If you’re like me you might have thought that the difference between virtual sports products and live sports was about as large as the one that exists between dry humping and…well, do we really have to paint you a picture. The image you probably have in your mind is something akin to a ZX Spectrum from the early 90s, which wouldn’t be awful but if you’re betting on it you need realism above all else.
Thankfully it’s nothing like the little analogy above, and one company that we were lucky enough to talk to on a brisk London afternoon was the Inspired Gaming Group. Operating out of a modest office in the centre of London only minutes from Bodog’s own HQ, Inspired is one of the big dawgs when it comes to virtual sports.
With casino gaming, server based gaming (SBG), bingo, and wide area gaming, sport is far from their only area of expertise but the feeling is that this is an impressive part of their portfolio.
Luckily, three members of the team, Ian Adams, Nick Gardiner, and Ian Fiddeman had some time to spare away from their frantic preparations for January’s ICE show – which the tablog will be covering – to give us an insight into what goes into making and developing their vast cabinet of products.
Commercial Director for Virtual, Nick Gardiner, explained that they were one of the company’s that profited from the foot-and-mouth crisis back in the early part of the last decade. As horses everywhere were being kept from the plush surfaces at racecourses around the country, there came the inspiration for a way to manipulate this crisis. Nothing like being in the right place, eh!
No one was able to bet on horses or dogs during this crisis meaning the idea for virtual racing was here. It’s developed from those humble beginnings and now enjoys success across a growing number of European countries.
The product range has grown to include virtual football, speedway, motor racing, and numbers games with new developments continually being thought out, as Business Development Manager for Virtual, Ian Adams explained.
“We’re currently in the middle of developing virtual tennis and trotting. Tennis is currently at the mid-stage of development, and when you add commentary, and grunting it becomes a very realistic betting proposition.”
After watching a video of what’s like a cross between watching Wimbledon on TV and the Virtua Tennis series of games, it makes you wonder how they manage it.
“Nowadays we’re able to film a live environment and drop a virtual aspect into, therefore giving another level to the realism and betting potential.”
The best example of this is their football product set against the backdrop of Stoke City’s Britannia Stadium, and used in shops around the country. For obvious reasons, Bet365 have the monopoly of Stoke’s stadium online, but Gardiner explained that there would be nothing stopping Bwin using Real Madrid’s Santiago Bernabeu stadium. Apart from the graphics though, what sets Inspired apart from other competitors in the industry?
“The key thing apart from the quality of graphics, which is good if not better than the rest, is the diversity of our product range,” said Gardiner. “We’ll go out and look at the market and develop what we think will work best in that territory. The amount of revenue that we generate for our customers outstrips the other companies, and in addition to the cabinets themselves, this marks us out.”
This is certainly their thinking with another product in development, virtual trotting. First hearing it I wondered whether they had some product in development involving the racing of pigs in a mud-filled field, but alas it has nothing to do with animals of the porky variety.
As for the cabinets themselves, as an offering that you can expect to see down your local branch of any number of betting shops you might think that you’ve stumbled into the wrong establishment. There are the men with their cans of beers but the plush new HD display machine is not supposed to be there. It’s one of Inspired’s best sellers and is why they are so successful in this sector.
Leaving the building you feel like you’ve seen what sports might be like come the year 2050 and there’s no grass left to play on. As for now though, it will remain in the shadows unless we suffer a second Ice Age. They can but hope!