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IN-DEPTH 25 June 2018
Will Blockchain Technology Redesign the iGaming Industry?
Blockchain and ICOs; two words which spark both good and bad reactions, while they also refuse to be ignored. Needless to say, this wave of new technology is not going anywhere, anytime soon and, with (almost) everyone ready to jump on board, you have to wonder: are you just jumping on the bandwagon? There is no “one answer” for this, as it all lies within your purpose, how you present yourself (and how quickly) and what concepts you can bring to this (growing) table. Whether you believe in blockchain technology (or not), Robert Dowling, Chief Commercial Officer for Ganapati Malta examines its effect on the industry, the potentials, and how you can (strategically) embrace it.
By Gambling Insider

Whereas the sports betting industry has already, technically, become decentralised, as they must deal directly with large institutions or the government to run their business, online casinos have yet to follow suit. The reason for this is, perhaps, obvious; the trust factor. Without the connection of online casinos to any sort of (perceived) “trusted” institution, like the government, players feel much less safe and their data, more exposed. They still may trust these online casinos, but it is generally thought that an independent entity is much more likely to experience potential cyber attacks (which is very unlikely or impossible in a government institution). Ironically, both government and igaming companies are fighting with their own trust issues, on whether or not to implement blockchain technology.

What’s even more ironic? The ability of blockchain technology actually solves all of these issues. Let me explain to you how. Before continuing, it should be noted, once you cross over to the side of blockchain, there really is not much going back from it. But, on the other side, it’s a breeze.

Transparency for brands within the iGaming industry is, single handedly, the biggest benefit awarded by blockchain technology; given encryption and security (via smart contracts) are put in place, the ability for an iGaming brand to connect directly to the player, in an open environment, establishes immediate trust (and isn’t this the biggest challenge we face within the industry?). From a complete technological perspective, this trust can also be maintained across various systems, furthering the already obvious benefits. If we want to look at this one factor in a completely straight and simple way, we could say that the improved trust factor initiated by blockchain technology solves the (ultimately) biggest challenge: growth. Improved process creates more games, a more seamless, trusted experience, and thus, more players. A scary (and large) move to make, but in the end, you’re just keeping it simple.

In addition to the blockchain topic, there’s plenty of word about ICOs within the industry; I know we’re all familiar, by now. Initiating an ICO for your iGaming brand is a great way to inject investment income into your operation, but it’s important not to just jump on the bandwagon; with several scams in all of the ICO world, you really need to have a well-defined purpose. In whichever sector of the industry you may be a part of, and are considering initiating an ICO, be sure to have a Minimal Viable Product (MVP). Doing so shows to early adopters the potential, or rather, the initial, existing, value, as well as demonstrating the future benefit, while, possibly most importantly, accepting constant community feedback for further improvement. Here we are again with the transparency - it is unavoidable and ultimately, your best tool. Given this as your first step, any potential ICO-ers should also ensure their model can pass an independent audit - a seemingly obvious factor. Naturally, your best bet for either investing or initiating an ICO, is working with those most trustworthy.

Blockchain technology has also had the pleasant benefit of bringing many complementing companies together. With the rise in ICOs and hence, new companies, blockchain-based games are making a huge hit in the industry. Not only is the development of the games massively improved, and the overall experience more seamless, but this is creating some meaningful partnerships between, for example, casinos and blockchain-based game producers. In many cases, these partnerships share technology capabilities, improving overall operations, while also creating the perfect marriage of cross promotion. Simply, and appropriately, put: it’s a win-win situation. One could even say, win-win-win, player included.

Overall, as it goes, only time will tell for how blockchain technology will shape the future of the iGaming industry. One point is certain, and, being the purpose of this article, should be answered - Yes, blockchain technology will, most certainly, redesign the iGaming industry. While change is often feared, this could be our biggest moment to, really, build some of the most amazing advancements ever seen in our industry. Now, who’s up for the challenge?
IN-DEPTH 4 September 2019
Virtual reality: Creating next-gen experiences for players

Singular CEO George Shamugia discusses a new revenue stream for casino operators

The competition in online gaming is intensifying, with players becoming more and more demanding. In some markets, single-customer acquisition costs can reach up to €400 ($440) alongside growing churn rates. Furthermore, the online gaming sector struggles to attract one of the most lucrative groups of players – millennials. The experience provided by casinos no longer appeals to the younger generation.

On  the other hand, the video gaming industry perfectly understands the needs of millennials and by introducing elements of luck in their games offers the best of both worlds. With the launch of loot box systems and Grand Theft Auto’s in-game casino, we have seen their first successful steps in targeting the online gaming sector. GTA V online, with 33 million active players, recently opened an in-game casino, where players gamble real money on games such as poker, roulette, slots, etc. As a result, churn users returned and GTA Online reached the highest number of active players since its launch in 2013.

The online gaming industry has almost fully utilised the potential of the mobile medium. The time has come to look for new, innovative ways of delivering a next-gen experience to customers.

The potential of VR

Could the next big thing for online gaming be a fully fledged virtual reality (VR) casino delivering an immersive experience and limitless new opportunities?

Although not widely adopted yet, VR has a sizable number of customers. Analysts predict it’s poised for explosive growth to become mainstream in about five years. According to market intelligence firms, the VR market will be worth $117bn by 2022, and according to Juniper Research bets made through VR will reach $520 billion by 2021. Upcoming 5G mobile network technology will propel VR’s mass adoption by allowing the development of fully portable untethered and affordable VR headsets.

Different level of social interaction

The captivating nature of gambling comes from its social aspect. Unfortunately, personal interaction is widely missing from online gambling sites. VR technology creates multiple opportunities to bring back and even enhance that social moment. The ability to connect with other players is one of the main reasons behind Fortnite’s popularity. This form of co-experience is the next generation of entertainment. Research conducted by Facebook has found participants spend more time on VR compared to any other medium. This directly translates into increased profits for casinos.

Pokerstars has made efforts in this direction by implementing Voice UI. Instead of using hand controllers to make a call, pass, or raise, players give voice commands.

Another opportunity for bringing in the social element are the players’ avatars. They enable players to build their identity reflected in the avatars’ appearance, but also the avatar's social, competitive and community status. For instance, players are willing to pay real money for virtual drinks at the bar. Operators can offer these social touchpoints for free to VIP customers as an act of appreciation.

VR also brings a new dimension to customer support. Customer support can also be represented with avatars to assist the player in person. The social moment increases the LTV of players and contributes towards lower churn rates.

Rethinking game design

VR is a way more capable medium than a 2D mobile or desktop screen. Instead of copying the existing online experience, games must be redesigned from the ground up for a competitive advantage with VR. For example, a VR slot game can become fully immersive by teleporting the user into the slots’ world of Ancient Egypt. Next, enrich the experience with high-fidelity graphics, realistic spatial sounds and animations. When betting on virtual race cars, the user can be teleported inside the car he/she made a bet on and experience the race firsthand.

New revenue streams

VR casino lobbies create new revenue stream opportunities: ad placement of brands on the venue walls, company logos decorating the bar etc. This kind of branding is not intrusive in the VR space and feels natural from the user's perspective. VR also gives users the ability to change venues from a Las Vegas casino today, to Macau or even Mars casino, the very next day. The dynamic and diverse experience increases retention rates.

The majority of profits for online gaming operators come from their high-roller players. Although they represent a small subset of active players, an operator can launch a separate VR casino brand for them. Providing exclusive VR gaming experiences to high rollers/VIPs, the operator can minimise churn and maximise VR efforts for these player demographics.

The catch with VR is to focus on quality, rather than scale. The target audience might be limited yet, once these players experience it, they will become ambassadors for your offering.

Surely, the opportunities and possibilities offered by the VR medium truly exceed anything offered by mobile and desktop. VR is a new frontier not just for gaming but for every industry, and it’s exciting to see where it takes the industry and what kind of innovation it brings upon us.