One of the knottier problems posed by the trend towards consolidation within the online gambling sector is that, particularly when it comes to games, the drive towards greater centralisation counts against the need for greater variety when it comes to the offering placed in front of the consumer. One of the companies facing this challenge is Blueprint Gaming which is part of the huge German gaming conglomerate Gauselmann.
With the company recently announced a deal recently with Gamesys, TotallyGaming.com caught up with Blueprint boss Matt Cole to discuss how his company is facing up to the innovation challenge and hears why he thinks with the “right degree of independence”, his company can answer the need for innovation at scale.
Totally Gaming: Is there enough innovation in games provision? Are developers forced towards more me-too content generally?
Matt Cole: I think the current level of innovation in games design is very high. Two or three years ago the online sector looked to the US casino manufacturers for inspiration, but the combination of the competitive landscape and rapid development cycle meant that online suppliers were forced to innovate. They realised they could learn more quickly from game releases and therefore evolve and refine games more quickly than their land-based counterparts. Where I believe the market is suffering – other than the very top handful of games – is that the shelf life is now decreasing as volumes of released titles have increased rapidly. This trend leads to a race to develop a greater volume of games, so the quality suffers. It is therefore a vicious cycle. Suppliers and operators should both work more strategically. Give game titles a chance to stick and in turn players the opportunity to really engage with the games rather than graze.
Totally Gaming: How do you think the experience will be altered or transformed by upcoming tech developments?
MC: From a pure tech point of view, HTML5 has surpassed expectations, and if you look at our recent releases in HTML5, such as King Kong Cash or TED, these are amongst the richest multi-bonus games using the technology. The delivery can and will be improved further and over the next twelve months we will be refining the customer experience, including improving load times and portrait displays.
Totally Gaming: Do you think data has been properly applied in games to date? Do you see enough operator data to help with innovating on your games?
MC: Sometimes the market is moving so quickly that we can all be guilty of not analysing our own data. I think as growth in more mature markets becomes harder to achieve, both operators and suppliers need to take a step back and look beyond the very simple headline figures on game performance. On the development side, we are looking much more closely at a full set of metrics and feeding these back into the maths and design teams to improve future games, tailoring existing titles and recommending some by region or market segment based on current performance. In the same sense, more forward-looking operators are starting to road test games before promotion and full release, rather than exposing unproven product to an entire player base. Such initiatives may have been marginal a few years ago, as markets mature small differences will become increasingly important.
Totally Gaming: How has consolidation affected the games provision sector? How do you see it playing out in the future? Do you see more operates looking to bring games developers in-house?
MC: The trend of in-house development is largely a UK phenomenon and when things are going well, in-house content is applauded as a key factor. However, it is hard to really define the contribution to success of in-house games that perform through heavy operator focus. Differentiation is undoubtedly important and as many operators use common platforms, games rather than other CRM functionalities have been the easiest place to make that point of difference. When you look at the top ten games across all operators you don’t see many surprises, with them being delivered by three or four suppliers. Players are looking for both familiarity and quality. Operators that have done well with in-house content are those that have used it to really innovate, develop niche products or fill a void such as omni-channel.
Totally Gaming: How does being a part of a larger entity affect things for Blueprint?
MC: The sector has transformed over the past three years, particularly in terms of regulation, technology and product. Being part of a larger, long-term and robust group such as the Gauselmann Group gives the necessary support to be able to scale in key areas. Crucially though, game developers need to remain agile and having the ability to react quickly to trends is central to what we do. In that respect, Gauselmann let the business run with the right degree of independence.