With casino operators and developers around the world trying to navigate the complexities of the current COVID-19 pandemic, many are looking at how they can retain and engage current and new players.
One company that has managed to prosper during the climate is QTech Games, who announced a new partnership with Kalamba Games earlier in the month and has been aiming to fill in the void left by sporting events around the globe.
QTech Games CCO, Ulf Norder, talked to CasinoBeats about QTech thriving despite the current situation, growth in the Asian market and optimism for the industry in uncertain times.
CasinoBeats: How is the coronavirus pandemic affecting your business?
Ulf Norder: Obviously, COVID-19 has created a period of much concern and uncertainty, both in Manila and across the world, as we collectively try to flatten the curve of the spread.
However, fortunately from a business perspective, QTech Games has continued to thrive even in these troubling times. That’s no doubt, due to us hitching our business model to RNG Games, majoring in mobile and creating a definitive digital one-stop shop that includes one of the widest and most regionally specific suites for slots, table games, instant win, virtual sports and esports.
Our flexible distributed working-from-home model has also meant no disruptions. In fact, working at 100% capacity with all our staff, we have already set a new record for QTech integrations this week, riding on the back of rapid supplier integrations with the likes of Yggdrasil and Kalamba Games. In the aggregate, it’s all helping to drive massive growth for us in emerging markets.
CB: How is your platform and its games stepping up for operators and their customers?
UN: Since global sporting events have been cancelled, land-based casinos closed, and all live studio broadcasts terminated in Manila for the month ahead at a minimum, our market-leading platform has been filling the void for our operator partners across the planet.
We were already the number-one games distributor for Asian territories but that trend is now extending across all the margin markets too. Of course, this pattern of redirecting traffic from sports betting to online casino is widespread, but we’re really seeing that the depth and plethora of possibilities separate our distribution platform from its rivals. It’s not a new adage but “improvise, adapt, overcome” could certainly speak to the strange days we’re all living through.
In igaming, this means innovation for your partners and their players, underscored by secure, quality products.
CB: Can you give some specific examples?
UN: Well, we’ve just bolstered our existing virtuals offering, which was initially running off Betradar’s premium product portfolio. Now, however, by adding Kiron Interactive’s elite virtual sports as well, we’ve harnessed a virtual offering that is the envy of many at a time when sportsbook players are seeking out new but relate-able verticals.
Our partners can look to diversify their revenue streams accordingly. We’re also thrilled to have finalised QTech’s definitive product with Ezugi, whose top-notch games need no introduction and are always raising the bar for cutting-edge, mobile and web live dealer gaming. The response from our network of operator partners has been both immediate and universal.
CB: What are the advantages of virtual sports at this time?
UN: To state the obvious, virtual sports are always available. But they’re also quick to integrate or deploy, and they don’t require the time-consuming risk management of real sports.
In typical times, virtuals have generated up to around 3-10 per cent of sportsbook revenues yet, in this freak period, those levels have ramped well into double digits and are consistently climbing as new audiences familiarise themselves with these engaging products that are fair in margin, flexible in their format and time frame. For example, virtual football matches can be run from 15 to 90 minutes in duration, and can be pressed into any gap in the schedule.
Their immersive visualisation and instant playability also make them increasingly credible as an entertainment medium whose graphics match the best video games.
In-play betting, as it was with real sports, is the next milestone whereby players can now bet from the prosaic 1×2 result down to narrower, derivative markets such as next goal or corner in football to next game or point winner in tennis. Improved player engagement will naturally follow.
CB: What about esports, a vertical that’s been on the lips of many? How do you see its immediate future?
UN: We have just come to an agreement with EsportsConstruct to offer their premium events, leagues and championships.
Some of the highlights include, but won’t be limited to: eFootball (using FIFA 2020 from EA), eBasketball videos (featuring NBA 2K20), eTennis (Tennis World Tour), and the iconic Mortal Kombat.
We’re already excited to watch how these games are performing territory-by-territory, and this lull in real sports should logically drive a step-change for esports. Just in the past month, we’ve seen Sky Sports and F1 employ esports effectively at the Virtual Bahrain Grand Prix, while Fox Bet and Nascar did the same with their iRacing product.
Elsewhere, as I alluded to, basketball is blazing a similar trail with the NBA 2K20 game, while Japanese baseball esports is also thriving. More broadly, US telecoms multinational, Verizon Communications, posted a 75 per cent week-on-week rise for video game traffic in the second half of March, while Activision Blizzard’s recently-launched Call of Duty: Warzone, attracted 15m players in just three days! Just for the record, the previous peak over three days ‘post-launch’ was 10m.
Couple those figures to an estimated esports market value of $1.1bn by the end of 2020, and you don’t need an accountancy degree to unpack the potential! As with virtual sports, itself once branded as a ‘cartoonish dead end’ by many in gaming, esports is leveraging the current moment to establish itself as an enduring vertical.
CB: Do you think these coronovirus-related spikes for other verticals will be reduced later in the year when the virus’ danger is diminished?
UN: As you suggest, unlike conventional sports, verticals like casino, virtuals and esports can continue behind closed doors without human resources ad infinitum. Inevitably, there will be a drop-off once the major sports return, but that may not be for a good while yet – certainly on a worldwide, top-tier scale.
In the meantime, these ‘always on’ verticals can win over fresh audience who might not have previously considered them. Poker is also making a comeback on the table games front, another vertical where QTech excels with classics like blackjack, roulette running alongside regional favourites such as India’s Andar Bahar.
In short, provided they can offer entertainment, good value margin and illuminate another aspect of the engaging gameplay unique to each game, these verticals can find a regular place in the life-cycle of many new players – even if the current rates recede. After all, we’re all creatures of habit, and this historic hiatus in the sporting calendar will certainly rewire some of those habits during this period of wider adaptation.
CB: As Asia’s top aggregator, where are you seeing the most promise as we look to the future?
UN: We’re currently seeing the biggest growth in India’s rapidly-evolving market, where slots continue to prove popular. However, the main source of revenue is cascading from table games. QTech Games has recently signed with four new Indian clients this year, one of whom is already live. Consequently, we remain on a strong recruitment drive to hire the best and brightest minds locally, as our influence extends into ever more culturally-diverse regions.
As with any territory, it’s crucial to supply the correct gaming portfolio for varying cultural taste and regulation. The subcontinent is no different in this domain. Uniquely, our platform’s leading tech and machine-learning techniques can filter fluctuating variety and parcellate it, specific to player preference and respective market requirements, allowing our partners to target any region with precision and confidence.
More broadly, we’re also looking to invest in companies with a promising future, whatever the domain of igaming discourse, as we’ve done with some rising-star studios in the past. The QTech way is to ensure that genuine talent never gets crowded out of the conversation in a land where people all too often default to what others are doing, as opposed to considering to new ideas and angles.
In the current climate, of course, that’s more important than ever.
CB: Regardless of the long-term sense of optimism for the industry, many will be struggling right now. What would you say to anyone in a panic?
UN: It’s worth exploding one salient myth around panic. People generally don’t actually panic in emergencies. Instead, they become more pro-social and determined to work with and help each other. That scales from the macro societal level all the way down to the fate of individual business and people.
It’s no different in the igaming industry, of course. So, while this is an unsettling time which requires short-term adaptation, we must remember to collaborate, support each other according to our respective strengths, and then we can hopefully all emerge the stronger for both learning from, and weathering, this challenging storm. It will pass. But in the meantime I hope everyone stays safe and sane.