Interview with Inspired Entertainment
Inspired Entertainment is a stock listed on the NASDAQ. But they're a lot more than that to the regulated iGaming world. In a nutshell, Inspired Entertainment sells hardware, software, and services, to mobile and land-based gambling operators. Their customers are involved in regulated gaming, betting, as well as lotteries.
We asked a few questions to Claire Osborne, Vice President of Interactive at Inspired Entertainment, to learn more about what really goes on behind the scenes.
What is Inspired Entertainment Inc., and what do you produce and sell?
Inspired Entertainment (or just Inspired for short) is a global games technology company that offers a growing international portfolio of award-winning content, technology, hardware and services for regulated gaming, betting, lottery, social and leisure operators across retail, online and mobile.
We operate in approximately 35 regulated jurisdictions worldwide and supply gaming systems with associated terminals and games for more than 50,000 gaming machines located in betting shops, pubs, gaming halls and other route operations. Inspired provides award-winning virtual sports products through more than 44,000 retail channels and a variety of amusement entertainment solutions with a total installed base of more than 19,000 devices worldwide.
We also develop and provide high-quality interactive gaming content for the global online and mobile casino industry. As the VP of Inspired's Interactive segment, I'm responsible for heading up the strategic growth efforts of our mobile and online content.
Currently we deliver more than 100 top-performing, graphic-rich, robust and socially responsible online and mobile games to more than 100 leading international operators. Our online and mobile games are translated into 17 languages and are available in 43 currencies. They vary in themes and volatility to suit an array of markets, player tastes and preferences.
How has the pandemic shaped Inspired's future strategy about the importance of having a strong line-up of online games?
Inspired places great emphasis on having a broad and strong line-up of online and mobile games and did so even before the pandemic hit us in 2020. The year before the pandemic, Inspired dedicated more resources to our Interactive segment to focus on understanding the needs of our customers and their players. As a result, our interactive games have gone from strength to strength in both quality and industry take-up. We have added innovative and popular game mechanics; to player-favourite themes and have included much-loved, highly recognisable brands within our growing portfolio of content. These include the likes of Reel King Megaways™, Centurion Megaways™ and our upcoming launch, Cops 'n' Robbers Megaways™.
While the pandemic has wrought havoc among global societies and most industries, I believe that within the wider gaming industry, it has solidified the importance of having a diverse range of products and services to suit multiple vertical sectors - not putting all our eggs in one basket (pardon the Easter pun!) Our emphasis has been and always will be, to play to our strengths as an organisation that is extremely capable of delivering content of the highest quality within an array of outlets, be it mobile, online, retail, motorway services, leisure parks or more.
Gimme Gold Megaways was recently released, what goes into the release of an Inspired Entertainment game when available? For example, do you have pre-orders, or do you follow a specific marketing plan?
Both. We do receive pre-orders from operators we work with closely who are looking for something specific or have already had big success with one of our brands and/or mechanics. An example of this is one of our most recent games, Fishing Cash Pots™, which was developed as a request for Entain who have the game exclusively for a month before its global release to all other operators on 26th April 2021.
For most of our other games (e.g., our upcoming slots sensation, Cops 'n' Robbers Megaways™), the team has been following a customer-focused marketing plan. We provide customers with previews, a multitude of assets and demos about the game. We've leaned on industry publications, social media and our corporate site to grow awareness, and showcase the quality of the game on our play-for-fun site to engage with and experience. In addition, we've also sent customers Cops and Robbers-branded promotional items and created asset packs our customers can use to promote the game with their players before it launches in the marketplace.
What are the milestones between ideation to realisation that most of your games go through?
We operate with three milestones in mind, all of which we must reach to get our games live with customers.
The first one, includes all the pre-production work, such as conceptualising the idea, testing the mechanics, mocking up designs and graphics etc. Once we're happy with the concept of the game, the maths and its various aspects, we move on to production. As we turn the pre-production ideas into reality, we rigorously test them multiple times to ensure the mechanics, maths and theme works faultlessly for the player.
Once production has been achieved and we are 100% happy with the game, we move on to the third milestone. This entails full QA testing and sending the completed game to Gaming Laboratories International (GLI), an independent testing and certification body, to ensure the game meets all the regulatory requirements. Once the game has passed all three hurdles, it's ready to launch in the marketplace.
What is the process of creating an online slot game?
We follow a rigorous development process to make sure our games launch successfully, which includes planning, pre-production, production, testing, pre-launch, launch, and post-production. Development begins with listening intently to what our customers want. We listen to what our customers are saying about their players' preferences on an array of game specifics including themes, mechanics, level of volatility, promotional tools and more. Then we work closely as a team of account managers, game designers, products developers, and mathematicians among others to produce a game that we know will be a success. Since acquiring Bell-Fruit and Astra, we not only have some great new brands, but also new game development teams who have different skills in different markets. We're keen to retain and harness these core team skills while building and encouraging a knowledge-sharing and collaborative culture.
Our collaborative and people-focused culture means we adapt our offerings to meet our customers' demands and their player requirements, while allowing everyone to be involved in game ideation. We encourage bold and ambitious thinking and ensure no one is afraid to challenge conventions
What are the key ingredients of a great slot game?
The key ingredients of a great online slot game vary from market to market, which is why it is crucial to put the player first and understand what they require from the gaming experience. As a global provider of products and services, we have a good understanding of what type of games do well in certain markets. However, we do see similarities throughout certain markets which allows us to find some common ground on which to work with, including understanding the routes the customers are acquired through.
In general, the ingredients that combine to make the perfect game include: a fun and engaging gameplay mechanic that works seamlessly with popular and tested features; a likeable theme that embodies rich, vibrant and eye-catching graphics; and a fair return-to-player rate (RTP) that rewards players regularly so they can extend their gameplay to an enjoyable and a socially responsible length of time. More recently, we have steered away from super high volatile games that reward only the top players. Instead we have put the wins in the lower levels, creating a fun, relaxed and casual gaming experience that more people can enjoy.
What makes Inspired's online and mobile games stand out when compared with competitors' offerings?
Inspired boasts a portfolio of more than 100 online and mobile games, all of which vary in style, theme, mechanics, and gameplay. From Las Vegas-style slots to Egyptian-themed games and more, there's something for everyone. But what I'm most thrilled about is our ability to cover all seasons with our games.
Recently, we launched two Irish-themed games in time for St. Patrick's Day; Slots 'O' Luck Free Spins™ and Top 'O' the Bonus™. Both became successful additions to our growing portfolio of Irish-themed content, which includes Reel Lucky King Megaways™, Lucky Ways Multiplier™, Rainbow Cash Pots™ and Book of the Irish™.
For Easter, we have Chocolate Cash Pots and an array of games with themes that coincide with upcoming annual celebrations and events. We see ourselves as "the home of the seasonal game,", which is among our games' unique selling points.
Another of our strong points that set our games apart is our eagerness to deliver games that work and suit the end player in multiple markets while understanding and benefiting from our retail roots. Our core skills are in developing great simple games with engaging maths that appeal to bettors who want a bit of fun. We endeavour to deliver some new and innovative mechanics coupled with the best graphics and sounds to create an immersive, socially responsible and an engaging iGaming experience for the end player.
Lastly, what would you tell a young engineer who wants to develop games: what skills do you seek in your hires?
Our team is made up of extremely talented game developers, who are hand-picked and who feel encompass our cultural values. Creativeness is paramount, but we also want developers who are ambitious, bold and brave, and not afraid to challenge ideas.
Good developers tend to have a keen eye for detail, and a good understanding of game mechanics and player behaviours is crucial, but they need to love what they do! A personal passion for iGaming can be hugely beneficial. We look for the ability to work as part of collaborative team, to share ideas and be able to work well with others. At Inspired, we see our success as the result of teamwork, which includes good communication skills and respect for all. If a young engineer has all these traits, they'll no doubt have a very bright future ahead.