08 Mar 2021

Ampersand speakeasy summary: Online casino design and development – is quantity winning over quality?

Ewa Bakun

15 Ampersand members met on 20 January to discuss the trend towards the cannibalisation of casino games as more and more titles get released and the peak game performance gets shortened.  

 

While a few years ago, an operator would release perhaps 3-4 titles per month, this has now increased considerably with one operator releasing 26 titles in 26 days. This is catastrophic potentially for the game suppliers.  

 

While this is not an issue yet for operators or players, it causes the level of cannibalisation of games, where it is no longer as feasible to invest in game development, instead re-skins of games become more popular and a more viable route to frequent game releases. This changes the economics for third party developers and ultimately will impact negatively on innovation due to the time spent on game development. Long-term operators and players will suffer too. 

 

Recent analysis by Leander Games has shown that the peak performance of games has dropped over the last few years from months to two weeks only. That is due to 20—30 titles being released weekly against only 3-4 a few years ago. While cost of game development has been reduced without impacting the build quality, what’s suffered is the polishing and refining time to get the balance and the feel of the games – these have been reduced drastically, which impacts the quality.  

 

While players have a lot more games to play now, they are not becoming loyal to the games they play. With so many titles being released daily/weekly, players struggle to develop preferences for particular games. Each time they log in, there is a plethora of new games to try, leaving them little time to enjoy one title long enough to become more loyal to it.  

 

Some operators (e.g. Bet365) add a storyline to game releases which helps increase stickiness and develop relationship between players and new games introduced.  

 

When exploring games’ stickiness, question about users have been raised: what do we know about the actual users/players that the games are being developed for? how important is it to know the customer when developing games? Lots of data gets captured on players to view their session activity, when they come in, when and how often they spin, when they leave and come back to play a game; that data is used to develop new games. 

 

Another trend discussed is game mechanics becoming a genre in itself (e.g. megaways as a category).  

 

Markets such as US might be a little bit slower in the introduction of new games due to the certification process. Costs are also much higher to develop games.  

 

Finally, the topic of free to play games was discussed. Often used as a marketing tool (although a business on its own generating $6bn), free to play games generally get published on separate portals than real money games and indeed app stores require that from their compliance perspective.  

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