Steven Spartinos, co-founder and co-CEO of Kiron Interactive, spoke to SBC News about the technical challenges to producing virtual content, a UKGC statistic that helps to explain the virtual transition from retail to digital in the UK, the corresponding picture in emerging markets such as Africa and LatAm, and the key differences in regulation or content to consider for virtual games targeting these regions.
SBC: What are the key technical challenges Kiron has faced when producing virtual content?
SS: Our challenges are largely the same as those of other suppliers, in truth. As a supplier working in key regulated markets, one key challenge is ensuring our software meets the requirements imposed by the regulatory bodies in these markets. This is often a fairly tedious and time-consuming process subject to delays and red tape.
As we internationalise as an industry, virtual content needs to consider the needs of each market and allow for customisation of products to meet local requirements and player preferences. Finally, delays caused by ever growing project pipelines at operators is another key challenge, requiring the need for flexibility in your project planning and the ability to change tack at short notice.
SBC: Earlier this year, the UKGC reported a +3% decrease in the number of betting shops; is this more justification for the ongoing transition for virtuals from retail to digital?
SS: I’m not sure it is justification – but I think it certainly helps to explain the transition. Suppliers have been adapting to the growth in mobile for a number of years now, as that’s how the tech-savvy millennial generation wants to consume their betting and gaming content.
Virtual sports are no exception and further lend themselves to digital channels due to their round the clock availability and high frequency nature. As simple and entertaining sports betting games, they offer great crossover qualities, often used by operators as a good player acquisition tool. New instant win formats for virtual games is further growing their popularity with operators as a vertical in its own right.
SBC: In this report, virtual sports came in third for revenues, behind only horseracing and football – what is the corresponding picture in emerging markets such as Africa and LatAm?
SS: In many countries in Africa, virtual sports are a number one or number two product and a must have product for all operators. Younger punters associate with their realism in emulating real sports and their simplicity when placing bets. Customers are becoming more open to the fast-paced interaction of the products which, being real-time and high-frequency, and are often perceived to offer a more entertaining betting experience.
A similar trend is emerging in LatAm but the market there is a lot more immature at this stage as sports betting is a relatively new phenomenon. Don’t forget, the provision of live content can be expensive for operators in these markets, so virtuals provide a cost-effective alternative.
Kiron has developed bespoke solutions for these emerging markets to enable easier deployment of its games. A number of structural impediments such as poor internet connectivity and power interruptions can make the operating of our games in some of these markets quite challenging. Our newly developed proprietary bet management solution, BetMan Omni, is one such product offering innovative solutions in tackling these challenges
SBC: What are the key differences in regulation, or even changes to make up of the content, that you need to consider for virtual games targeting these regions?
SS: In general terms, it is no different to any other market, in that you need a product that is reliable and profitable. Operators also quite rightly expect to be offered a tailored solution that gives them genuine choice with which to engage as many customers as possible.
Too many suppliers have entered these markets with a one size fits all policy and have failed. Our technology allows Kiron to localise its products to fit specific market requirements, so they are relevant to customers on the ground there.
SBC: Finally, what new digital disciplines do you expect to emerge in the development of virtual games during 2019?
SS: With their crossover nature, virtual games do have potential to appeal to both sports bettors and casino players, but it is important to ensure the format is relevant to either set of players. With this in mind, we expect a continuation of the evolution of new virtual game formats, such as in-play and instant win, to increase their popularity across these two separate verticals.
With the emergence of new digital technologies, innovation will be key in ensuring suppliers deliver games that remain relevant and enticing to an ever-demanding online player base.