SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital: Winning with Free-to-Play

Fresh from his #SBCSummitBarcelona presentation, SportCaller MD Cillian Barry (pictured) unpacked the progressive rise of free-to-play (FTP) as a global force and a vertical in its own right.

In our lifetimes, no chapter change has been as stark as when COVID-19 flipped the script, sending shockwaves and plot twists throughout every industry imaginable. Of course, the gambling sector was no different, especially in the sports betting domain where sportsbook operators were amongst the hardest hit. 

Consequently, a flexible framework allied to credible “vertical spread” has taken on increasing importance, both amid the initial suspension of live sports and then their fragile re-emergence behind closed doors.

Over the wider course of the last 12 months, FTP was already continuing its development as a genre, bolstering its stature as an industry vertical in its own right. For proof, you only needed to look at the Investor Presentation for the recently assembled mega-merger between Flutter Entertainment and The Stars Group, in which FTP was cited as one of six foundational product pillars (alongside more mature industry perennials such as Casino and Fantasy). 

More anecdotally, I can’t remember the last time a potential client asked me to justify why they should be running FTP games. In short, it’s part of the industry fabric now, which is great to see.

This dynamic shift in status has only been underscored by the pandemic whose catalytic ripple effect has accelerated a shift towards FTP’s international utility and flexibility. 

Particularly at a time when socially responsible engagement and retention can hinge on FTP’s adaptable solutions. However, for anyone who remains unconvinced (and there’s always one!), a recent client survey of regular bettors found that 81% rate it as an important product offering, while 43% have revealed they switched accounts to an operator with an FTP offering.

As the market leader in this sector, SportCaller’s growth over the past year is reflective of this strategic significance on a global and local scale. Our proprietary platform allows customers to launch new and unique games across any sport, language or territory – from traditional jackpot games to soft-marketing quizzes and other recreational formats for lighter-touch engagement which have excelled during the current crisis.

In fact, we’ve now rolled out nearly 50 new games this year, which compares very favourably with the 22 games launched over the previous three years. 

We also doubled our active clients during that period, demonstrating that not only are more operators pressing FTP into service, but they are also discovering more varied and compelling ways in which it can be showcased. To which end, we now offer over 90 games across 37 countries and in 20 languages.

Naturally, in a sometimes jump-on-the-bandwagon business, it is vital to ensure your gift never becomes a curse through copycat mass adoption. You must always offer an authentic point of differentiation and innovation. Which is why our philosophy around original ideation remains a key cornerstone. 

Indeed, it’s a point of pride that our clients have been leading the way in this regard, bringing new FTP types to market, and also re-imagining old classics (e.g. the Tote Group’s Ten To Follow) by tailoring game mechanics to specific end goals of acquisition or retention.

Two shining examples of such innovative use of FTP are Paddy Power’s Beat The Drop and Kindred Group’s STREAKR (on Unibet). Beat The Drop debuted at the 2018 World Cup, where it smashed all acquisition targets for the game after just one week of the tournament. 

But the mechanics of the game’s FTP element have evolved over time to include all of; inclusion in rewards schemes, playing a paid game to win 7 days of free games, 30 days of free entries for new players and its latest incarnation which affords all players one free shot at £1k every day for an unlimited time frame. Beat The Drop is also a leading go-to-market product in new territories for Betfair International, recording some great success stories across LatAm and Germany.

As for STREAKR, a unique-concept product aimed at player retention that offers free bets in incremental amounts for successfully answering questions on successive days, this was a collaborative effort with Kindred. First pitched to them during the RFP process, the game has since been refined to the product it is now by the guys at Kindred.

Not only did it prove a huge hit in terms of player-retention aims for the group (daily returning players scaled peaks of over 80%), but its evolution incorporated fresh game features (e.g. the functionality to ask players to place a bet to qualify for entry) that organically increased conversion-to-bet rates. 

More generally, other eye-catching numbers behind FTP’s ascent to prominence have emanated from SportCaller’s commitment to actively engage with our clients to truly understand the value in their games before optimising key learnings. 

To wit, based on engagement with our combined client BI teams, it has been established that players who engage with FTP games are 58% more valuable post-adoption of FTP, and 30% less likely to churn. 

FTP games are also effectively bridging the divide between igaming and sports betting (an average of 20% of FTP players are defined as casino actives) at a time when reliable cross-selling techniques are ever more elusive in an increasingly regulated space.

However, if this pandemic has taught us anything, it’s that there’s no time like the present. So, for a bit of quick-fire fun around the sports predictors we do best, why not test your mental strength and powers of prognostication on our very own #SBCSummitBarcelona Industry Insider FTP?

If you haven’t played yet, it only takes a minute and you’ll be in the mix for an iPad Pro around this weekend’s big sporting showpieces.

SBC Summit Barcelona – Digital is a FREE to attend virtual conference and exhibition running from 8-11 September. To register for your free ticket or find out more, please visit

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