What are Lightning Box's expectations when it comes to online gaming, as more players come out of lockdown across the globe?
Truth be told, the online casino industry hasn’t been unduly affected by the pandemic, or not in comparison to sports betting, which suffered with the cancellation of live action. If anything, it may have benefitted from an influx of newer players trying it out for the first time as an alternative. The trick now will be to retain their interest and loyalty as their everyday lives return to something like what they were before. What has been noticeable in some jurisdictions has been concern – grounded in reality, or otherwise – about the increased vulnerability of players to problem gambling during lockdown.
In some cases, like Sweden, that has led to restrictions on play and staking, etc. Time will tell if these change or remain a feature of an increasingly regulated industry. What is important is that suppliers like Lightning Box work closely with our operator partners to ensure we produce entertaining yet safe products and safeguard the interests of fans. It is in nobody’s interests to have an exploitative relationship with them.
What about retail gaming; do you expect a surge to pre-pandemic levels, or has more of that player base now permanently switched online?
It’s probably too early to say what the longer-term implications of the pandemic will be on retail. It will certainly be a changed place in the short term, with few places able to cater for the numbers they welcomed through their doors before. I can’t see that those who enjoy betting and gaming in a retail environment will not want to return when they’re able. When they do, they may just do so with more options to enjoy a bet or the spin of a slot machine, having interacted with brands in an online environment when casinos and shops were shut.
The operators who will win out are the ones who are able to cater for their customers in a way and at a time that suits them and their lifestyles. For that reason, Lightning Box has always looked to create gaming content in multiple formats, including online, retail and social. Omni-channel is a phrase that has been bandied around for years, but never have its benefits been more obvious than now.
How can developers best adapt in markets where regulations for games and slots are tightening?
I think there needs to be a greater emphasis on requirements in markets like the UK and Sweden where regulations are tightening, as changes are introduced every year or two to protect players. They also tend to lay the foundation for other markets to follow. This requires slot developers to work closely with regulators and test labs. For example, having auto play enabled in the UK will no longer be an option post October this year. As a result, suppliers like us must continue to build games without these features or functionality and keep players entertained enough to keep playing.
It needs to be well developed, with compelling maths and engaging graphics. Clearly, it’s important for slots studios like us to comply with any regulations that are introduced to manage problem gambling, but these should just be hygiene factors. What’s important is that we build quality and entertaining games that keep up with the spirit of the law. We need to make sure our games are always fair and mindful of player safety.
How can games developers capitalise on new traffic from sports betting this summer? Can Euro 2020 bettors, for instance, also become slots players?
I don’t see why not. There are obvious hiatuses before, after and at half-time in football matches that are a great opportunity to promote slots and other non-sports betting products. Much of that will be decided by operators and how they cross-sell their products. We certainly see a big up-tick in betting on slots around popular horseracing meetings, so there is no reason why football would be any different.
Do we all need to rush out and create football-themed slots to tempt them in? I don’t think so. There will inevitably be a few out there during the Euros, but I think the quality of a title and the levels of immersion and engagement it delivers are more important than the theme. As we have seen during lockdown, people will try new things. It is important that they have a quality product they enjoy for them to make the change regularly.