Relax Gaming chief product officer Simon Hammon explains why suppliers should strive for quality.
The online gambling market is flooded with content, making it progressively difficult for new game releases to cut through the noise and gain traction with players.
There is a huge volume of titles being churned out each month, reducing the shelf life of online games and saturating the market with imitations. As prominent positions are continuously updated online, suppliers now face the challenge of ensuring that their content is not relegated to the back benches to be lost amongst pages upon pages of bygone titles. The answer, we believe, is prioritising quality and innovation over quantity and imitation.
Although volume is of course important, developers should not lose sight of standards. With the intensifying competitive nature within the sector, it has become increasingly common for suppliers – particularly those with large market shares – to focus on achieving a quick-fire rate of releases rather than investing time in achieving the highest possible standard for their games.
However, if the result is an endless churn of subpar content, then what is the benefit - not only to the supplier themselves, but also to the industry as a whole? A great deal can be gained from slowing down, as dedication to ticking all the boxes throughout the entire creative process will ensure production of a best-in-class, quality product that will result in long term player engagement.
A pressing consequence of the quantity-focused strategy is the increase of skinning – where developers take the mechanics, maths and features of a successful title and repackage it in their own theme to feign originality. As an industry, it has long been common practice to build on tried and tested games in hope that the new release will generate equal success. This is currently happening to such an extent whereby entire business models are built on the principle.
Nevertheless, there is a distinct difference between taking inspiration from what already exists and pure imitation. Simply copying and pasting a game’s fundamentals for a quick route to market without an attempt to add an individual flare is of no benefit to anyone. When industry leaders begin to employ such imitation tactics against smaller competitors, it raises a question of ethics.
Developing new mechanics obviously comes with risk and it does not always make sense to invest in experimental feature concepts with every release if they have no proven track record of success. At the same time, we don’t want to be brandished as an industry that is shy to experiment, innovate and embrace creativity. Players will naturally opt for a game that feels familiar to them both in terms of theme and gameplay, so the trick is to ensure that new features are both easy to understand and also thrilling, thereby capturing the player’s imagination.
For the suppliers who dare to push boundaries within the industry – whether in game development, content delivery or business approach – being different can reap huge rewards. Player preferences will evolve, and the next generation of audiences will bring new demands. If a supplier’s response is to blindly copy the risk takers, then they will fall behind. Innovation on market trends is integral for suppliers looking to set themselves apart.
Marketing is a key factor for any game which has taken risks, especially given the reduction in visibility periods on operator websites. The industry has made progress in creating a more equal marketplace by moving away from exclusive tabs. This provides customers with more choice and gives greater opportunity to smaller studios. But in opening to greater competition, quality content can risk not reaching its full potential simply because it is not seen for long enough for players to familiarise themselves with the gameplay.
To gain the appropriate push or spend to enhance visibility, content needs to resonate with operators and customers. The key to achieving this lies in finding a balancing between investment in quality, mechanics, smart business decisions, relationships and remaining in tune with player appetite.
Ultimately, the quality proposition and commitment to innovation must be high on the agenda, whether you’re a new studio trying to build a following, or a large supplier trying to maintain your market share.
This particular strategy is also relevant for platform services. It is no longer good enough to have a first-rate portfolio of games if gaining access to it causes nothing but a headache for partners. Back-end innovation is as imperative to differentiation as the front-end offering, and it is the nimbler providers that are leading the way in this regard.
Providing a seamless and efficient integration process has become a core demand of many operators, however, it is also one that larger suppliers - who are burdened by legacy systems that do not lend well to real-time processes - have struggled to meet. Providing a client area that is easy to navigate, reliable, and flexible in business approach has now become a key element to securing new partners. Maintaining excellent account management services and being open with customers will then help strengthen those business relationships further.
In these challenging times, it is pivotal that the industry does not provoke a race to the bottom in terms of business practices. Our answer is a high-quality product, regular releases that prioritise quality and innovative feature drops that challenge the market offering.
Setting yourself apart as a supplier requires a recognition of these factors, as well as investment in making it easier for operators to access seamless, premium content.