With a spring and summer full of major sporting events approaching, Maria Luisa Malfasi (pictured below) – Business Development Manager of ESA Gaming – believes that now is the right time to combine ‘elements that sport fans know’ with its quick-fire casino titles.
Bookmakers are preparing for the flurry of activity that comes with some of the prime calendar events taking place, including the rescheduled Euro 2020 and the Olympic Games in Tokyo. This year, the excitement is expected to be even higher as many competitions were cancelled or postponed last year, including one of the UK’s biggest betting events of the year, the Grand National horse race.
It is not only the bookmakers who want a slice of the cake though. We have recently seen several slot developers introduce sport-themed slots to appeal to sport fans. Football, tennis, boxing and racing games are just some that now feature in online casino lobbies.
At ESA Gaming we launched our first football-themed title Goal Mine last year. The game is a part of our EasySwipe family that integrates into sportsbooks to allow bettors to enjoy the best quality casino games without interrupting the betting experience. For us, it was therefore a natural move to include elements that sport fans know and love into our games.
By bringing in aspects of sports, the title fits the environment in which it is positioned, namely sportsbooks, and brings something that is instantly recognisable to our target audience, the bettor themselves.
We are effectively trying to create a new vertical by offering quick fire-side casino games within the betting experience, so providing something which is familiar to the audience in terms of theme and gameplay is crucial. Goal Mine has proven to be very popular with players since its launch and two new sports-themed titles, Basket Mine and Tennis Mine, will follow later this year.
It is not only the sports theme which resonates with players but also the simple format and differing final rounds which create genuine progression and culminate in sporting action. This offers the audience excitement and entertainment while adding that level of familiarity from the actual sport.
When launched in conjunction with major sporting events, this type of content can help drum up the publicity around the game, but it works best when coupled with the right positioning and/or cross-promotion. You also must think to build a game which will outlive the short-term ‘noise’ of a big sporting event and which provides a genuine addition to the player experience.
Sports-themed slots have not always been loved by the slot community and I think this may be because the traditional slot audience is not looking for it, so sticking too closely to what is expected of a slot does not work. Perhaps there is more need for innovation. As an example, we are currently looking at how to convert our sports-themed games into innovative slots.
This can be challenging especially if you embrace an ‘if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it’ philosophy behind game development. However, focusing on mobile and on certain key game components as we have done may be able to provide just enough innovation, without reinventing the wheel.