As operators increasingly prioritise retention, one US games studio has developed an engagement package that it believes will keep players coming back time and again.
“What we’ve built is a much wider offer than just pushing out games, we provide operators with a full entertainment package that keeps players engaged and coming back again and again,” said Anthony Singer, Founder & CEO of High 5 Games, when asked by SBC Leaders to describe what sets his business apart from the competition.
That entertainment package is specifically designed to tackle one of the biggest challenges facing operators who are spending big to snap up market share in the US states that have legalised igaming – how to retain expensively acquired players and drive LTV from them.
And there are few people, or companies, better placed to devise retention-focused ideas. Under Singer’s leadership, High 5 developed the original video slots for IGT, built an online social casino with more than 29 million players, successfully launched real-money games in markets around the world, and since 2020 has established itself as a major force in US igaming. In short, the High 5 team knows what players want.
CasinoBeats: The US igaming market is characterised by huge competition between operators and high costs for player acquisition, making customer retention a key priority for all. What can games studios do to help operators improve retention rates?
Anthony Singer: User acquisition is always expensive. Moving players from one casino to another might be great for marketing agencies and companies that sell ad space, but it’s a definite frustration for the people who have to pay them. So what you want to do is build products that bring players back naturally; instead of having to be reminded to come back, the products are actually reminders in themselves.
We’ve been spending a great amount of energy on those sorts of products. We have gamified products like leaderboards coming in, which will allow a player to know that ’I’m competing with these other players, I can check in to see where I am and what place I’m in’, in the knowledge that if they move up they will receive better rewards. That’s great for retention because players are going to want to stay online and continue to improve their scores, or for longer tournaments, return multiple times to add to their scores.
We also have Rapid Rewards, which has been a big success for the operators we’ve rolled it out with. It gives players random prizes while they are playing, which are in effect bonus play within the games. The chance to win prizes at any point is fantastically engaging and, when those prizes are extra spins that can be redeemed later, it encourages the players to return to the same casino.
Our content team really is focused on developing features that speak to players. We demonstrated that with Spin Crease, a feature that allows players to unlock higher-paying symbols and additional levels in a game. It has proved amazingly successful in games such as Triple Double Da Vinci Diamonds and Green Machine Supreme, because it means the game is different every time and players want to come back to explore the extra elements that change the gameplay, the experience, and the prizes on offer.
When you reach the point where the additional features combine with the standard gameplay to create a story full of twists and turns, players will keep coming back to the game.
CB: Jackpots are a common feature that online casino players have come to expect. What makes High 5’s new jackpot feature different and how does it improve engagement rates?
AS: What is it that people love about jackpots? For the player who wins, it’s the cash! But for everyone else, it’s the anticipation, it’s the excitement of knowing that they might win, that they are in with a chance of winning. To enhance that experience and really maximise that excitement, we’re launching High 5’s must-hit jackpots.
The difference with the must-hit jackpots is that players will know roughly when they are going to happen and that they have a chance of winning if they are playing their favourite games when they hit. There’ll be daily jackpots and hourly jackpots, and players will know that the big win is coming in a certain timeframe. They’ll know the big win is achievable at some point in the next 60 minutes, but will it be them or will it be someone else? That’s real excitement, that’s great player engagement right there!
We’ve also designed a fantastic winning sequence for when the jackpots strike to build that experience even further and make it a really memorable event.
Must-hit jackpots are an open feature that can work on any of our games and we’ll be launching them in the second quarter of this year. Players will see them live with our operator partners in Michigan first, but our plans are to bring the jackpots to Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Connecticut, West Virginia and Ontario.
CB: On the subject of entering new markets, it can be a complex proposition for igaming operators. How does High 5 support operators’ multi-state expansion plans?
AS: Our goal is to support our operator partners in any way possible and in every state, or Canadian province, that they launch in. One way we do that is to invest in supplier licences as new igaming markets open up. That’s a major cost for us, but it means operators can launch with popular, proven-to-perform High 5 games live to help them have the best possible offer as they try to attract players when competition is most voracious.
We also ensure we have great relationships with regulators in every jurisdiction we work in, so we can help our partners with all the various regulations across various states as they expand into new markets.
The industry shouldn’t make the regulators out to be an evil group of people that ruin our lives. They are doing a very important service – they are there for us, to protect the players, to protect all of us in this business and ensure there’s a level playing field. So let’s not ostracise them, let’s stroke them a little bit and work together.
CB: And finally, how does High 5 provide ongoing support to its operator partners?
AS: The starting point is having great games for players – and we now have more than 200 titles in our library – but a successful partnership requires more than just content. We want to give the operators a kind of warm, fuzzy feeling as we surround them with support and give them everything they need to help make them successful in each and every state.
That means advance communication of product roadmaps and updates, ensuring certificates, iOS bundles and marketing assets are ready when they’re needed, and outstanding service levels. As soon as a partner reports an issue, our tier one support is on it and our account managers are on it, with direct contact and a commitment to responding in a very reasonable timeframe.
On top of that initial support, we have regular catch-ups with all our partners and give them the analytics data they need at any time via a casino dashboard. And that’s backed up with things to help them improve performance – we look at gap analysis to see how an operator is doing compared to the region, what they are missing, which games they should focus on in the coming weeks or months, and what we can do to support them during major promotions.
Our goal is to really help the operators in every way and to give them a first-class service. And the feedback we get from partners is that they feel like they’re a VIP with us.