Every developmental decision made at Reflex Gaming is done with social responsibility in mind, explains chief product officer Mat Ingram, who believes this philosophy ensures the game manufacturer’s consistent output of successful games will continue despite a shifting regulatory landscape.
While continuing to develop exciting digital game content for the industry, Reflex Gaming has also been exploring the integration of cashless payment methods and protection from- harm initiatives into its Slingshot ecosystem during 2019.
A pioneer of the industry’s push towards digital, the UK-based manufacturer wants to utilise the full power of the technology in order to further enhance the player experience from every angle.
“The biggest area of focus for us right now is the underlying tech stack driving our Slingshot ecosystem, particularly where it enables us to embrace innovations in cashless payment methods and protection-from-harm initiatives,” explained chief product officer Mat Ingram.
“We are really trying to re-evaluate our “choice architecture” which drives player behaviour, particularly that behaviour that could ultimately lead to harm.
Some of this is being enabled by the Bacta-approved cashless solution being developed by Game Payment Technology, as this gives us access to Age Verification and Spend Limit setting out of the box, but we are also working with another 3rd party in the area of Age Verification to produce an on-machine solution for cash players.
This is a really important area of development for us as we want to make sure that we move forward in a responsible and futureproof manner.”
The implementation of such technology puts Reflex one step beyond the current social responsibility requirements, preparing them for the regulatory landscape of tomorrow rather than having to play catch-up once it’s already shifted.
Indeed, for Reflex, social responsibility is now ingrained into every process of product design from the ground up, ensuring each aspect of game development prioritises player protection.
“Not only are we creating and applying technology specifically to address certain SR concerns, but we also view all of our game design and machine and systems development through an SR lens and question some of our own practices to ensure that we move forward properly,” continued Ingram.
“This can affect game themes, default options, UI presentation, timings and many other aspects of content creation. It’s really important to us.
It’s no good simply being compliant now.”
Speaking of regulatory shifts, Ingram notes the recent Gambling Commission announcement that it would like to see an industry code of conduct for game design by April 2020.
While confirming Reflex would be willing to contribute to such an effort, Ingram also acknowledged the challenges involved with such a feat, suggesting solutions that could be used to overcome them.
“The UKGC has already begun the process of reviewing the framework in which we all do business, with a call to action for all suppliers to get together and form a “code of conduct” for product development.
I feel this will be a big ask, as the operational and commercial levers that drive Reflex will be quite different from, say, a large overseas online game developer – indeed, we’re really in different industries altogether.
Asking us to sit around a table and agree how we should both design games is aspirational,” concluded Ingram.
“That said, there probably does need to be a better degree of parity between some of the sectors in the wider UK gaming “industry”, and so long as we are all governed by the same principles I can’t see why this shouldn’t happen.
A principle-based set of standards for product development should be able to be constructed that is appropriate for most gaming sectors.
Once we have that, I don’t see why our digital land-based machines cannot enjoy some of the design elements that are used in, say, online games.
So long as vulnerable people are protected from harm, why not?”
Indeed, it is only logical that game designers following the same set of principles should all be able to utilise the same set of design elements.
In fact, while Cat C machines would no doubt benefit from the same design freedom enjoyed by online gaming suppliers, the proposed industry code of conduct could do much worse than to base its social responsibility principles off the in-house standards of land-based gaming manufacturers such as Reflex Gaming.
Data is the catalyst for digital innovation
Coinslot: Digital is the undoubted growth area for game-play in the UK. How has it revolutionised the business and is the revolution only just beginning?
Mat Ingram, chief product officer: The exciting thing about digital is that it is an entirely different medium in which to work and it opens up all sorts of opportunities with respect to Game Design, Platform and Systems Design, Social Responsibility and operational logistics. For example, our growing digital footprint has really helped drive some amazing innovations in our platform Slingshot, and our connectivity ecosystem, Slingshot Connect. Couple this with Dransfields OneOS operational and accounting platform, and we have a hugely powerful operational BI toolset that allows the operator to be alerted to any significant event in the field in real time, and react to it either remotely or physically. It’s all about maximising remote fix, first-time fix and ultimately machine health and uptime.
Coinslot: In simple terms, what’s working and what’s not when it comes to digital? What games are gaining traction for your company and where are you seeing push back in terms of digital from the marketplace?
Mat Ingram: From a digital game perspective, we are having continued success with a diverse portfolio of games – there is no one type of game that is working for us. We have had recent success with simple free spins and easy-play games that use classic themes, but also have enjoyed popularity with our epic triple-screen productions like Krazy Klimber that we released last month. It’s good to have a broad offering as it obviously appeals to as wide a range of players as possible, and our portfolio is designed to be just that, a portfolio. If you start scrutinising each game to validate its “worth” then you risk creating an imbalance in the overall menu. We deliberately design our game roadmap to create a balance between games of different types, volatilities and themes, and they work together as a whole. I suppose a genre that hasn’t worked as well for us is digital high-tech games. I suspect that digital players are not really looking for these types of games and also prefer the random profiles that our slots provide. High-techs are still very popular in their analogue format but not so much in digital.
Coinslot: We all hear that content is king, so what’s making your royal family the best in the industry? Who’s fueling the creative energy in your team and what type of players are they targeting?
Mat Ingram: I have a great design team at Reflex and I’m really proud of them and their achievements. I tend to manage the overall game development strategy and direction, and my team tactically design within that framework. I genuinely believe I have the best designers in the UK at the moment. To be fair, they are pretty focused – I tend not to distract them too much with designing for other markets – which I think is a big help. With respect to the target players: as I’ve said, our game pipeline is deliberately a broad church. We will release a soft, low-volatility game one month, and a spicier classic core player’s game the next, and plenty in-between. It is important to keep the appeal of the overall portfolio wide – one of the real benefits of digital content, particularly slots, is that we are addressing a wider market compared to the analogue player base, and we don’t want to fall into the trap of narrowing that market by reducing the breadth of the offering.
Coinslot: Investment in innovation is crucial. Over the next year or so, what markets are you targeting for growth in the digital offering and what treats have you got lined up for them?
Mat Ingram: We have our eye on a couple of overseas markets which I can’t say too much about yet, but which we hope will drive some incremental revenues over the next year. Domestically, we are very much trying to continue the forward momentum of our Pub footprint, and having a top-performing national operator like Dransfields on our side is a great benefit to us for this. We will also launch new products for the B3 markets in the New Year that will showcase a raft of new B3 games as well as new cabinet innovations, so we’re excited about that prospect too.
Coinslot: Digital is more than just game-play. The systems and software that make digital possible are also delivering other key resources – notably data. How has that information changed your working practices?
Mat Ingram: This is an area about which I get very animated! The amount and detail of the data we are now getting back from our connected digital product is phenomenal and is an enabler for all sorts of innovation. We are now retrieving detailed session data back from machines that have thrown up some fascinating observations, and of course, this kind of detail allows us to measure the effects of the changes we make to systems and games on site. More specifically, for example, we can measure the effects of new SR functionality by observing trends before and after implementation. Additionally, our platform can now alert us to all sorts of events that are not exactly faults but are often a prelude to faults occurring. In this way, we can actually prevent problems from happening and reduce the number of site visits overall but particularly those at inopportune times, such as weekends.
Coinslot: Digital is still in evolution, so what are currently the missing links – for example, cashless payment systems, more comfortable seating, sexier, sleeker cabinets?
Mat Ingram: Yes, cashless payments certainly, and cabinet design (including seating) is definitely on our development road map. However, I think the missing links with UK street gaming are more around what we are allowed to do. It would be great to be able to have local and wide-area jackpots even if they don’t breach the maximum win for that category. It would be great to be able to be more creative with some of the ways that we hold game elements over from one game to the next. I think the Tech Standards need a bit of an overhaul and paring back to a set of principles that are concise and clear. Surely, after all, the purpose of the Tech Standards is to protect the vulnerable from harm and it’s difficult to see how some of the detail in the current standards fulfil this remit.