Cutting through the noise of game launches: Affiliate focus
iGamingBusiness.com has partnered with innovative marketing platform First Look Games as it looks to provide greater exposure for games developers in an intensely competitive market. Tom Galanis, co-founder of First Look Games, introduces the new cooperation with an exploration of the role of the affiliate in game release cycles
The slots market is becoming increasingly competitive and crowded. With hundreds of studios regularly releasing games, it is increasingly difficult for stakeholders to ensure news of launches reaches its audience, and to optimise the collective efforts and investment that go in to this process.
Affiliates play a vital role in the launch marketing of new slots, yet we actually hear very little from them about what works, what doesn’t work, and what their expectations are when it comes to marketing these games effectively.
For Chris Taylor of UK-facing casino portal Online-Slot.co.uk, tried-and-tested methods are the order of the day when it comes to deciding which provider’s games to promote. However, he adds, other factors such as high volatility can be key drivers of traffic for many review sites.
“When it comes to slots, the releases from the big providers such as Playtech, Net Entertainment and Play‘n GO get more exposure due to players recognising their previous work,” Taylor explains. “On the other hand, if a slot is high variance, looks great or is branded, it will be prioritised and pushed accordingly.
“I tend to favour highly volatile slots as these tend to become a mission for players to hit the potential big payouts. Slots like Big Time Gaming’s Bonanza, NetEnt’s Dead or Alive and Microgaming’s Immortal Romance have achieved cult status due to the big wins possible so [they] stand the test of time and are regularly played by avid slot players.”
Former slots affiliate Ian Sims, now founder of affiliate compliance platform Rightlander, agrees that recognition can be a powerful factor.
“I really like games that come from a land-based environment because they already have a following, and my marketing was aimed mainly at experienced players rather than newbies,” Sims says.
A successful casino affiliate recognises what captivates players in a slot game and it is this captivation that drives repeat play and for them - as much as for operators and game developers - incremental earning potential.
A game’s success hinges on multiple elements coming together. In the age of tightening margins, it is no easy feat ensuring that each and every stakeholder is not only equipped to take the necessary steps, but is sufficiently incentivised to do so.
Recently a select group of affiliates, including Catena Media’s Askgamblers.com, has sought to charge game developers for reviewing their content, in addition to any commercial arrangement in place with the operator which receives the outbound click.
Coupled with NetEnt’s recent foray into the affiliate space and Cherry AB’s ownership of
Yggdrasil, Cherry, ComeOn and Game Lounge, you now have companies working as developers, operators and affiliates, potentially unbalancing the established ecosystem. This, in turn, could see developers prioritise internal affiliate assets over third parties.
ComeOn Connect head of affiliates Katy Stafford says that developers are already slow to provide affiliates with product information. She argues that new tools that act as a central source for game assets such as video content, such as First Look Games, will enable affiliates to create “really amazing” game pages.
“At the end of the day, that's what we are selling [the games] so if we can ensure that affiliates are properly equipped and players are educated then that can only be a good thing,” Stafford adds.
Affiliate managers are another stakeholder often omitted from game launch communications, siloed away from casino management briefings. This explains the frustration felt by many game developers who hold no commercial or communicative ties to affiliates.
Kevin Reid, CCO at 1x2 Network, says that this sort of poor stakeholder communication leads to silly mistakes being made.
“I find it baffling how there are still some affiliates, in spite of the excellent lengths they go to in order to review our games, subsequently fail to link that game to a casino that’s running it,” he says. “Players are then getting lost at the beginning of the funnel”.
Such mistakes may appear farcical, but there is the spectre of compliance requirements increasingly governing all stakeholders when it comes to slot game marketing.
NetEnt became one of the first game developers to feel the heat from the Advertising Standards Authority in the UK in April. This saw the watchdog deploy avatars mimicking the browsing behaviour of children as part of its ongoing crackdown on minors being exposed to gambling ads.
Rightlander’s Sims believes this is a vital area for stakeholders to navigate if they are to affiliate marketing partners comply with regulations across various markets
He points to the impending age verification guidelines in the Great Britain Gambling Commission’s Licensing Conditions and Codes of Practice, due to come in to force on 7 May, which may well spell trouble for affiliates serving demo play versions of games.
“The whole field of regulation regarding the Under 18 appeal is a bit of a minefield with so much open to interpretation,” Sims explains. “The cessation of the supply of free-to-play versions of games from operators will also have an impact but I actually understand why this rule is coming in and can see the logic.”
As yet, it is not clear whether a single UK operator or licensed game developer has issued clear guidelines to affiliates regarding use of free-to-play games. This represents a crucial moment for all of the stakeholders involved in the promotion of new games to to ensure clear and effective communication on the matter.
About First Look Games
First Look Games establishes a link between game developers and affiliates, providing game information and content about latest releases and full game libraries before anybody else. First Look Games enables affiliate readers to download Affiliate Packs - full of game assets and information - for a variety of the games featured here to enhance reviews and to build content.