Could you tell us a bit about your background and, given your earlier career in the financial sector, why the pivot into gaming?
Gaming seemed a natural fit for me as my family had been involved in bookmaking for a long time. When I entered the industry, online gambling was really taking off, and driving growth for our business and across the wider sector was a challenging but appealing prospect.
Moving from finance to online gambling might seem like a very different career path to take, but both have a fast-paced, cut-throat environment mixed with a sense of old school trust in business relationships. I really enjoy that part of it.
I’ve been in gaming a long time now and I love almost every second of it (maybe not 9am on day three of a conference!) and I won’t be pivoting anywhere else again.
1X2 Network was an early iGaming business, so how have things changed overall in the past two decades?
As a company, we’ve been through many different iterations and had lots of different lead products – virtuals, 3x3 slots, fruit games, premium slots, branded games and more. I’m not sure anybody at 1X2 Network would have predicted a couple of years ago that we’d be about to release a multiplayer crash game, but we are and that shows just how quickly this industry moves.
Over the years we have professionalised and added processes, we’ve doubled headcount in a short space of time and we’ve added new offices in new locations.
1X2 Network has changed from the outside but also internally and that always leads to new challenges, new opinions and new strategies; which means at times it feels like a completely different business than when I joined. Luckily, we’ve retained the experience from all those years and that’s what makes us a unique and strong proposition.
Following on from that, as a new generation comes through and is able to gamble, what are companies, including yourself, doing to capture this audience – especially given how tech-savvy it is compared to older demographics?
The new generation is coming through at a time when we’ve also seen the biggest ever move from land-based gaming to online due to the pandemic. With competing audiences, we’ve focused on diversifying our content; having multiple studios allows us to do that.
For that new generation mentioned, we’re looking at games that have a lot happening but also make it clear to the player what they’re trying to achieve. The sense of community gaming they have traditionally enjoyed is definitely linked to the rise of crash games. We try to keep games, whether they’re slots or alternatives, looking sharp, fresh and modern – even if they’re a retro-themed title.
Collectable mechanics often come up when we talk about the new generation that has transitioned from console gaming, but I believe that barely scratches the surface of how games will keep evolving to meet their needs.
While we’re discussing design, how much do responsible gambling considerations influence your design choices?
We’re very keen to adhere to all responsible gambling regulations and the spirit of those rules. Age gating or keeping games behind a login in markets such as the UK tends to see a game’s performance drop, so there’s also a commercial reason to make sure we get those games right.
Responsible gambling is something that we consider from an early stage, starting with the game concept. Of course, there are other regulations like the spin speed that impact a game and we’ve tried to think about those elements with our UI, as well. It’s a constantly moving industry so we have to be mindful at all times or we’ll fall behind.
Staying on that topic, what else does 1X2 do, more broadly, on the responsible gambling front; and how has the industry’s approach to social responsibility changed?
Our focus on regulated markets is a key way in which we support responsible gambling. In my opinion, it’s the best way to tackle gambling-related harm and so going into these markets as early as they become available is an important step to support this.
There are other initiatives that we are involved with, too. This includes Responsible Gambling Week, which we take part in and promote over our social media. Being involved in panel discussions and talking about it in industry press is another step that's important, as it allows us to show other companies within the industry that we are committed to safe gaming. This ultimately grows the movement and that’s important, as we need to hit the critical mass of suppliers and operators working for responsible gambling changes – to enact the right level of change required.