Anyone with exposure to the gambling industry is aware slots have always been and perhaps will always be the backbone of casino games. In fact, anyone who has been to Las Vegas for a visit would be able to make this observation just as well.
Seeing as slots are such an integral part of the gambling industry anatomy, a month ago I spoke with Ashley Sandyford-Sykes, a Totally Gaming Academy trainer in online slots development and he talked on how to make slots irresistible. This week I spoke with Michael Probert of casino games supplier iSoftBet, an expert in the same field with over twelve years of experience in the slots arena.
Rather than discussing the more technical elements of slot development with Probert, we touched on industry trends, expansion into newly regulated European markets and secrets to supplier success. After spending over a decade collectively working for leading industry suppliers such as WagerWorks, Ainsworth, Ballys and now iSoftBet, Probert proved to be a highly informed professional in the journey of slots development from 2005 until today.
“For me, I’ve always been working within the casino part of the industry. The biggest change I think is how it was very much driven by the larger sportsbooks when I first joined, the land based business that’s moved online and over the years its become a lot more casino-relevant business, looking at single verticals”, he shared.
When it comes to innovation in slots over the years, Probert described the developments as an “evolution” as opposed to a “revolution”.
“[Slots are] fundamentally a simple game and its just about creating those subtle changes. If you look at the evolution in slot development it hasn’t changed beyond recognition and a lot of the games that were doing particularly well when I started 12 years ago are still doing quite well because the mechanics of those games are so strong. So its about evolving but not changing the basics of what actually players and gamblers want”, he explained.
In addition to coming up with subtle changes to the fundamental concept of slots, suppliers like iSoftBet must keep on top of the changing demographics and develop new games appropriately.
“With the advent of things like bingo, you’ve got a slightly different demographic- social gaming- you’ve got younger players coming into it. So there’s evolution in how you engage those new players, so that’s been interesting to follow as well”, Probert shared.
2016 proved to be a “transformational” year for iSoftBet, with is expansion into three new European markets, Spain, Portugal and the recently regulated Romanian market. There has been plenty of discussion at industry conferences in 2017 surrounding the smaller regulated European markets and if its worth the hassle to seek a license serve such markets. Probert agrees its a complex decision for suppliers, but the move into Spain, Portugal and Romania was the right one for iSoftBet.
“It is a challenge to decide just how much return on that investment you’re going to get, its difficult depending on the market, there’s extra certification, there’s dev costs, there’s sometimes hosting fees, there’s translations, there’s all sorts, but I think more and more the operators now are in multiple markets, so if you’ve got a good relationship with a key operator- take someone like GVC or Betsson or Hattrick– they want to be in all these territories”, he said.
“Its very difficult as a supplier to say, ‘You know what, I’ll supply you in three quarters of those, but those other ones I’m not interested in’. We try as much as we possibly can- as long as the certification isn’t too onerous- to support as many territories as we can for our partners”, he added.
Despite the challenge of going through numerous certification processes, Probert believes iSoftBet’s territorial flexibility gives them a competitive advantage.
“Lots of suppliers don’t want to go into Croatia or they believe the costs of going into Latvia just aren’t worth the return. Sometimes we’ll make the hit for the short term to hopefully deliver the benefits to the operator and to make the revenue up in the long term”, he shared.
In addition to obtaining certification around Europe, iSoftBet has been making the headlines with announcements of all sorts of new deals and partnerships across the industry. When asked what the secret is to all this deal-making, Probert said it’s a combination of the talent iSoftBet has brought on board over the years and a strong product.
“Well it’s the prolific sales team, obviously [laughs]. We go to a lot of shows, we’ve got great contact with a lot of the operators, I’ve been in the industry a long time and the people I work with have been in the industry a long time. We make good games and we’re making better games. We brought the right people on to take us into a lot of key new markets, we’re certified in a lot of regulated markets which a lot of suppliers aren’t”, he said.
“On top of that, we offer an Aggregation Platform, so as well as iSoftBet games, to integrate with us with a one-time integration, you’ll get access to 30 suppliers and that’s a huge benefit for operators that don’t have the time or the resource to integrate third party content. That really helps us get our foot in the door”, he added.