To some, the sport of cricket is niche – a gentle game to be played peacefully on a summer’s day on a village green and not much to get excited about. To billions of others, it’s a religion – a way of life – and the cauldron of noise, colour and emotion that often surrounds the climax of a big game is unlike anything else. This would perhaps explain why it’s the second-most-watched sport in the world, so it’s only right that it has games and products that reflect this in the casino world.
Kiron and Betby are two suppliers that have recognised this and we took a walk to the crease with them to find out what’s behind their latest creations.
Kirill Nekrasov, Product Owner of Betby.Games, and Andris Backovs, Trading Team Leader, are joined by Jason Pretorius, Co-CEO, Kiron Interactive, to discuss.
Why do you think that cricket games haven’t been given the attention they deserve in the casino industry?
Kiron: I think it largely depends on the market that is being focused on. The European, western facing audiences have traditionally been interested in more popular sports such as football, which has 131 million fans in the big five European markets (Spain, Italy, Germany, U.K. and France). This has of course resulted in more products being pushed in that direction the online casino industry, as with anything, has evolved over time. Europe was the pioneering region for establishing and commercialising online regulated gaming, which is why gaming products have traditionally been more aligned to European sporting preferences.
However, online gaming has spread around the globe. We’ve seen the rise in popularity of online casinos in hyper populated, emerging regions across Asia such as India or Pakistan, and now, new trends are being introduced to better reflect these markets. Cricket has billions of fans globally, with the Indian sub-continent alone constituting more than 90% of them. Through innovative games such as Kiron’s Final Over and Super Over, cricket fans now have a new way to enjoy their favourite pastime.
Betby: Firstly, it is worth mentioning that interest in this sport from a betting point of view has increased greatly over the past couple of years. And this doesn’t just apply to nations where cricket was always a popular pastime, such as the UK, but also in countries where the word “cricket” was mentioned only in very narrow social circles.
Of course, the industry wasn’t too focused on the opportunities for development both from real cricket and virtual products when it was not so popular. And this wasn’t only due to the difficult dynamics of the game, but also to the market that each company operates individually. The market is rapidly developing, and now having such a virtual product is a huge advantage.
Does the sport offer any particular benefits to game design as a theme?
Betby: Cricket is undoubtedly one of the most challenging projects we have undertaken at Betby.Games. Despite its seeming simplicity, the game’s rules are incredibly complex, and when developing the odds model, it was necessary to consider a huge number of factors that directly or indirectly affect the behaviour of these odds.
On the other hand, the large amount of data in the game provides an undeniable advantage over other games, allowing us to create special markets and manage margins and bet delays flexibly in different game segments. In addition, it’s something that offers plenty of excitement, from conditions to kits, and it’s always a real joy to create completely new products.
Kiron: Designing cricket themed games is great because it allows us to build on the exciting nature of its gameplay. In the real-life game, every over is like a mini-match within itself and can really swing the outcome of a game.
At Kiron, we have been able to build on this with our virtual cricket offerings, through enhanced focus on a single, nail-biting over, we have super-charged the excitement and suspense for fans, creating an unmatched interactive experience. Another key part of cricket is the atmosphere of the fans. In countries like India where cricket is almost treated like religion, the buzz inside the stadium is electric and we know this is a big part of the attraction for cricket fans. Through our hyper-realistic graphics and HD sound effects, we have been able to leverage this aspect of cricket fandom and replicate it within the virtual game.
We feel that our definitive, high-frequency cricket titles are perfect for the sport’s legions of fans and beyond, placing players in the final overs of a tight, tense encounter between two teams and tasking them to predict the outcome. Both games, Final Over and Super Over, are a recreation of the sports’ famous final plays where competing sides each have an over to outscore the other to win the match.
How have you approached the development of your products with such a relatively untried theme?
Kiron: The fact that this theme is relatively untried is not a problem for us. At Kiron, innovation is part of our culture. We’re always keen to push the boundaries and develop new themed games to keep players engaged. This is why we have the largest virtual games portfolio in the industry, which feeds our appetite to reach new audiences. We have over 200 international clients across six continents and it’s our duty to ensure our portfolio is reflective of this.
We continuously benchmark ourselves against the highest industry standards to ensure we are at the forefront of product development and over the last 12 months, Kiron has expanded its portfolio with the release of Final Over & Super Over, which are fun, new cricket games.
We believe that true success comes from our relentless pursuit of excellence in the delivery of the highest-quality content and pioneering products. This is a continuous approach throughout our development, and although this is still a relatively untried theme, we always place the player’s needs at the core of the objective. We recognised the immense popularity of cricket and as long as we are able to keep the fans happy, through leveraging our dedicated in-house animation and development team, we know we’re doing the right thing and attending to their expectations.
Betby: In terms of whether or not to create a cricket game, it was never a question for us at Betby.Games. We always knew that we had to have a cricket game in our portfolio. Firstly, we have dozens of major clients operating in the Indian market who use Betby as a sportsbook provider, and we simply couldn’t let them down. Secondly, we see incredible potential in the Indian betting market, and having a cricket game in our portfolio is essential to maintaining the high quality standard that Betby has always been known for.
Development of this new game was a true challenge for our team, and our developers and mathematicians brilliantly passed it, and we’re incredibly happy with our finished article.
Can you see cricket games becoming popular in any new territories as the sport grows?
Betby: Absolutely! Every year the popularity of cricket is increasing in huge steps. After all, the popularisation of this sport is also due to the ability to travel and work anywhere in the world. That is why it will be known in different territories. History and traditions spreads all over the world.
And with the Internet and technology, virtual cricket is popularising itself, thanks to dedicated fans of this sport. If we imagine a graph of development in different territories of real and virtual cricket, then very soon these lines will not differ much from each other.
Kiron: Yes, for sure. Cricket is a hugely popular sport with over 2.5 billion fans around the world and it’s still growing.
Traditionally, cricket has often been viewed by many, rightly or wrongly, as a complicated, slow-moving, even ‘boring’ sport, which has led to a stereotypical view of it being difficult to follow and get excited about. The popularity of the shorter forms of cricket, and particularly cricket’s most high-profile and lucrative T20 format, is undoubtedly increasing and making the sport of cricket more appealing to a younger and wider audience across the globe.
In one-day 50-over cricket, the 2019 World Cup amassed a record 13.7 billion viewing hours globally, a 72% increase from the 2015 event. Now in 2023, the numbers are even bigger.
The ICC (International Cricket Council, the sport’s governing body)has been very vocal about its intentions to increase the popularity of the sport by making further strides in untapped markets such as America and China. As the online gaming market is blooming in the US, this could be a very promising market in the coming years and one to watch out for.