being streamed and organically begin streaming for themselves.”

Aside from this, Robinson says leveraging well- known brands as acquisition and engagement tools is a key strategy for BTG: “We’re bringing a range of highly recognisable brands such as Who Wants to Be a Millionaire, and we’ve just signed the US’ biggest reality TV show for launch in the New Year. We’ll also be bringing arguably the biggest game brand in the word to life with a Megaways twist at the end of the year.

“Big brands bolster our own products and make them brands in their own right – Bonanza Megaways is practically a household name. They are definitely a must-have, especially when you’re entering a market where you have next to no brand identity.”

While Robinson feels that the Megaways mechanic definitely represents an exciting development to slots as a whole and specifically to the US market, he is all too aware that, as with all forms of evolution, “life cycles shorten and in some cases have an end”. To combat this, he says BTG are always striving to bring new mechanics into play, whether it’s subtle mechanics as evidenced in Feature Drop or game-changing as with Megaways.

“The only real way to predict the future is to build it, and that’s what BTG labs are doing every day. We’re certainly not resting on our laurels – we have a vast volume of Megaways games licensed in Europe and Megaways output shows no signs of slowing. We have some amazing announcements to make on that front but for now, I need to remain tight-lipped!”