Casino Dashboard: February 2022 – Casino & Games

This month’s Casino Scoreboard offers a glimpse into the world of casino gaming in 2021, not least because there’s little change to our top 20 games table! Kevin Dale examines the proliferation of games, its impact on game recommendation engines, bloated technical pipelines and more.

There was only one new arrival on the January charts, Agent Jane Blonde Max Volume from Microgaming. Pragmatic Play’s Christmas Big Bass Bonanza duly bowed out for the change of season, making way for Book Of Dead (Play’n GO) to return to the podium.

Top 20 games by distribution

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Given this relative stability in game performance this month, we thought it was worth giving you an overview of how game development and distribution have evolved over the past year.

2021 game production and distribution: the year in review

There has been an explosion of games found on operator sites. Our interactive graph above shows a growth of 9,000 to 12,000 slots on the main operator casino pages last year. That only paints half the picture, though. If we include all sub-pages and game types, including live games, table games, scratch cards, video bingo, etc., we now identify no less than 19,000 unique games from of nearly 500 studios each week (see table below left).

Admittedly, over that same period, we’ve increased the number of sites covered to 1,500, which in turn leads to more games being discovered, especially from slightly more obscure studios around the world.

Yet if we simply compare five of the major casino groups from this year to last, a clear picture of studio and game growth is still evident. These five groups now source nearly 8,000 unique games directly or through aggregators, up from 2,300 last year. The range of studios they offer has also exploded from 170 to almost 300 distinct providers (please note that the data for the top 5 groups is drawn from all sites within a handful of select operator groups: Flutter, 888, Aspire Global, Betsson and Entain).

In total, the 500 studios we monitor each produce an average of 1 title per month. Undaunted by the sheer volume of games and spurred on by operator appetite, new studios have also joined the fray. Around 50 new brands launched in the last 12 months, including the diversified content branches of carriers and aggregators.

At the same time, operators don’t tend to pull games, as many compete on breadth and depth of content. The result of all this: a proliferation of games and an ever-decreasing share of “storage space” per game or provider.

So… more studios, more studios per carrier, and more games in front of end users. The sheer volume of data means that providers struggle to keep tabs on the distribution of their own games or those they bundle.

At the same time, operators now need efficient tools to present the right subset of content to the right end users and in the right order. Back in the day, when there were a few hundred titles to choose from, it was probably enough to provide the odd filter plus a “new games” section. A little more sophistication came in the form of “if you like this game, then some of our other users liked it too”.

However, this type of recommendation engine can be unsophisticated. Cold start or data sparse issues can lead to assertion loops that root some games and reduce game discovery. The massive increase in the number of games this year has exacerbated the problem.

Hybrid systems based not only on user data but also on content functionality will prove more effective, just as they have in other digital sectors. A recommender system can be supercharged by adding a rich set of game content data, including game types, themes, colors, and game features, for example. Some platform providers and operators we work with are starting to leverage this to present the stickiest content to users.

When AI tools and algorithms start to really “learn” which play suggestions produce the best results over time, data becomes your friend. Note that a very precise definition of “results” is needed here: an algorithm aiming to improve engagement or LTV metrics will deliver very different games than one looking to maximize GGR per player per hour, for example.

Dealmaking 2021: the year in review

FBM Gaming recently plugged its content into one new platform per month and therefore now shares the top spot in our six month studio reseller chart.

The biggest studio resellers

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Throughout the year, Red Rake and PariPlay were the most active studios, expanding their distribution to 10 new platforms, with PariPlay even renaming their studio arm to Wizard Games.

In January, Slotegrator added new content from OnlyPlay and Slotmill, placing them at the top of our most frequented aggregation chart.

Largest Aggregator Resellers

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Over the entire 12 month period, SoftSwiss leads the group with Salsa Technology and Slotegrator not far behind.

For context though, the one number that has gone down year over year is the total number of deals between studios and aggregators. 333 deals were concluded between studios and platform providers in 2021 compared to 406 in 2020. This may come as a surprise, given the growth in content on the sites of the operators above….

It is possible that there has been a Covid impact and trading may still recover. Alternatively, a combination of bloated aggregator pipelines and the desire for higher margins may have sparked a counter-trend toward more direct studio/operator integrations. While anecdotally we’ve heard a few examples, there’s no indication of a trend here.

Perhaps it is more likely that the frantic efforts of studios and aggregators have reached a fever pitch and we are witnessing the maturation of our distribution network. Last year’s phenomenal volume of studio -> platform integrations may have driven this year’s exponential growth of content on operator sites.

Or, it can also be a case of diminishing returns for aggregators: integrations cost time and resources, both for setup and maintenance. The interest of adding another studio to their portfolio can be limited, especially when some operators have access to this same studio via another aggregator.

Finally, it may reflect the pressures that studios and platforms now face, adapting game mechanics or content delivery engines to the patchwork of regulations around the world. One for Agent Jane to decipher perhaps? Would love to hear your thoughts!

* Please note that these are live charts which are updated monthly. So please make sure that the month of January 2022 is selected in the drop-down lists to match the analysis.

**The interactive games table at the top excludes live games and table games. Game rankings are determined by the number of game appearances on the casino homepages of over 1,400 casino sites. To access many other charts including game rankings, live and tabletop games, sub-page positions or to filter game performance by game theme, game feature or game type operator, contact egamingmonitor.com. Egamingmonitor covers 37,000 games, 1,300 providers and 1,500 operators.

*** Single games and studio charts are based on a larger dataset of over 4000 pages from 1500 operator sites and also include all types of games including live games, games games, video bingo, video poker, scratch cards, crash games and more. .

**** Transaction data by month was collected from April 2020 and the rolling chart reflects running dealmaking performance, i.e. the number of deals signed over the past 6 months. All-time business-to-business deals are available through egamingmonitor.com. Note that only transactions a) on company websites or b) in game press or c) reported to us by studios and aggregators are aggregated.