Technology has created all sorts of demands for slot operators, from more immersive on-floor entertainment experiences to the need to come up with effective bricks–to-clicks (and back again) strategies. The old world was so much more straightforward.
In its place is a more challenging animal; one that offers more ways to make money but is riskier because of the associated costs. Taking on those risks is increasingly essential because those charged with issuing licenses for the brick-and-mortar business, in the U.S. at least, have collectively created a hyper-competitive world for most everyone involved and, outside the bubble of regulated casino gaming, technology has created a whole new set of facts and consumer expectations.
Take any significant industry player and you can see what it means. For the purposes of this space, consider Aristocrat Technologies’ end-of –2013 earnings call, which portrayed a potentially very lucrative and, of course, challenging, balancing act between existing land-based and future virtual businesses.
U.S./North American gaming operations, where company share grew 12 percent last year, is the top priority for Aristocrat, and it starts this year with 1,000 more participation games there then it had at the beginning of 2013, per Jamie Odell, chief executive officer, Aristocrat Technologies. Supporting those games, and the entire games portfolio, are significant new investments in creative and technical talent and better technology. The company has also made several acquisitions in the online and social gaming space, including Product Madness which released the Heart of Vegas Facebook app in mid-2013, that it hopes will continue to bear fruit in 2014.
“In the Americas, we believe we are poised for further growth with the benefit of an expanded and increasingly competitive game portfolio targeted at higher value segments,” said Odell. “The release of a range of entertainment games, including the first titles released by Dan Marks, will signal Aristocrat’s first real push into this growing segment. More multi-site progressive titles will be brought to market, capitalizing on increased demand for these games. There will also be a range of exciting new games delivered by Joe Kaminkow.”
But there will be headwinds. Aristocrat estimates the replacement market in the U.S. will be, “flat to slightly better, but mainly flat.” That amounts to 70,000 units, or, “slightly below what a number of market observers are saying.” On the gaming ops side, fee-per-day growth will slow.
“Everybody’s finding a little bit of pressure on that fee-per-day,” said Odell. “We’re performing quite well compared with the market. The growth of new product will drive improvement during the course of the year. That’s why increasing the installed base is so important to us.”
Highlighting the online side of things, Aristocrat has started to deploy and monetize premium game content via Product Madness. Average gross revenue per daily active user has grown significantly since the acquisition; ending the reporting period at nine cents and is currently at 11 cents, said Odell (in mid-November). Daily active users are currently above 500,000. The initial Facebook-based deployment of Aristocrat content was launched in early September and, as of the earnings call, over two million players had installed the application.
“Product Madness was marginally profitable this year; if you want to increase the daily user revenue you have to spend heavily on marketing,” said Odell. “The strategic theory behind this is playing out very well. Facebook has the apps and the lobby and they recognize that our content will monetize extremely well. I stand by my comments that within a couple of reporting periods this should be into the tens of millions of profitability. This is very, very important to our business.”