Every year we see suppliers release Christmas-themed games, from reskins to original content and everything in between. How much appetite is there for these festive creations, and do players want to see more than just reskins or Christmas overlays. What else can suppliers to do ensure players remain engaged during this important time of year? Today we sit down with Vera Motto, business development executive at Habanero, Vsevolod Lapin, head of product at Playson, and Jo Purvis, director of key accounts and marketing UK at Blueprint Gaming.
Is reskinning an existing game enough for players, or should studios be focused on developing original content for the holiday season?
VM: We don’t like to reskin content, in our view, it’s crucial to focus on originality and this extends to Christmas games, which shouldn’t be treated as any less important. We all know that Christmas is a very significant time for online casinos, and it’s always hugely popular with players – so it’s the time of the year that operators experience a lot of traction, therefore, the thematic games released during the holidays deserve our attention.
We believe suppliers should focus on quality, when they do it really shows how much players prefer original formats rather than reskinned originals. For us, the likes of Santa’s Village and Christmas Gift Rush from team Habanero are originals that have proven to be popular throughout the year, which shows that when a game is great, it can work throughout the year.
JP: There’s a balancing act in making seasonal content appealing to both operators and players. With these types of games only enjoying a short window of relevance, suppliers will naturally dedicate more resources to the development of a new slot that will drive engagement across the entire year. However, there’s value in bringing seasonal content to the table around major holidays of the year.
Players are savvy enough to recognize when a game is reskinned, so careful consideration needs to be taken as to how these types of slots are marketed to the end-user. From experience, we find that these seasonal games work best as part of a wider marketing strategy based on a holiday, such as Christmas.
VL: Reskinning an existing game to create a seasonal game might seem like an easy way of releasing new content that isn’t new, and yet it isn’t actually about the visuals or design at all. It is more important as a game developer that we ask ourselves if the maths concept is strong enough to perform throughout the year and not only during the holiday season.
If a game has exceptional maths applied to it and strong features that increase retention and engagement, only then should we create a Christmas-themed version of it. That way it’s more engaging for players, as they get a Christmas vibe to an already well-known concept, allowing them to enjoy a classic during the festive period.
How much appetite is the from operators for these games, in an already saturated market? Do Christmas titles really add value?
VM: Yes, they do! There’s a lot of appetite from operators for these games and they love to promote them during this period, they add a ton of value for both the holiday season and indeed if the slot is good enough – throughout the rest of the year too.
However, it’s no surprise that slots perform exceptionally well over Christmas, in fact, you can argue that they probably work better over the festive period. This is a time where people are usually at home and tend to consume a lot of digital content, with gaming being no exception – and in the case of players, this would be taking some time to enjoy their favorite slot on a phone or tablet.
Overall, a well-built slot with solid maths and design will always be adored by players, which intrinsically creates a demand from operators. Therefore, if you get this aspect right you will always have people wanting more, and at Habanero we don’t experience any shortage of demand for our games and as already mentioned, our Santa’s Village slot has proven popular all year round, especially in LatAm!
JP: That depends on the operator and how they approach the Christmas period. We’re now seeing many online casinos make a concerted effort around this time of year to build intriguing marketing and promotional initiatives that appeal to players. For instance, website and mobile app front-ends are given a seasonal look and promotions feature daily giveaways to coincide with the festive period.
From our perspective, providing a Christmas edition of our most popular games complements an operator’s overall strategy to bring a festive look to its offering. It’s not necessarily about delivering a new gaming experience, but more about making sure a game’s thumbnail and graphics remain relevant, particularly if they are featured on the homepage that is already heavily decorated.
VL: Well, there is certainly a strong appetite for these games amongst operators. They love festive remakes as it is very easy for them to make themed promotions and retain a player base for longer than expected. These remakes, or even new releases, that are launched during Christmas are greatly appreciated by operators.
Additionally, I feel Christmas titles do add value, as they offer players a chance to experience a familiar format but in a new and vibrant way. They allow fans to participate in a hobby during an important and exciting time for most around the world. Playing titles that can fit in with the festive period must create a new sense of enjoyment for players.
What are you, as a supplier, doing to stand out this Christmastime?
VM: Well, we have already kicked off the festivities with our latest game, New Year’s Bash, launched in December, this is our first New Years’ themed game that celebrates all the iconic landmarks where the end of the year can be celebrated.
This is a bit of a deviation from our usual Christmas-type games, as, on behalf of our operator partners, we wanted to offer something different this year that could ensure that the holiday spirit could last well into January given the New Year element.
It’s eligible for both tournaments and jackpots too to offer plenty of options for operators to engage. It’s also low volatility compared to our previous Christmas games, which means we’re offering the best of both worlds this year. We’re looking forward to seeing how players will enjoy what we have to offer.
JP: We’ve redesigned several of our top-performing games with new Christmas graphics, such as adding snow to the jungle in King Kong Cash, as well as holly and baubles to the background of The Goonies. For us, there’s no need to make significant changes to the gameplay given these titles are already hugely popular with players. Instead, the Christmas versions fit within our operator’s overall strategy for the festive season.
VL: This December we will launch a 40-day long network promotion which includes a series of tournaments and Cash Blast promotions. Called the Merry Prize Month, the promotion will comprise four stages, each offering a different prize pool with the total being a wonderful €350,000. It will run into the new year and has been designed with a strong focus on entertaining players with minimal effort required from operators.
While we will also release a holiday version of our animal-themed Power series game, named Buffalo Power Christmas. One of our most popular games will be returning with a captivating new design that sees the iconic Buffalo character now dressed in festive clothes, giving fans a second go at a much-loved title.
Is there too much of a focus on engagement tools and promotions, rather than creating exceptional games, during important seasonal events, such as Christmas?
VM: Ideally there should be both, Christmas games are very important, and this should go hand in hand with marketing tools. In our case, all our Christmas-themed games are eligible for tournaments and jackpots, which should boost the potential to offer not only an exceptional Christmas slot but also increase player engagement and retention.
Emphasis should definitely be centered around not only an original game for Christmas, but the engagement tools and promotions that come with it are essential too, as it’s all about engagement. in our case, that would be our UP! Tournament, which was recently launched last month and will run into the new year with some fantastic giveaways.
JP: Promotional and engagement tools fit perfectly within the Christmas period, which is why more operators are utilizing these concepts in their marketing strategy at this time of year. Traditionally Christmas is seen as a time for giving and so many online casinos significantly increase their prize giveaways to reward even more players.
Creating an exceptional game purely for Christmas will only enjoy a peak of engagement between November and December.
VL: It’s always been the player’s behavior that has dictated the way companies think about promotional activities, as it is beneficial both for players and business. It’s clear that these days, simple slot spinning is not enough anymore.
Therefore, as developers, we must think about creative ways in which we can offer players something new. Thus, engagement tools and promotions are a fantastic way of providing players with more ways of appreciating our portfolio. It also allows our partners to bring together a large group of players and create a competitive, yet responsible betting and playing environment. That being said, there doesn’t seem to be an over-emphasis on these tools and promotions over the holiday period, as we still release games during busy periods like Christmas.