Mobile gambling has been around since as early as 2004 when customers’ handsets offered, at the very best, GPRS internet access and WAP was the only thing open to most. The first iPhone, which came out in 2007, didn’t even cause that much of a stir and it wasn’t until the 2010 World Cup, which saw sports book revenue increase by 400 percent, that many started to take mobile seriously.
Around the time the first iPhone was released coin-op machine specialists Intouch Games decided they wanted a piece of the mobile gambling pie and mFortune was born.
Licensed by the UK Gambling Commission the firm has become, by their own admission, a “leader in mobile gaming” and to date has around 2.3 million players across its casino, bingo and poker products. Anyone can say they’re a leader though, so why is mFortune ahead of the curve?
“To answer this question first we should look at our portfolio of games. We have the most successful mobile bingo game with more than 45,000 unique active players. We have the only poker game in the world that can be played from any mobile handset, which despite being only 15 months old has a player base of 23,000 players. We have 11 unique slots and casino games and a total of 2.3 million players,” Victor Stinga, the firm’s CEO told CalvinAyre.com.
Some of the statements coming out of mFortune are certainly bold and they make a big play of their awards from mGaming Awards and other industry awards. It’s when you look at the numbers involved, you start to realize this is pretty bloody impressive for a firm from a humble market town in the West Midlands. In September alone, the company paid out some £24million to players. It compares favorably when you put it up against PartyCasino’s mobile gross gaming revenue of just under €3million for all of 2011.
The second strand to their claims of market leadership stem from what Stinga calls their “attitude”. It comes from having a UK licence that ensures their customers feel safe thanks to the firm taking safety, confidentiality and trust seriously. Having the UK licence could also be key when the government finalizes plans for a point of consumption tax towards the end of 2014.
Another reason for the success of the company is a first mover advantage that meant they had to develop their own casino product in-house. It means no fees to pay the likes of Microgaming or Playtech to develop for them and it was something that was almost forced upon them from the outset.
“When mFortune launched in 2007, there wasn’t any mobile solution that could satisfy our needs. Microgaming nor Playtech had a mobile product at that time and mobile was still an exotic market, Java phones being mainstream,” Stinga explained. “We’ve somehow sensed the rise of the mobile and the fact that we already had a very talented technical team, (it) led to an easy call for us to start building our own games. This early entrance on the mobile market helped us have a big advantage and take a huge leap when mobile gaming became more mainstream; we knew what to do and how to do it.”
Whilst the numbers are impressive it is hard not to worry that their brand might not be strong enough when pitted against various other firms that offer a mobile casino as part of a wider selection. mFortune isn’t, for example, likely to have enough behind them to beat out competition from bwin.party brands…that is unless they move into a market ten times more lucrative than Europe – Asia.
“It would be hard for someone to say that America isn’t of any interest. If we have a look at the U.S. market, we see the numbers speaking for themselves: more than 330 million subscribers, with smartphone penetration just breaking the 50% barrier a few months ago,” Stinga said when asked of their future plans. “However, we do have a major problem which is legislation and the only thing we can do for now is wait. Asia is still rising and even (though) our main focus is the UK and the European market, we do keep a close eye on it.”
Being an almost exclusively mobile firm that has a huge focus on the UK means that 4G connectivity, launched for the first time in the British Isles last week, is something that Stinga admits is huge for them.
“We have waited for a long time for 4G to open up and we are happy we are finally seeing this. I think 4G will expand the poker market and we will see more casual players moving from Desktop to mobile. In the same time, it will allow us to create games that have even a higher quality, as the problem with the size of a game will diminish. I repeat a lot quality as this is one of the main concerns we have at mFortune,” he said.
With many other firms coming online with mobile casino solutions the coming two to three years will be crucial for mFortune – especially with the UK Gambling Commission changes. They are undoubtedly a big player now but as we know the mobile industry moves fast and if they don’t continue the hard work another firm will only be too happy to take their place.