8 March, 2021

Getting the best out there

Lightning Box CEO Peter Causley explains why he first created the gaming company in 2004, and reflects on the roller coaster year just past.

Before we take a look at 2020, can you give us a bit of background on Lightning Box? What led you to create the company more than 16 years ago?

I'd been working in the industry a long time before starting Lightning Box. I spent 11 years with Aristocrat and eventually wanted to get out there and do it myself. David Little and myself started up the business as an exclusive supplier to IGT in the land-based industry.

There must have been a lot of development since then. Would you say Lightning Box is a totally different company to the one you started with?

Absolutely. When we started, we were 100% focused on US terrestrial casinos; we didn't even know what online was. We parted ways with IGT around 2008-2009 and began the task of growing our client base from scratch. By the time 2015 came around. we were probably 90% online and only 10% land-based, so it was a total turn around in a matter of about four or five years.

"The land-based industry is very interesting but it's held back by technology and what the regulators can approve. A new land-based platform can take two or three years to develop and two years to roll out in the market. At its very best, the latest technology hitting the venue floors is five-year-old computer technology, whereas in the online space it's a lot faster."

Now if we look back on 2020, it was a tumultuous year for most. What would you say was Lightning Box's greatest achievement for the year?

I think we saved the best until last. We just released a game called ChickenFox5x Skillstar on 18 November exclusive on Sky and Paddy Power. This is our foray into skill based gaming. It's about imbedding a skill-based game in the middle of a slot game. It doesn't affect the RTP of the slot at all. It's a standalone skill game, which we have given the players to play, once they trigger the bonus. They can choose to play that skill game or skip ahead and go straight to the bonus.

For the three weeks it's been out, it's been very well received. Getting the first of that skill-based franchise out there has been a massive achievement for the team and it's been at least 18 months since we first discussed it.

What is your main focus when developing innovations like Skillstar? Has your creative process changed since you started Lightning Box?

The creative process is a lot more fluid. We try to have sessions where we engage in innovative thinking and greenhouse ideas. We are working harder on prototyping without the expectation that it's going to go to market. We might start off with 20 ideas, which become ten prototypes that might become three or four games that actually make it to market. When we were smaller nearly every idea went to market, but now we pick the best of them. Some of them shoot sprouts. Some don't. Some become full-fledged trees and oaks. We aren't as precious about our own ideas anymore. It's about getting the best out there.

Can you explain a bit about the difficulties created by COVID-19 and what action you've taken to overcome them?

Of course it hit our land-based partners pretty hard. It delayed some releases there. We were going to go live in Greece and it's pushed back our US launches. But they've kept the faith with us and are weathering the storm well. As far as online goes, during lockdown we saw some peaks in May and June figures, which were up 20% to 30%. It really has refocused people on the online world, especially in America where there was little foot dragging. Some land-based casinos with a lot of clout were almost anti-online gaming; now you don't hear of any of that sentiment. The market is telling them, investors are telling them and their players are telling them that they need to have an online profile.