The move signifies an increased reliance on technology and the internet with the system designed to provide users with a more personalised game offering. Rather than the terminals being standalone, they are now connected to the cloud which uses player behaviour and preference to show the games that are more likely to engage customers more.
To online operators this seems like quite an obvious way of offering electronic games and some may be surprised that it hasn’t been done before. The fact that it is being done now is a big deal for many of the land based casino operators around the world and with IGT leading the way, the chance is that other casino brands will soon get in on the act.
From a logical standpoint, it would certainly make sense for them too. As Simon Beacham, head of electronic gaming at Grosvenor Casinos, explained in a press release announcing the launch, there are many benefits for the player.
“Through our IGT Cloud we now have the ability to evaluate the performance of games and quickly offer the best and newest IGT game,” he explained.
But while it’s undoubtedly a big deal for land based casinos, it’s possible that there could be a knock on effect for online gambling operators. But what opportunities do cloud computing give rise to for the iGaming industry?
Having been around for some time, most should be familiar with cloud computing. Even if you’re not, the chances are that you’ve used a product which is based on the cloud. The likes of Gmail, Dropbox, Spotify and Evernote are all cloud products in that they, and the data within them, can be accessed from anywhere, assuming there’s some form of connection (usually to the internet).
These days the cloud is a bit of a buzz-phrase as the processes that it consists of have been around for some time. According to those who are much more IT savvy than most in the iGaming industry, this is the year of the cloud with many firms starting to wake up and realise the benefit of increased agility that is offered by cloud computing.
One reason for this expected boom in cloud use is the arrival of 4G networks with the consumer expectation for high quality streams being much greater. User expectations for a live dealer stream, for example, will be a crystal clear picture with no delays and the cloud enables this.
The use of big data (yet another buzz-phrase) ties in closely with cloud computing as well as it reduces the stress on the service provider and creates a much slicker experience for the user. This is thought to be such as big deal that by 2015 the big data and technology services market is predicted to be worth around $23.5 billion.
Bringing it back to iGaming, big data can be used to create better experiences all over the place. Large network progressive jackpots, real-time tournaments and digestible sports statistics are just some of the ways in which operators will be able to attract and engage with more users.
When it comes to casinos it’s the integration of online and offline experiences where cloud computing could provide the biggest benefit. We’ve already seen the likes of the Hippodrome Casino in London attempt this but operators are yet to really capitalise on these opportunities.
This is chiefly because of the legislative situations in the US and Asia where most land-based casino companies place most of their focus. In a way this leaves the UK to be a guinea pig of sorts.
With a solid land based presence and an increasingly impressive online offering, Grosvenor could be in a good position to champion the integration of online and land based products. However, they’re not the only ones with the resources to give it a good go. Genting and even the likes of London Clubs International have opportunities to provide what could be considered a seamless experience to their customers.
Away from the casinos, bookmakers such as Ladbrokes and William Hill have made some attempts to encourage cross platform play for their customers. Ladbrokes’ Odds On! rewards card was one attempt at developing brand loyalty and we can expect to see many more from Hills now that they’ve gained complete control of William Hill Online.
From a logical standpoint it would appear that being able to offer a truly seamless online and offline offering will provide a huge boost to operators. The rise of cloud computing and big data is likely to play a part in this and in the meantime it’s already helping land based operators provide a service more akin to an online offering.