Q&A with Victor Pronk, CCO at Incentive Games – European Gaming Industry News

Reading Time: 11 minutes

 

Participants

Michael Pedersen, CCO at Livespins

Will Barnes, Owner at Hideous Slots

Bryan Upton, Founder at Lucksome

David Mann, Chief Commercial Officer at Swintt

 

There is no question that online slot streaming is enjoying a meteoric rise in popularity? What are you doing to leverage the potential it provides? 

Michael Pedersen, CCO at Livespins

We have launched an entire company with the sole purpose of leveraging the meteoric rise of online slot streaming, Livespins. For a long time, people have been asking if online casino can be social, but you only have to look to Twitch to see that it absolutely can be. To date, there have been more than 280 million hours of streaming footage consumed in the slots category and the chat is on fire. With the hypothesis well and truly proved, we launched Livespins to take this a step further by allowing players to get in on the action by betting behind the streamer and to also offer operators and developers a reputable, compliant platform via which they too can capitalise on the popularity of streaming. We really are going all-in on this as, ultimately, we believe that it is the future of online casino.

Will Barnes, Owner at Hideous Slots

Hideous Slots was always meant to be about community, and the live streams themselves are really at the core of audience engagement. I consider that streaming and video promotion has already overtaken traditional methods of content discovery amongst key demographics. For me, this means using online streaming to achieve the things that would previously have been achieved elsewhere – for example, remembering to lead viewers to your website through streams, comments and Live Chat has now become just as important as traditional SEO. Working with game providers is becoming more common for streamers – as you’ve said, online slot streaming is massively on the rise, and streamers are now proving to be one of the most direct tools in marketing. But we still need to maintain our integrity and the trust of the audience – so commentary on specific products must always fair and balanced.

Bryan Upton, Founder at Lucksome

Not enough would be the honest answer.  We are a small and new studio going through a normal start-up process of improvement, scaling and hitting our rhythm.  I would say that we are building Slots that the streaming community would have an affinity for.  Voodoo Temple, our latest slot has a lot of punch and enough big wins behind it in the first week of launch to have proven that. This is a starting point at least.  Now, for us it’s about getting our games and brand in front of the streamers around the world and letting them do what they do best – play and entertain.  We are just starting to push in this direction and learning how this part of the industry is working.  With this meteoric rise, has come a premium for streamers’ time, and that is something smaller studios like Lucksome would need to understand in terms of return before taking that cost on.  Is there some solid data on this to prove the business case?  It would be great to be able to have those discussions, and how to help the younger, innovative studios into the limelight.

David Mann, Chief Commercial Officer at Swintt

I agree that the popularity of slot streaming is increasing every month. And for us, as a slot supplier, it is very important that the streaming community knows about our game releases so they can share our latest titles with their followers. A good relationship with the streamers that share the same culture and beliefs as the studio is key as this ensures they are aware of new games coming to the market. However, it is also important to release games that are liked by the community that follows the streamers, because ultimately big wins are what are people interested in. So high volatility games with high max wins should definitely be a part of the portfolio of anyone who wants to succeed in gaining visibility for their games among streamers and their audiences.

We are seeing some studios build out their own teams of streamers. What are the pros and cons of doing this? 

Michael Pedersen, CCO at Livespins

I am a great believer in knowing what you are good at and making that your focus. Game studios are great at developing engaging and entertaining slots and that is where they should deploy their resources. They can then partner with streamers or platforms such as Livespins and get in on the action that way. Of course, this means that streamers and streaming platforms need to be driving progress.

The way I see it, live streaming consists of two parts – the technical and the human. Over time, everyone will nail the technology but because there is such a reliance on the human element this is where the real difference will be made. That is why at Livespins we provide our streamers with access to coaches, props, themes, etc and this is something that studios will struggle to do while also ensuring their games continue to top the charts.

Will Barnes, Owner at Hideous Slots

I think the biggest advantage of building your own team is that you’re going to have complete control over the content. Ultimately the engagement will always be with the individuals on screen and I think this might be difficult to manage if things become successful. The danger will always be that people are tuning in for the influencer and not the brand itself. An associated issue is that social media success often involves interaction across platforms and this can be a 24/7 job. Motivating a team to make personalised social media posts, and to be passionate about your product would be a challenge – especially when competing against streamers who are offering this with ease. To really enjoy success, you need to find someone who is not just passionate about entertaining, but also passionate about engaging with the audience, and passionate about the gambling!

Bryan Upton, Founder at Lucksome

The pros are pretty obvious, if you set up something well, you gain influence and the exposure of your games, which all studios, big and small need and want.  It would also create a stream of solid and direct feedback on a segment of the market to allow you to hone your product even more.  The cons, personally I think the truly GREAT streamers are not just the ones that are fun to watch but are also authentic and independent.  Meaning they play everyone’s games, they play the games they love, the games their audience love.  Asking them to play a game they don’t like falls flat on the stream and the watchers feel it.  If you have your own streamer set up, you need to make sure what you’re producing in terms of content is spot on for the community you are serving and your streamers really need play other competitor games as well – otherwise you’ll lose the audience.  I guess another con is scale.  You’ll need a lot of people to tackle those important local markets, Italy, German speaking, Spanish etc etc.  In the same way as a provide you try to push your games all over the world, you would want your reach and influence to match.  I would say that is out of reach for smaller studios and a different business to that of running a game studio.  I think it would be great to see some stronger relationships between streamers and suppliers to produce some great original content and experiences – so there is something to be had there.

David Mann, Chief Commercial Officer at Swintt

I believe studios that build a team of their own streamers lose the legitimacy and trust of the viewers because it is very probable that in-house streamers will not criticise the studios’ games even if they are not up to standard. However, by having your own team of streamers, you a studio can ensure that all of their games are played and see the light of the streaming community. So, there are pros and cons to both, but if studios want to engage and entertain players in an authentic way it is important for streamers to remain independent.

Just how difficult is it to launch streaming channels and build sizable audiences? What are the key challenges faced and how can they be overcome? 

Michael Pedersen, CCO at Livespins

Livespins is a very different beast. We are not an affiliate streamer and we do not depend on building large audiences and a loyal community of fans. This is because we integrate directly with an online casino operator and engage with their existing player base. For affiliate streamers, it is insanely difficult to launch a channel and build a sizeable following, and then also convert that following into paying players at partner online casino brands. That is why Livespins is so innovative – it allows operators to capitalise on the popularity of streaming by offering it to their players and by also letting them bet behind the action taking place across the reels.

Will Barnes, Owner at Hideous Slots

Launching a channel comes with a number of challenges, and the most significant challenge is building an audience. Often, finding those first 20-30 viewers comes quite easily – friends, friends of friends, or those who enjoy the high level of engagement that a smaller stream can provide. Again, once you surpass 150-200 viewers, growth is more consistent, as your content is pushed out by YouTube and Twitch organically. But between 30-150 viewers is a real struggle, and I think the quickest way to overcome this hurdle is to try and offer something a bit different, and to keep trying. Keep showing up, keep offering somewhere for people to join together, and hope that eventually these numbers continue to grow. There’s no shortcut to building huge numbers – it’s about being authentic, and if you have something interesting or unique enough, eventually it will pay off. 

Bryan Upton, Founder at Lucksome

We are seeing this continued trend in European markets of high volatility game play – but we have hit the ceiling in terms of how much we can push this, factors from high exposure to the Operators and squeezing of margins with very harsh, high risk math profiles are, in my opinion, creating the beginnings of player fatigue and burnout and reticence from the industry.  I feel player tastes are settling into a happy medium between the extremes that our industry tends to have an affinity with, with is a good thing.  From our side, we continuously have to avoided falling into the noise of all the other game releases, and having something to talk about directly to players and through influencers I think is key.  We pride ourselves on being more transparent on the games we’re producing and how they work, as we think it is key to attracting the right players to your games.  We keep an eye on new trends in and outside our industry and how we can utilise or jump on them to make better gaming experiences, which is our life blood, as is as adjusting our design processes looking at the new generation of players out there.

David Mann, Chief Commercial Officer at Swintt

This is definitely not the easiest task. You need to be trustworthy, entertaining and stream on a regular basis to gain a sizable audience. But trust is really key here. Viewers follow streamers to see their reactions so during a stream they need to interact with the audience and react to the important moments when they play. Streamers are also trying to help to change the perception of gaming, so it is important to set the key goals when launching a streaming channel. I see it being of huge importance to be a legit streamer and to stay away from adopting the practices of so-called fake streamers.

What tactics are you using to drive growth? Are audience demands changing? If so, how? And what impact is this having on streams? 

Michael Pedersen, CCO at Livespins

Because we are coming at live streaming from a B2B perspective, we are driving growth by integrating with more operators and partnering with more slot providers. Audience demands are changing – no longer are players happy sitting at home just spinning the reels. They want to engage and interact with streamers and other players, and they also want to be involved in a more direct way and that is why we offer the option to bet behind.

The quality of streams is going to have to improve, and that is why we offer our streamers coaching and the tools they need to create entertaining environments. I think we will also see players demand more transparency from streamers and ultimately concerns about responsible marketing and safe gambling will probably lead to regulatory oversight. Of course, this is something that has already been built into the Livespins platform.

Will Barnes, Owner at Hideous Slots

As I’ve said previously, I always try to put a unique spin on any content I produce, which in itself can be difficult when working within a niche category. I recognise that a commonality amongst successful influencers is to share as much as possibly – and so I endeavour to put myself out there, engaging with social media at every opportunity. Over time, the audience changes. You bring in new viewers, and you begin to notice some of the older ones drop off – this is natural, but as a result of a changing audience, sometimes we have to move along with content too. Some months our viewers primarily want to see bonus buys, and at another time there may be a demand in the chat for an exciting new release. What endures is the desire to have a say in the content – taking requests from the chat, so we keep this at all times. There’s no denying this has a huge impact on streams – our bonus hunt streams receive the most engagement, especially in terms of live viewers when we open the bonuses we have saved. Often it’s about weighing up what gets the most viewers against the cost of producing the content, and keeping the majority of viewers happy with the decisions made.

David Mann, Chief Commercial Officer at Swintt

To have your game streamed by popular streamers introduces the game to a much wider audience and can bring potential players, therefore we like to team up with the streamers and run promotions together to reward the players for trying out our games. We believe that by doing this it’s fun for the players, streamers, and ourselves as well. The audience loves to see huge wins but at the same time, it is important to keep bets within a realistic range so the streamer can show their followers that they can hit nice multipliers with affordable bets.

Where is slot streaming ultimately headed? And what role will you/your organisation play in pushing the sector towards its ultimate destination?

Michael Pedersen, CCO at Livespins

I touched on it in the last question, but I believe that affiliate slot streamers are heading into troubled waters. It is only a matter of time before regulators, operators and providers in regulated markets and even Twitch distance themselves from some of the more unsustainable practices that we are unfortunately seeing many affiliates adopt today.

For example, many have their gameplay sponsored in some way, but do not always disclose this to their viewers, essentially misleading their community into thinking their often-lavish lifestyle can be afforded due to gambling winnings, which is not the case.

As affiliate streamers have their income strongly correlated with the size of their community, unfortunately, we often see practices like view botting, very large bet amounts and extreme studio behaviour, often engineered to create virality and subsequently, increase their following.

Again, this is where Livespins comes in. We really do not like what we are seeing right now with affiliate streamers on Twitch, and we do not think that it is a sustainable platform or practice in the long term. Of course, the appetite for streaming content is only going to intensify. Livespins is an alternative to this; it is regulated, and all of the streaming and betting is taking place inside a licensed entity. We are also leaving unsustainably large bet amounts behind.

Ultimately, the experience that we offer means that we don’t need to wager irresponsibly to create viral videos that engage audiences and allow us to monetise.

Will Barnes, Owner at Hideous Slots

As time goes on and streaming continues to build in popularity, I think we will only see growth and diversification within video promotion. Even outside of slot streaming, influencers are leading the charge in marketing. Long gone are the days of radio or television advertising driving the majority of sales – nowadays, the endorsement by a trustworthy influencer, can make a real difference. What’s most interesting about this is that for a person to earn that position of trust, they just have to be well known, even if no one is quite sure why they’re well known. I believe slot streaming will go in the same direction. 

I think we all play a part in this by continuing to build the streaming community, but on a personal level I’d like to play a role in showing viewers that yes, I advertise a product, and yes I am an ‘influencer’, but I take that position of trust seriously. I want my viewers to know that whether they’ve watched me for a week or for three years, I stand by the things that I say, the content I produce, and the products that I advertise, and I think it’s important that anyone involved in the streaming community shares this goal. Streaming will continue to drive marketing, and it’s up to those of us currently involved to decide how we are viewed in this time.

Bryan Upton, Founder at Lucksome

It’s headed to a more interactive experience with the audience becoming more involved with the stream.  New platforms will emerge that will add tools to allow this form of gambling interaction and socialisation.  We are a fast-growing industry that is mainstreaming, and now, therefore, I believe can support this level of community that perhaps before would not have been impossible.  We hope to be a content partner in this, supplying a core part of the experience, but also meaning that we are aware will may need to look at how to adapt our games design in this direction in the future.  Until then we will watch, learn and see where we can add value in what we do best, games.

David Mann, Chief Commercial Officer at Swintt

In my opinion, streaming is undoubtably a very important part of the gaming industry and its future and it will only grow over the coming months and years. I hope that we will see an increase in legit and trustworthy streamers who will help to improve the perception of slots and gaming. Our plan is to release more games that will be liked by the streaming community and to cooperate with the streamers who we believe run their business in the right way.

Leave a Comment