Adapting land-based slots for online play is “a bit of an art”, says Anaxi SVP of product and technology, igaming Josh Morris. There’s a lot of skill involved in that process, he argues. “We don’t like the word ‘port’. We prefer market adaption because it needs to be taken from the cabinet into something for igaming. There’s craft in that.
“It’s also very important that Anaxi, as part of the [Aristocrat] group, works with the internal studios to maintain the spirit of the games,” he continues.
Morris joined Aristocrat through its acquisition of Roxor Gaming, the first component of Anaxi, bringing a host of technology, intellectual property and brands into its portfolio.
In the early stages post-acquisition, land-to-online migrations are a priority and online variants of popular slots such as Buffalo and Wicked Winnings are already live. “There are a lot of great brands we need to bring online, so naturally there’s a focus on the market adaptations for igaming versus land,” Morris admits.
And Roxor Gaming, where Morris served as general manager, comes with its own heritage. It began life as part of Gamesys, as the Jackpotjoy operator’s in-house games studio. When Bally’s Corporation snapped up the operator, founder Noel Hayden kept hold of Roxor, ultimately selling it to Aristocrat in September 2022.
It has its own beloved brands and IP which Anaxi continues to support and invest in, Morris says.
But there’s a rationale to the land-based adaptations. Those games resonate with US players in particular, where igaming remains significantly limited. Customers gravitate to the titles they remember from the casino floor; some multichannel US operators even seek out online titles they’ve taken off the floor for the nostalgia value.
Anaxi’s ecosystem ethos
Before the acquisition Aristocrat didn’t have the online expertise to start adapting its back catalogue, although it wasn’t for lack of trying. It pursued Playtech as it looked to ramp up in digital.
Roxor brings a more focused skillset than the breadth of products and services Playtech offers, although Aristocrat is scratching that multi-product itch with another deal – more on that later.
It adds the expertise to take Aristocrat, through Anaxi, into online real-money gaming for the first time. And customers are signing up. The 2023 client wins include FanDuel, Rush Street, Caesars Digital, BetMGM and Penn Interactive. Anaxi slots are live in Michigan, New Jersey and Pennsylvania in the states and available in European markets such as Spain and Great Britain.
Roxor also adds a focus on building out ecosystems around its products to Anaxi. It’s a tried and tested approach of businesses established by Noel Hayden. There’s the social-first nature of Jackpotjoy, combining slots, bingo and community. Or the convergence model combining affiliation with sports betting pioneered by LiveScore Group.
“It’s always been an important part of our heritage at Gamesys, then Roxor and now at Anaxi,” Morris explains. “The focus is creating entertaining products then adding more value for players.”
Anaxi keeps the igaming flywheel spinning
For Anaxi, a flywheel of free games, jackpots, rewards, powered by player data, keeps customers engaged and incentivised. Now there’s an opportunity to expand that ecosystem on a wider, grander scale.
“The channel footprint across gaming, land-based, social, all those additional points of connection, creates a huge opportunity,” Morris says. “We start by taking learnings from products where we’ve had successes and combine it with brands and IP from Aristocrat.”
For example Anaxi is looking to close the omnichannel loop, using its casino systems technology, to connect land-based gaming into its ecosystem. Morris reels off elements such as gamification or engagement, daily free experiences, loyalty mechanics or jackpot solutions as potential connectors.
“The overall goal is to drive entertainment for players, but making it seamless across channels,” he says. “That’ll be a big driver of success for our players, our partners and Anaxi.”
NeoGames enters the matrix
The ecosystem may soon be shaken up, however. At a time when rivals such as Light & Wonder and International Game Technology are simplifying operations, Aristocrat is working to close its $1.20bn deal for NeoGames, expected by the end of its 2024 financial year.
NeoGames opens up sports betting, lottery, platform provision and games aggregation. Anaxi is the first step in Aristocrat’s plans for online dominance, but it’s poised to reach a new level. It is potentially a fully-fledged igaming distribution network, with the added validation of Aristocrat’s strong brand and customer relationships.
Until that deal closes, Anaxi will not reveal how NeoGames and its brands such as Aspire, Pariplay and BtoBet will interact or integrate. Morris says his current focus remains “building partnerships, getting into more markets, expanding our distribution and building content that’s going to excite players and be powerful for our partners”.
Now Anaxi has built the foundations, there’s a recurring digital revenue stream. It’s back over to Aristocrat to prove the build-and-buy strategy will achieve B2B supremacy.