Niall King – SportCaller – Securing the ultimate FTP integration

Niall King, CTO at SportCaller, looks at how operators can set themselves apart by adopting advancing tech to facilitate the most effective integrations from the free-to-play game perspective.

The future of technology lies in artificial intelligence and capacity. Indeed, there’s an increasing onus on suppliers to provide the most effortless integration and run off sophisticated yet intuitive systems, ushering in the best of AI which neatly complements the ever-decreasing areas that benefit from human intervention.

It’s not enough to have a specific but limited capability, which cannot adapt to a changing environment. Instead, you need a flexible, scalable solution which can be tailored to any specific client or industry requirement.

At SportCaller, we’ve been in the vanguard of building free-to-play (FTP) games for operators and media owners for several years now, driving forward an ostensibly niche suite of products into an ever more progressive landscape of varying utility.

Having started way back in 2014 by carving out the blueprint for of the free-to-play jackpot game with Sky Bet on Channel 4 Racing, our portfolio has organically evolved with ramping demand – from horse racing to football; through basketball, rugby league, even Aussie Rules; and on to novelty events like I’m A Celebrity.

And we plan to diversify that range even further over the coming months, including NFL and darts, as those sports gear up to their flagship events of the World Championship and the Super Bowl.

However, despite all the differing formats and underlying sports, one variable remains consistent to our partners’ needs: the technology which facilitates a free-to-play game’s integration. More specifically, the levers which drive the speed and quality of that integration. This speaks to ease of assimilation, flexibility, reliability and security. You need a platform that can adapt to the framework of new events, multiple languages, information-security and cloud-computational solutions.

Events data and SSO (single sign-on) technologies are accordingly vital to our business and we have become adept over the years at successfully integrating these in our games. These integrations can be very simple (a redirect and a redirect back for a login) or quite complex (a wallet integration or a complex SSO journey).

However, in a year where we have witnessed exponential growth – trebling the number of our partners while our portfolio of games, which are now active in over 20 countries, grew by 650% – we had to be able to scale up with confidence.

Each time, the fundamental challenge was to integrate quickly and efficiently across this range of clients with differing events and accounts data endpoints. The majority of new clients require the use of their SSO systems to ensure their customers – SportCaller game players – experience as seamless a journey as possible. These systems vary from client to client – but as each new SSO integration type is encountered, you must build it into the core so that minimal development is required for the next customer using the same SSO type.

At fullest capacity, we can even provide a seamless integration with a client’s existing app. The game is embedded in the app via webview, or another method, and SSO takes care of the shared session. Players will never even be aware they are using a game on a completely different platform and environment, while the client gets the benefit of keeping the player within the app.

The two KPIs to which SportCaller pays closest attention are the conversion rate from free-play to a click on a live price or bet prompt, and the percentage of people returning each week to play. After all, having made their FTP selections, it’s imperative to ensure the swiftest transition for players to match up their opinions with related or identical betting opportunities (e.g. first goalscorer or next eviction) integrated within the bet slip.

In today’s world of online distraction and diminished attention spans, you have to catch the customer while they remain in the moment and focussed on the event at hand.

For, while the games are simple on the customer side, there is a level of complexity in the back end to ensure that the games are delivering repeat players, funded accounts and churn reduction in a secure and scalable way.

Many of those clients that faced these challenges, without the know-how or internal resources, have now decided that it makes more sense to work with a specialist third party to take advantage of a clearly defined value proposition on FTP. Tracking can also be implemented across any call-to-action button, allowing a partner’s team to track an entire journey, for instance, from a Bet Now prompt on an FTP game through to successful “real-world” bet placement on sportsbook.

Probably the biggest game-changer in the technology world over the last 10 years, Cloud Computing, has brought us the ability to test, prove concepts, ramp up and down to meet demand, have more granular control over our development and hosting costs and basically adopt a more agile approach to everything we do. We use latest these technologies for predictive scaling of resources to cope with anticipated client needs. Indeed, this allows us to have an entire production environment up and running and accessible in less than a day.

Elsewhere, unique CRM offers operators access to the user data via a secure API from which they can run any push notification, fully confident that all opt-ins are up-to-date and everything is GDPR-compliant. Our campaigns can be tied to a start date and time, or a game-open trigger. We always determine a player’s willingness or otherwise to receive any mails before sending, also allowing that player to change their contact preferences at any time by unsubscribing.

Moreover, all of our games are isolated, insofar as their infrastructures have no gateway, except from within that same infrastructure. We store a minimal set of user data – typically just enough to provide a good game play experience for the user and a way to identify any winners for our client; and finally, we never store any player-payment data. You want total peace of mind throughout the supply chain through to the end user.

Nobody wants to deal with an unnecessary GDPR headache, and our integrations can incorporate the latest communications preferences, notable reliably accommodating and enforcing self-exclusion.

Most traffic is largely predictable for an operator. Unless it’s converging on a tentpole event, like the Grand National, where marketing campaigns (or lack thereof) can create huge fluctuations in activity. Regardless of these variables, though, clients now trust our ability to scale based on such events and associated traffic, as we introduce more automation of this CRM analysis alongside some real “AI” scaling tools over the coming year.

In short, if you’re always focussed on unpacking the numbers and improving the tech, you won’t go far wrong. After all, the importance of integration lies in the smart stuff that speaks directly to conversion rates and customer value. Operators and media owners can now steal the edge on the competition and a deep understanding of their players via the free-to-play model.

You may have seen the disaster movies about the rise of the robots. Intelligent integration for igaming is no less transformative, and only in a good way. Even if no-one’s going to make a film about it!

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