Big Time Gaming is among the wave of emerging suppliers shaking up the establshed order in the slots space. We spoke to CEO Nik Robinson
The slots market hardly lacks for new content. What has enabled BTG to differentiate itself and carve a meaningful presence in the space?
We build games that we feel the market needs in the long term, and this is based on gut feeling rather than an analytical view of the current market. For example, MegaWays is four years old but is only just getting the attention it deserves in terms of innovation.
Slot development is a long tail game and you have to be prepared to stick to your guns and not look at what the market is doing right now.
There’s a lot of wasted opportunity in creating an Irish game to topple Rainbow Riches, or space game to crush Starburst. With art, development, build, testing and compliance on top, it’s a lengthy process getting a game to market and by the time it’s complete the entire landscape may have changed, in the current climate.
So to really stand out from the crowd, you need outstanding core mathematics and commitment to delivering a truly engaging experience. Players are far more discerning today than they’ve ever been and ultimately they will decide, slot development can’t be left to chance!
You recently licensed your MegaWays mechanic to Blueprint. What was the origin of this deal and can we expect to see similar licensing agreements from BTG in future?
The Blueprint deal is not a one-off and we are talking to a range of suppliers with the aim of striking similar revenue-share partnerships.
A driving force behind our deal with Blueprint is that it is in the unique position of being able to get our product into land-based casinos. We believe this will further popularise Megaways as a slot genre in its own right alongside traditional three-reel AWP and standard 20-line (3×5) video slots.
How does BTG prefer to work with operators and what do you see as the key to a successful operator/supplier relationship?
When building a business from scratch, you need to have buy-in from customers on day one. Today, we work with over 100 brands and operators across Europe and North America, but we work closest with the companies that initially put faith in us.
Forward thinking companies such as Kindred and LeoVegas have been great supporters in our quest to make the perfect slot and we now reciprocate that faith with timed exclusive slot launches. We are opening this up to GVC this month with Book of Gods and later in June with Donuts for PokerStars Casino.
What trends are you seeing in terms of what operators are looking for?
Operators aren't looking for anything out of the ordinary, they want solid performing games that they can depend on to deliver great entertainment to their customers, that ultimately boosts their bottom line.
Trends as with musical genres come and go but unlike Bryan Adams and Ed Sheehan, slots such as Starburst and Bonanza can stay in the top 10 for years and years. So back to the question… What are operators looking for? They want to worry less about content so they can focus on customer growth.
LeoVegas casino director Karolina Pelc recently told iGB she wished suppliers could be more united in their approach to the market, particularly when responding to regulatory requirements. Do you agree?
I agree and find it hard to stomach that developers are still coming out with slot themes that clearly risk appealing to children. The Gambling Commission made a strong call on the subject last year, yet we still see a multitude of developers creating crass content.
NetEnt seems to have cancelled its Fairy Tales series of slots and turned 180-degrees into adult mode with a game themed on Netflix Narcos series. I just hope all studios eventually accept we are making games for adults and don't need any more controversial products in the marketplace.
Bonanza was recently dubbed Minecraft for adults, and that's how slots games should be referred to, and certainly not games for minors.
What are the challenges in bringing the industry together in the way that Karolina suggests?
Karolina has a good point here and it is really down to best practice from slot studios to make sure there is a level of synergy across a mixed portfolio. With mobile, it all went a bit haywire, with disappearing buttons and unsophisticated iconography.
Admittedly, phones at the dawn of mobile gaming were 3.5 inches and this was a necessity but since screen sizes have evolved that's not the case, and, what’s more, players like buttons. Studios need to adopt a responsive UI structure that can match any TV, tablet, PC or phone, portrait or landscape, big or small.
What’s next for BTG?
A brand-new genre, our boldest stride yet into what we believe will become a staple for years to come. Expect rumours to emerge of a November release and expect the unexpected.
Recently, analysts have described BTG as a disruptive force in online gaming, but really we are here to bring stability with simple ideas, ground breaking innovation, and truly awesome slot games.
What’s next for igaming and how do you see the slots market maturing over the next two years?
I'll eat my hat if it's VR (note to self, buy a hat that's easy to digest). The market is no longer embryonic, online now accounts for over 10% of all gambling worldwide and like all things digital, a burgeoning landslide is inevitable. As the US begins to open up we'll see digital take the lion’s share and slots will be key to player engagement, Big Time!