Content is king in Asia’s slots market

social slots

New ways of delivering a constant stream of leading slots content, both online and off, are helping supercharge a product vertical that has previously struggled to grab the attention of consumers in Asia.

On the land-based side, server-based gaming, a success story of the global street and retail sectors, could transform the slots offering of Asian casinos and help it make headway versus table games.

And online, a new breed of content aggregators is finding new approaches to quickly and seamlessly rolling out fresh games from multiple suppliers.

At its core, a server-based gaming system connects a number of slot machines to a central server.

The benefits of this are multifold. On the content side, it enables operators to remotely deliver and continually update slot content on terminals.

But it can also centralize all manner of functions, including bonusing, player management and even responsible gaming, allowing operators to cut costs, drive efficiencies and ultimately deliver a better user experience.

With Macau’s casinos taking less than five percent of its revenues from slot machines, the approach, which has proved successful for many years in the retail environment, could be game-changing.

“Server-based gaming has proven to be extremely useful as a new form of gaming in new and established gaming markets,” Igor Rus, Director of Systems at software provider Comtrade Gaming, told AGB.

“Server-based gaming is coming to different markets in different forms. At the phase we are in, we see it in gaming halls or the so called ‘street market’. I believe that, over the next decade, server-based solutions will be introduced onto leading casino floors. This form of gaming is absolutely beneficial to all relevant parties that can see past existing business models.”

Currently server-based gaming comes in different forms. It is rare in the modern casino environment for a terminal to be entirely self-contained; at a minimum, most locate the game on the terminal, with the RNG and logic determined by a server.

This enables casinos to sync RTPs across the floor, and also upload new content remotely – albeit usually from a single game provider.

However, a new generation of server-based gaming, ushered in by the 2016 release of the Gaming Standard Association G2S protocol, goes a step further. It allows operators to connect terminals from a range of providers to a single, open system, and also upload games from various creators.

“Past vendor-specific server gaming solutions were limited by the fact that operators needed to run a separate system for each slot machine vendor. That is changing now. The G2S protocol enabled slots of different leading vendors to be connected to the operator’s central server, that runs unique ticketing, cashless and responsible gaming programs,” said Rus.

The server-based gaming model is also applicable in the online space, where a new generation of content aggregators is rethinking how games are distributed to operators.

“Our mission statement is to recruit the best (RNG games, gaming studios), and distribute them to the best (operators, suppliers),” Jonas Alm, CEO of Asia-facing games distributor QTech, told AGB.

“Player proclivities can differ wildly across Asia’s wide spectrum of gaming colours. So it’s a stringent selection process, segmented across countries, which aligns with cultural proclivity, age and gender preference, not to mention ascendant legislation.”

Rather than online operators integrating new slots content independently from games studios, QTech centralizes the process, adding five to ten new, specifically selected titles each month. It ensures operators continue to receive fresh content on a regular basis.

Earlier this year, QTech also launched its QT Play app, a cross-provider recommendation mobile app that allows players to choose and switch between games from multiple providers.

“QT Play’s ability to distil the prevalent trans-Asia variety and bundle it according to player preference and respective market requirements allows our partners to target any region with precision and confidence,” Alm said, adding that the app could do for online gaming what Spotify has done for music.

It is clear that there is already strong demand for advanced, server-based solutions to the content conundrum.

In August, retail giant Inspired Gaming credited a strong third quarter performance to the 37.7 percent growth in its server-based gaming revenues.

The challenge now is to capture the same efficiencies on the casino floor.

“The way I envision development of server-based gaming is more complex than just having online games being projected on computers in the land-based environment. Slot cabinets are an important part of the unique value proposition of traditional vendors in the retail world,” said Rus at Comtrade.

“The ultimate value is that getting data instantly allows analytics to provide insight for the operational adjustments and development of unique cross channel loyalty programs. There is enormous potential for the operators to use the instant data, to act promptly on their product mix and optimize operations.”

So far US-based casinos have led the way when it comes to server-based gaming, although in many respects it is even better suited to Asia, as a way of delivering more content in casinos which are cautious when it comes to assigning additional floor space to terminals. Server-based enabled multi-game terminals are a cost-effective way of expanding the slots offering.

This does require a change of mindset for many operators. One industry consultant told AGB that the current products on the market fail to provide a UI that truly engages the user or unlocks the full potential of server-based gaming. Recommendation engines, like those utilized by QTech online and Amazon, Spotify and Netflix across broader e-commerce, may be the answer.

Indeed, replicating the success of those internet giants by placing content at the heart of the gaming experience could be a major step for operators, both online and off.