Maureen Sweeny, Chief Commercial Officer at Aristocrat, has been a breath of fresh air for gaming since making the leap from a successful career at IBM. Gambling Insider sits down with the Global Gaming Awards North America Executive of the Year finalist to reflect on her 18 months in the industry, and discover how she intends to continue driving the casino supply industry forward
You came into the gaming industry after a long and successful career at IBM. How is the gaming industry different from, and how it similar to what you expected?
In fundamental ways, the gaming industry and the tech industry are quite similar. At the heart of it all, Aristocrat is a tech company focused on entertainment. There are many similarities between my past in tech and my current role. It’s really about the application of technology to drive competitive advantage for our customers and, in turn, ourselves.
What are the trends that you have spotted during your time with Aristocrat that you think are set to continue or become even more prominent in the industry going forward?
The biggest trend I have noticed, at least here at Aristocrat, is the very strong customer-focused culture we have developed thanks to having the greatest employees in the gaming industry. From Las Vegas to Sydney and everywhere in-between, we have put customers at the centre of our business. Because of that, we are now a product-enabled industry leader. Our cutting-edge developments in hardware and software, in games and in cabinets, have come about because we have a passion for delivering for our customers. Outside of our company, the biggest trend I have seen is competition, but not for what you might expect – it is competition for experience. Operators are competing to deliver the best experience possible to their consumers and they are competing for their attention. That has caused us to continuously raise the bar on what we can deliver to our customers. That passion for innovation and insistence on excellence has allowed us to create products that broaden the player base while continuing to entetain exi
sting players, to help our customers compete in the broader world of entertainment.
As chief commercial officer for Aristocrat, what are the challenges that you are looking forward to combating in the next few years?
We need to create a viable differentiation, not just in our product portfolio, but a differentiation that our customers can offer their consumers. We continue to look for ways to drive innovation in the player experience that is unlike any other entertainment option available to them. We pour everything we have into facing this challenge, and that takes top talent.
We are continually seeking to attract talent from across the globe. One of our goals is to ensure we have leading talent creating leading products, and I think it is safe to assume that will grow in increasing importance as entertainment consumers become ever-more tech-savvy and tech-driven. We want top talent from around the world to join what I think is the best staff in the business, to join our D&D-driven culture. There are so many opportunities in front of us today, all of which will be driven by innovation. That’s what makes me so excited to lead this team of people at this time in our company’s history and in the gaming industry’s history. There are incredible innovations happening, and Aristocrat is leading the charge.
Your role at Aristocrat very much has a global reach. Are you targeting certain geographical markets as potential areas of growth for Aristocrat?
We are, indeed, a global company and are licensed by more than 200 regulators with products and services available in more than 90 countries around the world. It is fascinating for me to analyse how our footprint has grown in different geographical markets and how different consumers respond to different products. We have incredibly talented product development staff who work with customers around the globe to create products to help them with their needs. A great example of this is our new “Games of Fortune” Baccarat-style slot games that we have designed specifically for the Asia-Pacific region. While some of our designs are specific to a geographic region, others have potential for a broader, global implementation. So, are we targeting specific areas for growth? The short answer is, “Yes”. The longer answer is, “Yes, wherever our customers need help”.
What do you believe Aristocrat’s role in general in the evolution in casino games in the next decade will be?
I believe the best predictor of the future role of Aristocrat is to look at the role it has played in the past. Aristocrat is a 63-year-old company, and for every one of those 63 years, Aristocrat has been at the forefront of innovation in the gaming industry. We were the first to introduce a machine with multiline and scatter payouts. We introduced the world’s first electronic slot machine. We created the virtual reel. And, we have had a host of leading developments in-between and since those accomplishments. With all that said, it’s safe to say that Aristocrat’s role over the next decade will be what is has been over the past several decades – to use our passion and courage to develop and deliver leading games that players love to play. We are seeing that in today’s products that are already legendary, like Game of Thrones, The Walking Dead, Britney Spears, Wonder 4, Lightning Link and the Buffalo franchise. As long as we keep our customers at the core of our business, we will continue to make products that
consumers will have a lot of fun with, and that will be fun for us, too.
Will we see Aristocrat steer its future output more towards branded games, or in the direction of in-house content, or try to walk a straight line somewhere between the two?
We have deliberately created a deep and broad product portfolio that is very balanced. There are wide ranging types of players, and our portfolio is designed to speak to those different player preferences. For example, our C*Series line of core games appeals to players who like a traditional type of gaming experience, populated by our house brands. Our E*Series is filled with original titles created by the Gimmie Games studio and those games appeal to players who enjoy a more entertainment-style gaming experience.
The J*Series has titles and game play designed to appeal to players who would like a chance at large jackpots. The M*Series of multi-games reaches players who like to play several different games, and this line also helps operators increase the variety of games they offer without increasing their floor space. Throughout, there are licensed brands and proprietary titles, and those also have different appeal to different players.
So we will continue to create titles that our customers’ players respond to, whatever type of play they enjoy.
Is corporate social responsibility going to be an ever-increasing factor in the industry moving forward?
Yes, I think it will continue to grow in importance for our customers and their players. How a company behaves as a corporate citizen critical to the health of your overall business – particularly among Millennials as consumers, professionals and prospective employees. Fortunately, Aristocrat has a great story to tell in this space actively supporting community volunteerism and philanthropy, diversity and responsible gaming. We are proud of our corporate citizenship initiatives and are seeking to place even greater emphasis on these programs in the future.
Do you have any personal ambitions to accomplish in the near future with Aristocrat?
My personal ambition is the same now as it was when I started – to serve our customers. The to-do list may change, the tasks on my whiteboard may be erased or added to, but those are just tasks. The big picture that I am focused on, what I encourage my global team to focus on, is our customers. What can we do today to help our customers succeed? That’s my ambition, that’s my passion.