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Following a year full of much documented difficulties, Simon Hammon, chief product officer at Relax Gaming, looks back at an often troubling 12 months and provides insights into what the period ahead could encompass.
This year may have been fraught with challenges for the industry and wider world, but some strengths emerged from this period of hardship as well. When faced with such difficulties it is often the case that people pull together to come out stronger.
The same is true for business. While the pandemic has caused shifts in the industry, it has by no means defeated it – with the last few months having given way to many successes and innovations that will continue to drive us forward and push us to do better.
For Relax, it’s been a year of testing our technological limits and seeing just how fast we can react to regulatory changes and implement new features – whilst predominantly putting employee safety first with remote working options. It’s a lot to do simultaneously but has shown that building a foundation on robust and agile technology is serving us well. Since January, our client base has grown by 77 operators, including major groups such as GVC, Paddy Power Betfair, Svenska Spel, Paf and Veikkaus.
Our two content distribution programmes – Silver Bullet and Powered By Relax – have also continued to attract the industry’s most innovative and bold studios to integrate with our platform. Equipping us with a network that expands our distribution, aggregation and content to improve our full-service offering.
In addition, this rapid growth has helped us to overcome many of the challenges 2020 brought with it. Through a commitment to business simplicity and a collaborative approach we have been able to deliver on our trajectory of quality content and strive for differentiation.
It’s also been great to see suppliers raise the bar in terms of game content. Competition is at an all-time high – a phenomenon that is unlikely to subside given the current focus on online casino – and it has in some corners provided a catalyst for innovation and originality. Imitation and skinning will always be a consequence in our industry to leverage success, but there are more than a handful of progressors that are really pushing for more.
It has certainly fuelled the ambition of our own in-house studios, with the record-breaking release of Money Train 2 making a statement about the level of quality and entertainment we’re here to deliver.
Our efforts have not gone unnoticed either, from our poker product to our top-performing slots Temple Tumble and the original Money Train, our achievements have been recognised across industry, operator, and affiliate awards. In bingo, we’ve delivered a new format that cuts waiting times and increases the entertainment factor to benefit customers and players.
As previously touched upon, collaboration has also come into the fore this year. The disruption has in some ways provided greater scope to experiment and try out new ways of working. The supplier-affiliate relationship has shifted drastically over the past 12 months, with the two sectors looking more closely at how they can complement each other.
We teamed up with CasinoGrounds to deliver the industry’s first ever community-led slot game, Iron Bank, in a project that has proven the value of more collaboration between suppliers and end-users.
The story of Money Train 2, which has a been a runaway success with streamers, also demonstrated how critical affiliates are in providing feedback for development, building momentum and excitement around a release and establishing its popularity with players.
Looking ahead there is a great deal of innovation in the works that has real potential to shape where we go next as an industry. From the makers of Megaways, Big Time Gaming, we have Megaclusters, another mechanic from the blockbuster studio which is set to make a real impact in the market.
Relax has been chosen as the first supplier to gain exclusive rights to the Megaclusters IP, access which also extends to our Silver Bullet studios, and we’re excited to get creative in how to apply the mechanic to our own proprietary content. ReelPlay’s Infinity Reels is another innovation that is making waves, and we expect to see even more of this next year.
Running concurrently in the race to develop the next blockbuster mechanic is the development of skill-based and social gaming hybrid content. Slots have been moving in the direction of gamification for a number of years, but it’s about to be turned up a notch. We’ve been supporting the back-end of a new feature launch by Suprnation, an operator and games developer that has a unique vision for the future.
We’ve provided the RNG to Duelz, a new type of casino game that combines a mix of skill and social aspects. Born out the growing need for content that truly challenges the status quo, it’ll be exciting to see how the concept and its impact on the sector evolves as the audience grows.
It’s fair to say that 2020 has been a whirlwind for many, but immense struggle often comes with immense potential and the year has undoubtedly been rife with creative solutions, experimentation and out-of-the-box thinking. The industry showed its resilience throughout this period and we’re looking forward to another year filled with opportunity – with an unwavering commitment to driving differentiation.