Mat Ingram Q & A – Passionate about gaming

Coinslot Mat Ingram Reflex Gaming
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Mat Ingram, the recently appointed Chief Product Officer at Reflex Gaming, discusses the challenges and opportunities facing the land-based business and why multi-channel gaming offerings don’t necessarily succeed.

 

Coinslot: What attracted you to the position at Reflex?

Mat Ingram: Having worked with companies of all shapes and sizes, I really wanted to join a small, agile team that could respond quickly to changing market requirements without being unnecessarily laden with process. At Reflex, the decision-making forum is a tight one which means that we can get things done much more effectively. Reflex is also a financially solid business with a strong and supportive customer base, which is important.

CS: What attributes do you bring to the job?

MI: I’ve been in gaming product design and development all of my working life and I have built both land-based and online businesses from scratch. I know what some of the pitfalls are and I understand the value of customer relationships and strong product design. It can be tough trying to persuade customers to take mediocre games and I’m certainly looking forward to not having to do that!

CS: When you were appointed, you mentioned your ‘passion’ for the gaming sector – can you expand on this, how is it manifest?

MI: The people that have worked with me before, know that I can get quite ‘animated’ about seemingly minor aspects of game design. Similarly, I get very frustrated with lazy or ill-conceived gaming product design, and there is plenty of this, particularly in the online space! This is why I enjoy working with other individuals who share my passion for game design and who ‘get it’. I have run workshops over the last couple of years on the Principles of Gaming, and on occasion I have seen the looks of incredulity on some faces, that anyone needs to care about these minute details of game design. However, to ignore these details is to accept mediocrity and without exception, the best games in the world have all had these details attended to.

CS: What proportion of your time will be spent on product for bricks and mortar gaming compared to that for digital?

MI: I think it will be about 50/50 to start off with. I’m conscious not to forget the strong existing land-based business which will continue to need new and innovative games. It’s this that has made Reflex what it is today, so it’s crucial that it gets as much of my time as it needs.

CS: What do you see as being the biggest challenges for bricks and mortar gaming providers compared to those facing the digital side of the business?

MI: The land-based machine supply business has faced many well-documented headwinds since 2008. Reflex is one of the last and one of the largest independent suppliers and it was very important that strong relationships were built with the B2B customers. Having done this, we now need to work together with those customers to further secure this sector and grow the incomes via investment in technology and obviously, great new games. The main issue with the online and mobile markets is over-supply. There are literally hundreds of game suppliers vying for the attention of operators, so once again this becomes a question of strong B2B relationships and working with those clients to produce product that they want and that their players want.

CS: Do you think the AWP sector has a problem with its perception of providing poor value for money? Should RTP be measured only in financial terms – the payout – or can you measure it in terms of entertainment or time on the machine?

MI: Theoretical RTP is obviously one metric by which ‘value’ can be measured, and purely in that regard AWPs do not compare terribly well with other forms of gaming. However, if we think of gaming as the purchase of an entertainment product, then I’d say that AWPs in general provide much better value than most. I think a bigger perception problem for high-tech AWPs is the view that they have become overly complex for many casual players at the expense of the underlying game design. With digital random slots increasingly on offer to the players in pubs and other Cat C venues, we are seeing more games with inherently simpler designs, and I think we’ll see an increase in play on this kind of content which may inevitably affect play of the traditional high tech games.

CS: How easy is it to transfer successful gaming content from one channel to another – does it always translate?

MI: No, it doesn’t always translate. It is more usual to see great land-based games working well online than the reverse. There are many companies for whom ‘multi-channel’ has become a paradigm beyond which they cannot seem to operate. I feel strongly that we should not force this. If we can design a game that works cross-channel, then great, but we should also design games specifically for mobile, and specifically for land-based markets and accept that they might not always cross-pollenate. This way we get games that are much more likely to succeed, rather than being heavily compromised to accommodate multiple and quite different markets.

CS: With Britain being a multi-cultural nation, particularly in some metropolitan areas, do you think there’s an argument to create game content designed to appeal to specific cultures?

MI: This is really all about quantity. Whilst Britain certainly is multi-cultural, there don’t seem to be sufficient numbers of any one particular cultural background amongst the playing community to warrant specific game themes. I have tried this in the past and it hasn’t really worked. With respect to multi-language capability, this is obviously a difficult feature to implement on traditional screen printed reel-based machines. On digital machines, it is more possible but would significantly increase the complexity of developing the games, and again, the volumes of non-English language players are just not there to justify this extra effort and cost. Where we are absolutely going to support multi-language and multi-currency is on our online and mobile content where our distribution extends all over the globe. In these sectors, we will even be developing content types specifically for certain territories.

CS: What are the processes by which a company converts social gamers into real money players and what success has Reflex experienced in this?

MI: Reflex are only at the beginning of that journey and we’re still learning. It’s a tough gig converting social gamers into RMG players, and I’m not entirely convinced that it’s always a good thing to do. I’m a believer in sustainable playing – that is, I would rather have a player play for a long time and be loyal to our products for many years, than get pushed down a route with which they’re not completely comfortable and which ultimately means that they just stop. So, if a player is happy moving to RMG from social then great, and if not and the player is happy to buy credits occasionally, then I’m OK with that too. Reflex has invested in an expert marketing and CRM team in Bulgaria to help us with this, and we’re expecting real, sustainable growth in this area.

CS: With the proportion of cash transactions predicted to continue to fall, is Reflex preparing for contactless payments on AWPs?

MI: This is a real and present concern for us at Reflex, as it is for the industry as a whole. Unfortunately, we are currently hamstrung by the fact that permissible payment methods are defined in Primary Law. We have been told that changing this is a 5 to 10 year process which is obviously not at all ideal. Therefore, we are working hard with the rest of the industry, the industry bodies and the regulatory bodies to try and get to a more palatable solution.

CS: Do you believe in Millennials as a defined age group or, are all consumers now Millennials irrespective of age?

MI: Yes, good point. I find it a rather patronising label actually, both if you are one and if you’re not. I guess it was originally used to describe a type of behaviour and an appetite for certain types of content. There certainly remains a divide between those that are tech-savvy and those that are not, and things like mobile game UI design can really highlight some of these differences. It is tempting to introduce all kinds of bleeding edge UX into mobile games that incorporates all the new functionality that the latest devices can use because it’s ‘cool’. However, if you are not reaching over half of your player-base by your clever design because they’re not even aware of the functionality or they have devices that don’t support it, then it’s not good UX by definition is it? Sometimes it is simpler just to show a big red button with an instructive text on it, even if it’s less modern in its operation. After all, everyone likes to press big red buttons don’t they?


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