The Information Gap
The Information Gap
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Published with the permission of EGR.

Simon Hammon, Relax Gaming CPO, discusses the growing trend of suppliers collaborating more closely with affiliates, creating a new opportunity for affiliates to plug revenue gaps created by bonus restrictions.

Customer feedback is a fundamental element of the product development cycle. It should ensure that each new production, feature, iteration or mechanic improves on the last. Yet, as B2B companies by nature, casino content suppliers have limited avenues to interact directly with players. Even when a title performs well, visibility on what drove its success is limited. Suppliers can review a game’s revenue and stickiness, but this information fails to deliver any indication of why one release outperforms any other and the elements which engaged the audience. Sourcing performance metrics and player data isn’t always that easy either and helpful comparisons with the competition are even harder to come by. More and more, suppliers are looking for new ways to engage with player communities, and they’re doing so via stronger relationships with affiliate groups.

This development is relatively new. Traditionally, suppliers and affiliate platforms would seldom engage directly, with the latter more concerned with seeking lucrative operator partnerships and agreements that focus on bonus offerings, SEO and acquisition. Suppliers, meanwhile, had relied on a passionate development team that are also avid players, as well as good relationships with customers to receive critical feedback. However, as revenue has slipped in the wake of bonus restrictions, a more collaborative trend has emerged presenting mutual benefits to all parties.

For game developers, marketing affiliates offer a means to promote their brand to players and reach new audiences. From promotions to tournaments, we’re seeing creative new ways to build excitement around new releases, which is vital in an over- saturated content market. In return, the affiliate partners gain a new revenue stream, albeit small, with which to plug recent income gaps.

The rapid rise of game streaming has been partly responsible for this shift too. It’s provided new in-roads to directly engage with certain player segments in a way that is arguably more impactful than conventional acquisition channels. Benefits spread across the board, from raising awareness of a studio’s DNA, its games and announcing a release, to driving traffic to operators. In addition to the promotional advantages, streamers also offer direct and real-time feedback via player chats, which is incredibly helpful for understanding first reactions on a title and subsequently for enhancing the game development process.

Relax has taken this a step further. We’re working on a collaborative production with CasinoGrounds, one of the largest streamer platforms, to deliver a new game

based on its vast experience and the wants of its large forum of slot enthusiasts. Our studio is working closely with the affiliate team to bring their vision of the perfect slot to life – a unique partnership and first of its kind that essentially results in a game developed on player community and enthusiast feedback. The project is allowing us to tap into the audience on a new level and innovate, with CasinoGrounds and its community providing that steer, insight (and a few Easter eggs). The additional benefit being to drive pre-launch interest in the content itself. For us, the partnership is a great credit to our studios, but it also reflects the way we want to build games. There’s no magic formula but guessing what the players wants is unlikely to end in a successful release. Building for them in a much more direct way such as this might not guarantee a hit, but it does mean that you’re more likely to be on the money.

New-found relationships such as these create an entirely new feedback chain, reducing a studio’s dependence on busy casino managers and the information they provide. While operators undoubtedly know their audience well, there’s no higher- quality touch point than with the end user. Aggregators, to some extent, have an advantage on development. They naturally see more games than a single studio could and therefore gain a wider picture of what performs. However, this can play to the benefit of all parties where a collaborative approach is taken. Relax supports our studio partners by providing appropriate data and insight wherever possible, the belief being that our partners’ success ultimately impacts our own. While this can be useful for industry benchmarking, ultimately, you need a mix of all the links in the feedback chain to gain a better understanding of wider market trends and local shifts.

Will the evolving supplier and affiliate relationship and greater player interaction reduce the need for operator input? It certainly won’t remove it, but it has opened a valuable new source of information to feed into the development cycle which will compensate for certain gaps in player and market data. The outcome will only make the gaming experience better – which is everyone’s end goal.