The industry is saturated with content aggregators, including a mix of established and emerging entities, which are all looking to provide online casinos with the best content possible. However, considering the impact of increased regulation on the wider industry, is it still all about the games?
We caught up with several of the industry’s leading content aggregators to find out how their offerings are evolving to meet the expectations of operators within highly regulated markets. We spoke with Steve Mayes, Digital Partnerships Director at Light & Wonder, Peter Causley CEO of Lightning Box, Enrico Bradamante, CCO at Pariplay, and Ivica Jovanovski, Head of Aggregation at ORYX Gaming.
How do you assess the current landscape of content aggregation within the iGaming industry, is content still king?
Steve Mayes (SM): The volume, quality, and diversity of content available through an aggregator is still the main priority, but the additional features and services that these platforms offer have grown increasingly important to operators. The iGaming industry operates within a highly regulated marketplace and compliance is so important these days. An aggregator’s entire ecosystem must be able to adapt to different requirements across a multitude of jurisdictions, ensuring the games and features meet the specific standards of each regulator.
Overall, the content aggregation has evolved significantly in recent years, and arguably the sheer scale of operations is somewhat underestimated. Ultimately, it is the backbone of iGaming, but with that comes complexities. At Light & Wonder, we’re at a distinct advantage given our many years of experience in this field, and we continue to upgrade our games offering and systems to cope with increased demands to facilitate the most exciting gaming experiences. At present, we have over 4,000 varied and dynamic titles on our platform, including those from our in-house studios such as ELK Studios, Lightning Box and Playzido, live casino powered by Authentic Gaming, as well as content from over 60 of the world’s most reputable third party studios. The overall offer available through OpenGaming results in Light & Wonder being regarded as the leader at bringing new worlds of play.
Peter Causley (PC): Content is, of course, still king, however in Europe and the UK at least, volume can be considered the queen. This is becoming an increasingly important part of the sector, spurred on by many of the larger studios releasing around 50 low-cost games a year, dramatically expanding from an average of 20 two years prior. This sudden shift to focus on the volume of game releases is in part to combat their shrinking market shares, due to increasing competition, and dwindling revenues from more heavily regulated markets found in the UK and Germany.
This contrasts with the North American market, where volume was at one time the most important factor but that is now rapidly changing. Initially, the online casino markets had an insatiable thirst for new content and as regulations loosened, operators and players wanted a diverse mix of games and verticals to experience. However, casinos are now at a medium level of content with a portfolio of 1200+ games on their sites and the need for volume has since been reduced. This change is reinforced when looking at a key difference between Europe and North America – and the overwhelming use of iPhones by players in the US. Casinos there can see about 75-85% of their revenue come from an iOS platform, whereas in Europe it is considerably less (15-30% range). With the advent of Apple ‘strongly encouraging the use of native iOS apps, there are limits to the size of a casino’s lobby that become workable with them. This iOS app size limit commonly correlates to around only 550 games, meaning content or, rather, quality games and not the volume of titles, are once again becoming king in the US due to the dominant revenues via iOS.
Enrico Bradamante (EB) : It is a very competitive marketplace for aggregation, as it has become the preferred option for Tier-1 operators to take content as they gain access to a vast number of games with just one integration. I would say that the breadth of titles, and the ability to have access to relevant games, is increasingly valuable for operators, especially as a localized approach is becoming more crucial. With new markets continually regulating online gaming, it is a massive challenge for operators who have a multi-jurisdictional presence. This makes it even more important to work with an established aggregator like Pariplay, as operators can leverage our different certifications and our knowledge of local player preferences, ensuring they can hit the ground running in new markets.
The fact that there is so much content out there is incredible, and there are still companies bringing out new innovations, or interpretations of themes and mechanics, trying to reinvent the slot space in different ways.
Ivica Jovanovski (IJ): Content was, is, and always will be king! This is the basis of the operators’ offering and plays a central role in the development of supporting tools. What we are seeing is a high interest from operators in content diversification. By partnering with an aggregator, operators can choose the preferred game types, mechanics, and providers, all through a single integration. This allows them to run trial and error projects in which they discover the best-suited games for the different audiences where they operate.
Another interesting angle that an aggregation deal brings is access to premium and branded games from various game providers, which can be added (and removed) at will. Those games can engage and acquire players more successfully at times of high interest in the IP. We have seen some aggregators go down the path of limited market presence, faster content delivery, and offering only basic gaming features. Others take the more challenging path by offering many of the advanced features and tools provided by gaming providers, most of which are otherwise only available through direct integrations. At Bragg, we pride ourselves in not taking shortcuts, but paving the way to different content delivery, bringing innovation, creating transformation, and designing divergent gamification experiences through our player engagement product FUZE™.
In addition to the core games offering, what are the key supporting features and services that operators are requiring from a modern-day content aggregator?
EB: The most important one today is marketing tools. Having access to promotional products such as tournaments, free spins, and Spin that Wheel allows operators to engage and retain customers, as well as encourage them to try new games. Having these tools available across the entire aggregation offering is a huge boon and this is something we offer at Pariplay. Other perks of working with an aggregator are more subtle such as tech and financial aspects and dealing with just one company. An operator often has several different verticals on offer alongside slots, such as sports, poker and bingo, and partnering with an aggregator allows them to benefit beyond just access to a wide range of games as it makes their lives easier.
IJ: With frequent regulatory changes, the features vary depending on restrictions, and therefore, the quality of content is equally as important as the engagement tools it comes equipped with. Apart from free spins and various progressive bonuses/jackpots, which are among the most popular features, our teams have invested a lot of time in research and development in recent years. The result is creating solutions for tournaments/leaderboards, custom missions, quests, and bounties, as well as customization through the introduction of a recommendation engine and various bonus tools. We have also developed gamification features for sports betting, which is now live and launched in the Dutch market. What sets us apart from other suppliers is the convenient/no additional integration delivery of these features. This greatly enriches operators’ portfolios and allows them and providers to stop focusing on quantity and instead develop loyalty to their brands.
PC: There are many different features and services required from content aggregators and these can be grouped by market. In Europe, for example, variable RTP percentages are a must with 94% RTP becoming prevalent in the UK and 90% RTP required for Germany. There are also ease of launch procedures present in this market and if a title doesn’t work in testing there are plenty of other games waiting to fill the launch spot. Additionally, a successful franchise game can help cut through the 5,000+ slots live on some sites.
Whereas operators in North America require the iOS process to be simplified which can be quite complicated given each operator has its own processes in place for its platform. Additionally, although 96% RTP is dominant, 94% is becoming increasingly common in more heavily taxed states like Pennsylvania so North America can also require some variable RTP percentages.
SM: It’s a mix of promotional features and gamification tools, alongside robust regulatory measures to ensure operators can deliver exciting yet responsible gaming experiences. For several years, the OpenGaming ecosystem and its Free Rounds tool have enabled our operator partners to engage, reward, and retain their players efficiently, all achieved via a single integration. These have proven to be highly successful when promoting new launches, as well as boosting legacy games by bringing them back to the attention of players.
When it comes to regulation, we place compliance at the forefront of everything we do at Light & Wonder. We remove the hassle of ensuring the content we offer is adhering to the requirements set out by various regulators. We actually go one step further by adding another layer of technical components and strategies to ensure all games can go live smoothly within regulated markets.
With increased regulation and tighter marketing restrictions impacting the wider industry, how will content aggregation evolve over the coming years to further support operators?
SM: I think we’ll see the next generation of promotional tools and gamification features rolled out to the marketplace. These toolkits will be essential for operators to maintain engagement levels and ensure they can attract new customers with dynamic gaming sessions. At Light & Wonder, our Free Rounds tool has been hugely valuable to operators, particularly as they are deployed at the platform level, meaning casinos can utilize them across games developed by a host of third-party providers. There is more to come from this network level of operations. Alongside new gamification techniques, we are anticipating a jackpot evolution that will change the way in which operators can engage with this type of product through an aggregator.
EB: I have learned that the only thing that is constant in this industry is change and it is guaranteed that regulations will continue to evolve, and we must evolve with them. It does create a technical challenge and having 80-90 suppliers’ content distributed to more than 140-150 operators across several markets creates huge levels of complexity. That is the nature of our business though, as we have decided to enter all these markets and support our operator partners. Pariplay is very much in favor of regulation and having a close dialogue with regulators, something that is extremely important and will help us be prepared for whatever challenges the future throws at us but one thing we are certain of is that aggregation is here to stay.
PC: Content providers can only focus on supplying the best games possible for players within the regulatory limits placed on them. If we continue to focus on the player, that will in turn help the operators.
Marketing restrictions, of course, make it harder to get new concepts out to market, limiting the drive for real innovation, but we must push forward as an industry. Leveraging the reach of franchise games helps when there is limited marketing allowed since they already have been marketed to the player in previous incarnations. These franchise games become more important in low-marketing regions as they have an established player base already and allow for innovation to be woven into the release.
IJ: From a broader perspective, each individual product (content, platforms, aggregators, services) faces major changes and different constraints resulting from increased regulation.
We work together with operators from different jurisdictions, which allows us to be ahead of the curve through our dialog with them. There are multiple ways that aggregators can benefit and support operators such as: (i) extensive market distribution and adapted technology (e.g., Bragg Gaming Group is present in more than 24 regulated markets), (ii) extensive available data that enables more efficient market entry, (iii) extensive internal resources for research and development that enables faster adaptation of their technology, and (iv) broader legal/compliance knowledge on various issues that are a major challenge for any company. Finally, an important thing to point out is taxation. Being a global aggregator means that you need to be able to cater to a variety of market needs. Therefore, we offer most of our games in various RTP version, so they can fit into the operator’s commercial strategy as well.