Like technology, iGaming innovations are gaining speed, with new products being offered at casinos on a regular basis. Canadian Gaming Business recently asked senior executives from leading gaming companies about the growing role digital gaming has on their organization, and on the gaming industry as a whole. Here’s what they had to say.
Kathleen McLaughlin, Vice President of Product Management and Marketing, NOVOMATIC Americas
David Flinn, Regional Vice President, Canada, IGT
Matt Davey, Group Chief Executive, SG Digital
What are some of the biggest challenges facing the digital gaming industry and how is your organization positioning itself to best deal with these challenges?
Kathleen McLaughlin: Competition continues to increase. Casinos are looking for ways to gain a digital edge. Delivering great games is important, but it isn’t enough. The games and digital site must be supported by a well thought out promotional infrastructure and an evolving entertainment functionality. It must have complete collaboration and cooperation amongst all areas, both internally and externally, with clear, achievable outcomes. For NOVOMATIC and Greentube Entertainment Solutions, this means providing new, cool gamification features as well as other cutting-edge concepts and working with the organizational experts within each partner company to define success. Greentube is a pioneer in the development of state-of-the-art gaming. Working with them is opening up huge new opportunities for both of us.
The past few years have had rapid growth in the digital space. We think 2019 will be another outstanding year for Greentube. Players are so familiar with their mobile devices that playing games on them is a given. [This] allows content creators to push game development boundaries and create unique experiences that entertain players in a new way.
David Flinn: One of the biggest challenges facing the digital gaming industry is the often fragmented experience that players encounter across channels. In an ideal situation, players could enjoy their favourite games in a casino, on a mobile device or online, and have a seamless experience that accounts for game progress and earned rewards across all three platforms. Similarly, operators would benefit from this ‘total view of the player,’ and would be positioned to establish more robust and personalized loyalty programs based on this view.
To overcome this challenge, IGT is working closely with our customers to develop and implement solutions that can deliver a more cohesive experience. Our omni-channel Powerbucks product, where there is shared jackpot liquidity across platforms, is an ideal example of meaningful progress in this area.
Matt Davey: The biggest challenge is access to top talent to keep up with the demands of our evolving market. We’re keen on maintaining high levels of innovation across the business, sharing knowledge internally as well as recruiting those at the forefront of their field. While we have dedicated teams for different branches of our business—sports, casino, content, etc.—we‘re structured to ensure those teams are in constant communication as they learn new technology, development and processes to support our customers across the globe.
Keeping up with changing trends always presents a challenge in gaming, whether it’s digital or land-based. It’s critical to stay on top of rapidly changing technology and ever-evolving players. Our customers trust us to stay ahead of the curve.
Where do you see the greatest growth opportunities for digital gaming in 2018 and beyond?
KM: Players know what they want and our team is keenly aware and anticipates those needs to meet the constantly changing expectations. We are poised and have the resources to quickly adapt to change. The greatest growth potential is in agile, quick, intelligent adaptation to customer trends.
MD: This one comes twofold. First, you have the recent repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Betting Act (PASPA) in the United States, which opens up opportunity for our sportsbook.
Second, content and how it’s distributed/consumed will be a key growth factor both in 2018 and in the years to come. Content is a key component to any gaming business, and everyone has their own design and development processes. There’s constant innovation with focus on the presentation. How can we deliver the maximum amount of content to the widest range of players? For us, our Open Gaming System (OGS) positions us for massive growth in this area by allowing us to feature incredible content from our nine internal development studios and top-notch third-party providers. For operators, the OGS solution provides instant access to a huge, diverse game library that keeps players interested and adds new games on a regular basis.
How must gaming organizations continue to evolve in order to address changing demographics and customer preferences?
KM: Consumers are more “game intelligent” and know what they want. There are so many choices that boring games won’t do much in our market. Players are looking for increasing levels of entertainment and gratification from their digital gaming experience. We have the dedication of teams of people and resources to anticipate and realize customer preferences quickly.
DF: Staying aligned with our customers and their players’ changing demands and preferences is fundamental to IGT’s ideation strategy. Today’s consumers expect digital and mobile options for nearly all aspects of their lives, so it’s incumbent upon IGT as a supplier to develop solutions that meet these expectations within the context of gaming. IGT’s Cardless Connect is an example of a mobile solution that enhances the land-based casino environment and gives players a digital option for managing their loyalty experiences on a mobile device.
MD: As the digital gaming audience becomes more global, it’s key to reflect that on the supplier side. A global market provides vast opportunities to game, content, and platform creators, but they have to be prepared to meet the demand with focused content and high-quality product offerings.
Expanding our presence in key offices around the world, including opening new development centers in Europe and expanded presence in our North American offices, is essential to the success of our customers and their players.
On the product side, it’s a matter of constant adaptation to player needs. Suppliers must be smart as they plan out roadmaps. When technological changes occur, leaning into the curve can be extraordinarily beneficial. To give customers and players what they want is the definition of success, and only those who can maximize their potential through innovation and adaptation will succeed in the iGaming industry.
What general digital gaming trends can casino operators leverage to increase traffic?
KM: We know that successful gamification translates and drives use in the social and digital ‘free’ world. Rewarding players throughout the branded digital experience and not just within the game is critical. Using recognition and not just credits or points is the secret sauce. Knowing how to evoke an emotional response and reaction using interesting variations to drive play is what we want.
DF: One of the greatest resources that our customers have available to them is data – a scenario that is familiar to many digital businesses. Appropriately leveraging and understanding player insights and business analytics has proven to help countless IGT customers achieve important KPIs.
The IGT Advantage casino management system is a tremendous tool for optimizing the content within land-based and digital casinos, and can help our customers develop highly-personalized promotions and world-class patron loyalty programs.
MD: A polished game developed along with focused marketing to both the customer and the player can increase traffic dramatically. Keeping players engaged is a constant challenge, and operators should seek out content that will encourage players to explore the vast pool of games available to them.
What kind of impact will new technology, the internet and social media continue to have on the development of digital gaming?
KM: They key is to constantly challenge and create new entertainment solutions for players. It requires an ongoing dialogue with casinos and our teams to leverage our creative game and technology expertise which allows us to provide evolving, innovative, WOW! gaming moments. A major part of that is understanding each other’s expectations and understanding what our technology teams and marketing teams can do together to meet our digital gaming experience potential.
None of the digital growth is slowing down. We are speeding ahead to continue to offer our most compelling options to players to be connected to their entertainment experience of choice by their device of choice. A major part of this is creating a relationship and fantastic experience on their PC or mobile device which they have never had before and to continue to innovate on those platforms and hone the game play experience.
DF: The introduction of new technology and innovations – both gradual and disruptive – will be essential for the growth of digital gaming. I believe that the more closely the live casino and mobile casino environments are aligned, the more growth we’ll see. For example, the launch of IGT’s Powerbucks in Canada has injected a new sense of jackpot excitement for online and mobile slot players. The game delivers life-changing jackpots at any bet level; a reward that was previously only seen in land-based casinos. As a result, the Powerbucks product has a strong performance history in multiple provinces. Similarly, our customers at BCLC deployed Live Dealer, a technology that enables online players to play a “real” table game over a streaming video on BCLC’s PlayNow.com.
MD: The digital landscape shifts continuously; this will always impact the digital gaming space. At SG Digital, we focus on updating our products to work seamlessly with modern technology while looking to the future as we create new products and iterate on our portfolio.
Players are connected 24/7, and we must be, too. Staying on top of current trends while enabling the production and distribution of market leading content is key in the industry.