Content aggregation is a powerful strategy in the iCasino space, whether they are software providers or casino operators wanting to offer choice and localised solutions, says Pavlos Sideris, director at Double Up Media.
The casino ecosystem has evolved dramatically over the last decade and aggregation platforms are now the primary route to market for many casino games, but how does this affect the market, suppliers and players – let’s take a look.
The aggregator model
The main focus of aggregator platforms is software development and support for online casino websites and the integration of games content and, importantly, the core ingredient of integrated payment systems. They are a one-stop-shop for the whole casino product, providing access to thousands of games.
Content aggregators work with licensed game developers to offer vast portfolios of casino content, including slot machines, live casino games, poker, virtual sports, table games, lotteries, casual games and in some cases branch out into sports betting. They can also provide consulting services for gaming licences and localised market research – in many ways, they are perfect for new online casinos seeking a quick route to market.
According to Softswiss, among the many benefits, especially for new casinos, of using an aggregator platform include having thousands of games available, regular new games content, one-off integration, favourable terms for costs, unified support and multiple monthly promo campaigns on games from suppliers on the platform.
Before the rise of aggregation platforms in recent years, online casinos would be required to sign content agreements, most often on an exclusive basis with gaming software suppliers such as Playtech and Microgaming, who would also provide their platform services and additional products such as online bingo or virtual betting.
That model has largely subsided because there is now so much content that is available from so many suppliers that operators can access huge quantities of aggregated content at optimal cost.
Content is king, but where does that leave quality?
Aggregation platforms solve many problems for online casinos, including providing the all-important “diversity of game content (that) is critical to player acquisition and retention – the wider the range of games casinos offer, the better your chances of attracting a healthy cross section of different players.”
Aggregation platforms can offer a wide range of content, but what does this mean for the games studios that must produce new games every month?
The iGaming industry is incredibly competitive, with over 100 new slots hitting the global market monthly from over 450 studios (in total, according to Slotcatalog, there are more than 23,000 slot games). In this context, suppliers must strike a careful balance between quality and quantity, and more and more these days, players are impressed by the quality. In contrast, casinos, and therefore aggregators, require quantity in an industry that places the most emphasis on the size of game lobbies and bonuses.
A more substantial market presence or restricting innovation?
Viewed in a positive light, gaming aggregators allow new studios to focus on creating great games rather than bringing the product to market. Effectively, they’re outsourcing for skills, brand power, and resources while saving on compliance, legal and HR.
In an opposing view, if a software provider’s only path to casino exposure is partnering with an aggregation platform, there will be rules and considerations that could affect creativity and innovation. Plus, there’s the pressure to create regular content, which could compromise the quality of game productions or even lead to rehashes. Effectively, aggregation means giving up some freedom and individuality.
However, industry stakeholders such as Andy Whitworth, chief commercial officer at White Hat Gaming, have argued that innovation is fostered in aggregator groups, as multiple studios are competing internally and pushing each to deliver better content.
There is also an argument to be made that the technology sharing that takes place across the platform creates prime conditions for innovation. For example, Yggdrasil allows all the suppliers on its YGS Masters programme to access their licensed game mechanics.
Modern games are all about new mechanics and the next big trend, making innovation key to success. While aggregators may apply pressure on the pace of new game releases, in many ways they hold the power over routes to market for smaller studios.
In previous times games exposure and visibility would largely depend on a few major suppliers and their operators. Aggregation platforms have enabled the market to evolve and have shifted the balance of power largely in their favour because they are now the market access point for so many games developers.
Where does this leave players?
Slots are a staple of the online casino sector. Thanks to content aggregation platforms, operators gain access to thousands of games via a single integration, meaning players have access to a hugely increased range of real money games. The aggregation model works particularly well in new markets and delivers desirable results for new slot sites looking to launch quickly with localised knowledge creating game lobbies tailored to local preferences.
However, it’s undeniable that with a smaller selection of aggregators running the market, many casino front pages are becoming increasingly homogenised, with many of the same titles and providers, meaning players have to dig deeper to find unique games.
Simultaneously, there has been a considerable increase in the range of games available as aggregators with substantial purchasing power have essentially brought in different specialities and unique options, including slots, live dealers, table games, bingo, scratchcards, and video poker to create the most robust option.
What’s the final word?
Content aggregation is undoubtedly a win for suppliers, casinos and players. However, it is also creating other issues such as having a few platforms controlling much of the access to markets for developers desperate for exposure.
But content aggregators, games studios and of course operators have always evolved with the times and all are focused on high-quality games, innovation, knowledge sharing and promoting new studios. In that sense aggregation platforms act as a type of cooperative space for the iGaming sector, bringing the best content to market for all industry stakeholders.