Disruption in platform provision - what comes next?

20 June 2019

Mark Wollard is business development director at Pragmatic Solutions. His experience spans all forms of gambling and gaming, from online, social casino, land-based and lotteries through to casual gaming. Mark was also chairman of the board at the gaming platform Playzido, where he helped guide the company in business, licensing and corporate strategy. Mark’s role sees him drive business growth across current clients while also looking to onboard new ones.

In the last five to ten years, what operators need from their platforms has changed significantly, to a point where legacy platforms can no longer support businesses seeking to enhance their services and meet the demands of the modern player.

This is the view of Mark Woollard, business development director at Pragmatic Solutions, a platform provider offering a flexible, modular and fully API-based igaming platform.

In a recent interview with iGaming Business, Woollard discussed how the landscape for platform provision has developed in recent years, as well as what the future holds.

Woollard sees the shifting focus towards mobile gaming as one significant change which lead to the need for more flexible platforms. He says: “We’ve reached a stage where operators need to have more control over their business. What we’re seeing is the ongoing demand from operators to have more control over who they integrate with and how quickly.”

Legacy platforms may have been built on the same type of code as more modern platforms, but the way that code has been built means that a lot of them are no longer fit for purpose.

The difference, Woollard says, is that new generation platforms are built with a modular API-based system: “That means that we don't have to go back into the source code to make platform changes and we can move extremely quickly. It’s a new way of building on current technology or building a new platform to deliver on needs.”

Demanding more from modern platforms

Woollard highlights that one of the key capabilities modern platforms need in order to deliver operators the control they need is integrations: “The days where operators would wait for months and months for a new casino vendor or new payment provider to be integrated have gone.”

“Both the mobile switch and the increasing number of integrations possible and operators that are in the market have re-defined platform provision. When I started 6-7 years ago, operators probably had 50-100 games on their website across one tab. Now they have several tabs with hundreds if not thousands of games from hundreds of suppliers. All of these have to run on  one system.”

Providing both parties work together smoothly, Woollard says Pragmatic Solutions has made supporting integrations a top priority: “We can do an integration within three weeks, which is  extremely quick. Quite a few of the new age technology providers are speedy, but we feel like we’re one of the quickest.”

He continues, saying regulatory compliance is another demand on platforms which needs to be carefully considered. Platforms need to be agile and able to move at speed to adapt to any new regulations that come into practice, especially in cases where they come around suddenly.

“As an operator, you can argue and try to get an extension from governing bodies, but new regulations   are typically set in stone, so they’re reliant on having a core platform that allows them to make these changes quickly.”

Finally, he notes solid software as key to any platform, especially with fierce competition from other operators to meet high player expectations.

Forward-facing platform provision

Looking to the future, Woollard notes that new technologies and capabilities will continue to be a focus for operators and players alike.

He says artificial intelligence (AI), for instance, is an interesting consideration: “It’s obviously a bit of a buzzword across many markets at the moment, and I don’t think igaming and the operator space is any different. The processing power of these AI tools means that they’re very interesting for an industry like this where big data is key and there’s multiple platforms running at the same time.”

With the ability to segment and analyse player data much more efficiently than manual processes, Woollard says that many operators are trying to integrate the technology in some way. He adds: “I don’t think it’s something we have figured out how best to use in the igaming space yet, but I definitely think businesses will do very soon.”

Beyond this, Woollard does not expect to see another significant shift such as the mobile era for “at least another 10 years,” however he sees new ways to play as the next disruptor for platform provision.

For instance, he says: “Virtual reality (VR) has been something that’s been toyed with, but I don’t think that will become mainstream until players can sit and play seamlessly without a big headset. If VR becomes something in the future that the masses want to use it, platforms will have to adapt.”

Additionally, he feels that the augmented reality and TV gaming products currently entering the markets are not yet at the stage where they will hit the masses.

“I think in the next 5-10 years we’ll need to keep a close eye on it and consider how platforms can adapt to those systems and how will those systems run. That will be the new mobile.”

At the moment, he says, none of those verticals are quite ready, so the focus should remain on updating the platform you have - building more powerful bonusing tools, segmentation tools, fraud check tools and making everything more automated - potentially with the use of AI.