Levelling the playing field


Margarita Malysheva, Marketing Director at Mascot Gaming, says that online gambling operators should look to partner with start-up game studios to ensure their lobbies remain stocked during the coming months.

Online gambling operators are facing an uncertain and undoubtedly tough year ahead as the impact of the global pandemic continues to be felt by all stakeholders. 

The land-based sector has been hit particularly hard with casinos being forced to close their doors with no signs of re-opening any time soon. 

This has led some to suggest the online gambling sector may benefit as a result, but challenges unique to iGaming operators are being faced and will have to be overcome. 

Of course, it is also vital that operators do not take advantage of the situation and that responsible gambling messaging and processes are reinforced at every available opportunity. 

But it is not just operators that have hurdles to clear – online casino game developers are having to quickly adapt to new ways of working and for some this is impacting development and launches. 

This in turn is having a knock-on effect to operators, who are keen to integrate and launch new content in order to keep players entertained and, most importantly, retained. 

Below, I look at the challenges facing slot developers in more detail and discuss why small, nimble studios are in the driving seat to help operators over the coming months. 

A mass exodus: 

Just like other organisations and businesses, online slot and casino game developers have had to close their offices and send their workforces home for the foreseeable future. 

This is a huge undertaking, especially for large developers with hundreds and even thousands of people working across several offices and is taking time to complete. 

This is because large-scale developers are not used to remote working and do not have the correct equipment and infrastructure to suddenly facilitate team members working remotely. 

As a result, many are having to divert time and resources away from actually developing and integrating games towards ensuring they are properly set up for home working. 

Smaller, start-up developers on the other hand are used to remote working and often connect talent and experts from different countries via remote working technologies. 

While most will have a small office or two, having team members work from home and from different locations will be perfectly normal. 

This means that smaller developers can keep their production lines active and on schedule, delivering new content to operators on time and without compromise.

The wheels of innovation must keep turning: 

During the coming months, operators are going to lean heavily on game developers to ensure they have a steady stream of new and exciting content to offer to their players. 

Acquisition is going to become increasingly difficult – Spain has already imposed an online gambling advertising ban and I wouldn’t be surprised if others followed suit. 

To drive new player sign-ups and keep active players engaged and entertained, operators will need to boost their game portfolios with never seen before titles from more developers. 

But a quality over quantity approach must be taken, so it is vital that developers continue to push boundaries and come up with new concepts during this time. 

Of course, if developers are tied up with moving employees from office to home, they will not be focussed on creating break-through designs, math and mechanics. 

You also need to consider how larger developers work and the impact the current situation is having on their ability to create quality slots and table games. 

A big team effort: 

The titans of the slot development industry dedicate large teams to each game they build and launch, teams that will be used to collaborating and working together in person. 

Asking these teams to work remotely and at arms-length from one another requires a huge change in processes and procedures and will undoubtedly impact development.

Again, smaller studios will be used to collaborating on games remotely with the current situation doing little to change the way they work.

This means that product roadmaps will remain on schedule while new concepts and innovations can continue to move forwards as planned.   

Rapid integrations: 

The current climate will also likely cause disruptions to planned integrations and this applies to new partnerships between developers and operators as well as extending those already in place. 

Again, this will negatively impact operators looking to add new content to their game lobbies as part of efforts to acquire and retain players over the coming months. 

This is certainly the case for online sportsbook operators who are being forced to pivot their attention towards other gaming verticals amid the global sports blackout. 

These operators will need to bolster their online casino offerings with new quality content quickly, but if developers are suffering setbacks and delays this could prove to be tough. 

Smaller developers, on the other hand, will be used to undertaking integrations remotely and will have more availability to deliver games to new partners. 

What’s more, they are better placed to work closely with their operator partners and deliver the service and product they require now and moving forwards. 

This certainly helps when it comes to ironing out any unexpected issues that may be encountered during the integration process. 

That is not to say that larger studios will not be able to deliver content to operators over the coming months, just that they face additional challenges when it comes to ensuring it is business as usual. 

Level the playing field: 

The current situation really does level the playing field for smaller developers, allowing them to engage with more gambling brands than ever before. 

This also presents an opportunity for operators to add more developers and content to their portfolios by partnering with up and coming studios whose games offer something different. 

One of the biggest challenges small studios face is connecting with operators – particularly the tier one brands – but now there is perhaps a need for operators to open their doors to start-up studios. 

Of course, by doing so operators can ensure their game lobbies remain stocked with new quality content over the coming months, mitigating any potential negative impacts that may be felt. 

The industry must remain responsible: 

While there is undoubtedly an opportunity for both online gambling operators and game developers, it is important that all stakeholders remain responsible during this period of time. 

While safe gaming must always be a priority, it is important to recognise that people now have plenty of time on their hands, but potentially less cash in their pockets. 

While people should be allowed to decide how they want to spend their money, operators and developers must continue to remind players about how to stay in control of their play. 

This really is not about taking advantage of the current situation. 

Instead, it is about leveraging the position of smaller studios to ensure game lobbies remain stocked and operators supported by their studio partners. 

Despite the crisis and the impact it is having around the world, where possible we believe that online casino operators and players should keep calm and play on. 

It is this attitude that will allow the industry to come out of this intact, while still ensuring players are entertained and properly protected at all times.