Familiarity within games is a key factor that operators must consider when attracting their retail players into the online space according to Andy Stubley, VP Commercial at SG Digital.

In a discussion with Jon Lancaster (vice president of sales – EMEA for SG Gaming), Simon Johnson (senior vice president and managing director – EMEA for SG Gaming) and Stewart Darkin (managing director of CasinoBeats), Stubley touched upon the closure of land-based gaming venues across the world during the last 12 months, highlighting that the adaptation of retail games for the online space can help ease a player’s transition into playing online by creating a sense of ‘familiarity’.

He explained: “Familiarity is really important, especially during these times. Operators are marketing to players from a traditional retail environment who are looking to continue their entertainment online. To do this, they’re marketing familiar games. Whether it’s Rainbow Riches in the UK or 88 Fortunes, which is our number one game across Europe, this really helps to drive that familiarity for players. 

“We’ve got 1000s of those games out in the market in retail – it’s part of a family of games. Online, we launched 88 Fortunes four years ago and it continues to increase in popularity with players. Throughout Europe, it’s our number one in Italy and Sweden, in the Netherlands, in Norway, in Greece, Austria, it’s number two in Germany, Spain, Finland, it’s such a popular game with players.”

So what can companies do to adapt their games to the online space? Stubley pointed towards SG Digital’s leading Jin Ji Bao Xi title as a key example of this transition from retail to online.

Originally released as a land-based game, the VP Commercial noted that SG Digital took the steps to incorporate features such as Megaways and jackpots for the online version.

“We do expand on the family,” he continued. “So we’ve got another game that was really successful in retail, Jin Ji Bao Xi which we’ve adapted for online. That’s coming out in a couple of months’ time, we’ve got Jin Ji Bao Xi with Megaways, that’s a familiarity in itself as well. 

“So combining those together is changing the gaming experience for the retail player – they come online with some familiarity, and then they move on through the family of games, then into pure online content which is what we see when we look at the data.”

When it comes to the land-based sector across the EMEA region, Lancaster disclosed that the last 12 months have posed some major challenges in terms of communicating with clients – eased somewhat by the ‘strength of relationships’ Scientific Games holds with its customers.

The VP of Sales noted that as restrictions begin to lift around the world, his job is to now understand what it is that clients want: “In our position, the customers have been closed and have not had a lot of clarity on when they will open,” he said. “Our job is to try and understand what it is they need and match our strategies and our products to their needs going forward.

“Many of our customers have had a fundamental shift in what they’re looking for going forward. Originally, they were looking to diversify their products and portfolios as well as attract new player demographics. But what many have now realised is that in the short term, they need to get back to basics, they need to bring back their top players, they need guaranteed products, which will deliver the best performance once they can open.

“So we’re definitely seeing a shift in what it is that customers are looking for. Thankfully for us, we believe we have exactly the right products which can help them to drive recovery.”

One way in which Scientific Games has gained insights into the products that its customers want was through the launch of a forum. This, shared Johnson, has helped the company to create highly specific solutions for customers which are tailored to individual regions.

“I think the most important thing that we will have to recognise is there’s no playbook for the situation that we’re in. That’s partly because it’s the experience of the pandemic, and experience of market conditions are intensely local,” he said.

“So when you’re working across a region as diverse as the one that John and I work in, you have to recognise that you’re looking at multiple different tracks, multiple different experiences, multiple different government responses, multiple different human experiences. 

“Whilst you can have a global position, you’ve got to make sure that your response is very local. So first and foremost, it’s around understanding the position on the ground, what individual customers are going through, and what their market conditions are. You then have to be able to create highly specific solutions or help them create highly specific solutions.”

Johnson then turned his attention towards the necessity of short-term, flexible planning – something which he believes is essential to continue operating over the next 12 to 18 months. 

He continued: “You also have to recognise that while much of the human condition is to look for certainty, we all find uncertainty extremely difficult. We look to people, whether it’s politicians or scientists to give us some reassurance when looking around the corner. There is no way that people can know what’s going to happen next. 

“We’ve got to recognise that uncertainty is bred into any consumer facing business. For the next 12 to 18 months, there’s just going to be a whole load of unanswered questions that we’re only going to come to as we experience them. This then means that business planning has to become short-term and highly flexible.

“You then end up in a situation where you start working through customers on an individual basis. We need to make sure that what we are presenting to our customers is flexible enough and reflects their local market needs – providing them with the support they need to manage uncertain times. 

“We know there are some consistent factors. People are trying to understand the point at which they can open up their businesses – and so they must make sure they can get COVID secure. so be able to share our experiences of the parts of the world.” 

Scientific Games: Why familiarity can ease the shift towards online gaming