Igaming businesses should not be intimidated by licensing partnerships – even if the other party is a traditional rival. Such deals are crucial for brand building and driving corporate growth according to Gareth Scott, Chief Commercial Officer of Gaming Realms.
The studio has established a reputation across the igaming sector thanks to its ever-evolving Slingo mechanic, which is often seen as part of collaborations with operators, popular media brands and even in new versions of other developers’ hit slots franchises.
Slingo is now familiar to players at the online casinos of Entain, Flutter, William Hill, BetMGM and Kindred Group, thanks to the development of exclusive content for those operators. But what was it that those international brands were looking for when they selected Gaming Realms as a partner for exclusive games?
Scott explained: “That really depends on their goal. Throughout 2021 we dived headlong into exclusive content development focused purely on acquisition and game simplicity. We managed to put Slingo at the heart of their acquisition programmes. Our player data also shows that once a Slingo player is acquired the games cross-sell incredibly well to each other to support retention.
“More recently, we’ve utilised more complex game models with well-known operator brands to extend operator retention propositions. For example, we’ve worked with Betsson to transform its unique IP ‘Piggy Bank’ into a Slingo game. This work has demonstrated the depth of the Slingo product and allowed us to offer different propositions.”
Another high-profile title that Gaming Realms has recently delivered is Slingo Shark Week, the first part of an alliance with broadcasting giant Warner Discovery. The game, which is themed on the Discovery Channel’s popular Shark Week event, is an example of how the developer can work successfully with global media brands.
“Real money gaming should be looking towards more convergence in the space”
“We have a culture of licensing and collaboration within Gaming Realms, so we’re constantly communicating with each other and with studios and operators to understand what licences may ‘fit’ Slingo,” said Scott. “Shark Week directly came about as we recognised the popularity of Everi’s land-based game, which opened up conversations with Warner Discovery around a wider relationship.”
He added: “Media brands are already a significant part of the gaming industry, particularly in North America where branding convergence really does make a difference. The challenge, of course, is still to make a great game. The licence will attract players, but the game still needs to be entertaining.”
Everi is far from the only games developer that Gaming Realms has cooperated with and it regularly works with companies that could be considered rivals such as IGT and Relax Gaming. It is an approach that has proved successful for Gaming Realms and one that Scott would like to see happen more often in the igaming world.
“It is not uncommon in other industries – just look at clothing brand tie-ins, such as the Adidas x Gucci collection, or what EPIC Games has done by having character skins from other video games in Fortnite. This type of collaboration builds an overall brand experience for the consumer, while really validating the quality of the product on offer,” he said.
“Real money gaming should be looking towards more convergence in the space. We are in the fortunate position of having a unique IP in Slingo, which cross-sells not only into other Slingo games, but also into slot games with the same themes.
“We’re proud of the partnerships that we’ve developed with what you would traditionally consider competitors. It’s become a really intrinsic part of our value proposition.”
Taking Slingo around the world
To make inroads with a wide-ranging partnership strategy, studios of course have to secure licences in the relevant markets. Gaming Realms has expanded its reach in recent months by adding Connecticut and Ontario to its existing New Jersey B2B licence. However, it has far bigger plans to grow activities in North America as online casinos become legal in more states and provinces.
“Each regulated market requires a unique investment, compliance and operational lift, but the benefits are clearly there”
“We’re currently focused on the WLA-member lottery operators across Canada, having successfully launched with Loto-Québec earlier this year,” revealed Scott.
“From a US perspective, we expect two to three more states to regulate igaming over the next few years and we plan to follow that expansion. We’re well placed to mobilise quickly given we have multi-state agreements with all of the major operators in the market.”
The company has also expanded its presence in Europe throughout 2022, thanks to a host of deals with operators in markets including Italy, Germany, the Netherlands, Denmark, Spain, Belgium, Sweden and Portugal. And Gaming Realms still views continued growth in Europe’s regulated markets as a key part of its strategy.
Scott explained: “We’re very early on in our development in each of the aforementioned territories. Each regulated market requires a unique investment, compliance and operational lift, but the benefits are clearly there in every market.
“Across Europe we’re finding significant engagement from operators who want content that broadens their player experience. The fact that Slingo is a unique IP adds the layer of differentiation they are looking for.”
Driving growth through product excellence
The company’s growth strategy certainly seems to be working, as its 2021 results showed a 29 per cent rise in revenue, while its H1 2022 report revealed a further 10 per cent increase. Scott attributes this to the investment Gaming Realms has made in both content development and market expansion.
“We’re now far more consistent with the number of games we produce each year,” he said. “If we step back to 2020 we produced just a handful of games, but now we’re producing one unique Slingo game per month and operator exclusives on top.
“There is still a huge appetite for Slingo and we need to get the balance right”
“We’re also far more progressive with both our market reach and regulated market expansion. Underpinning this is strong account management to help drive value from content with operators.”
Of course, strategy, partnerships and account management can only take a games studio so far. Without great products, long-term success will remain elusive. Scott remains confident that Gaming Realms has got that part of the formula right, thanks to its data-driven approach to game design.
“There is a lot of talk around data in the industry, but we have been consistently utilising data points, doing more than just talk. We have been augmenting our content based on information from player interactions with our games for some time,” he noted.
“We want to be able to analyse every touchpoint within our content to build a better UX. And because Slingo is genuinely interactive, we have access to lots of information that we use to understand player behaviour and their likes and dislikes. We still have a lot more to achieve.”
Promotional tools, brand tie-ins and new markets for 2023
A company that has been very much heading in the right direction over the past two years could be forgiven for thinking that what its target market wants is just more of the same, but the Gaming Realms team has big plans to do more than that in 2023.
They involve focusing on every area of the business, from new content and platform features through to licensing convergence, regulated market expansion and growing its operator partner base.
Scott said: “There is still a huge appetite for Slingo and we need to get the balance right between servicing the market and proliferation of the genre. We also have plans to diversify our content further and develop slot games to augment our offering, while entering new regulated markets where Slingo games need more time to become established.
“Next year will also see the launch of Freerounds, which is particularly significant as all the success of our content to date has been without any kind of promotional tool. Slingo commands significant brand equity and we see several opportunities to work with the IP in a variety of verticals across gaming. For example, you can already find the Slingo IP on popular scratchcards in the US.”
He concluded: “Expansion into more regulated markets is also in our plans. In the background, our compliance and product teams are focused on providing the platform needed to enter five or six new markets.
“But entering new regulated markets is only part of the puzzle. Adding further distribution, with best in class account management will be needed to cement our position in these markets.”