Saturday, August 13, 2022

Aggregators look beyond content to grow Asia’s online sector

Content aggregators have long been the go-to solution for operators looking to quickly and easily enter online markets in Asia.

But with competition from content studios on the rise, and operators expecting aggregators to offer more than just great games, the landscape is shifting rapidly.

Content has diversified significantly in Asia’s online casino space over the past couple of years. Last August, London-listed supplier Playtech cut its forecast for revenue from Asia by 35 million euros, citing a “significant increase in competition in China in 2018 from new market entrants”.

At the same time, run-of-the-mill content aggregation - essentially the art of packaging up content from a range of games suppliers to allow for a single integration with an operator - is no longer cutting it in Asia.

“Operators in Asia expect far more from their content aggregator compared with a few years ago,” Vladimir Negine, head of content aggregator Hub88, told AGB.

“There was a time when a good range of content from leading suppliers was enough; today, most operators will not consider an aggregator which does not incorporate cutting-edge marketing and business intelligence tools as well.”

Ulf Norder, CCO of QTech Games, agreed. “It’s become a gaming one-stop shop, localised for every region, with native mobile apps, powerful reporting and marketing tools, allied to 24/7 local-language support.”

Today, world-class content is a minimum bar. But this must be supplemented by the promotional and marketing tools operators require to maximise its impact.

Michael Probert, CCO at supplier iSoftBet, described the space as “a hotbed of innovation complete with integrated promotional and gamification tools, diversity and localised content.”

He singled out gamification tools as an area of particular importance. 

“One of the standout additions to the igaming market in the last few years has been the development and refinement of gamification tools. Increasingly these are one of the main selling points in gaming portfolios and if a supplier can add these marketing features to aggregation platforms then it elevates the entire offering,” he said.

Deal making

Aggregators have also played a vital role bringing high-quality content from Europe’s premium slots studios to Asia for the first time.

In an industry of small margins, aggregators often provide a more affordable point of entry into a market which would otherwise require a significant sales network to access.

“Many studios have tried to implement their own Asian strategy but underestimated the time it takes to build relationships in this part of the world,” said Norder at Qtech. “Of course, there is also often a language or cultural barrier that can make it harder to gain true traction, turning the signing of deals into unnecessarily protracted processes.”

Indeed, Negine at Hub88 noted that content aggregation is often the only viable way from smaller to mid sized European games developers to enter Asia. “Many of these developers do not have the resources or on-the-ground presence in Asia to build relationships and do deals independently with operators across the region,” he said.

Or as Norder summed up, these studios can be reluctant to invest two-to-three years for their Asian sales to generate revenues.

The fragmentation of the online market in Asia - previously dominated by a handful of super suppliers - also presents its own opportunities.

“Everyone has an opportunity to grow and gain a step on their rivals by highlighting how effective their product is,” said Probert.

“By putting the creative onus onto providers not just through content but also service, gamification and integration, the whole aggregation market continues to develop at an exciting pace.”

Future of aggregation

The challenge for aggregators in Asia going forward is a simple one: how to present an attractive value proposition to operators that exceeds that on offer from single integrations with independent studios.

“Aggregators that don’t create additional value will soon fall away,” said Probert at iSoftBet. “ If you don’t do that and offer the appropriate support, then you run the risk of operators going direct and bypassing aggregators altogether. 

“You have to offer suppliers and operators what they want in the markets they are targeting, as well as go one step further by adding value with proprietary tools that make a big difference to player acquisition and retention levels,” he said.

As well as business intelligence, other factors, such as speed-to-market, are critical. Negine said that Hub88 can bring an operator to market in just three days. Of course, building an appealing library of slots content via individual integrations can take months, if not years.

“The line between a content aggregator and a full white-label solution has narrowed,” he said, adding that Hub88 incorporates casino, sports betting products, lottery and will soon integrate payment options as well.

Ultimately, operators will be driven by the needs and demands of their players. “The Asian market is catching up quickly with its more mature European counterpart, as players become more sophisticated and demand more to be retained by any particular casino,” said Norder at QTech.

And in a region where competition is becoming increasingly intense, aggregators have a key role to play in the battle for market share.

Asia Gaming Brief is a news and intelligence service providing up to date market information for worldwide executives on relevant gaming issues in Asia.

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