The needs of Cat C players are growing more diverse with each coming year, something which Reflex Gaming’s wide range of digital and analogue products continue to keep pace with. However, with the British Cat C sector in a state of flux Reflex’s managing director, Quentin Stott, is keen to ensure its long term viability for operators, PubCos and players alike.
What is it about Cat C products, and your’s in particular, that makes them so popular for both players and pub operators?
One of the reasons our products are so popular is because Reflex is still driving new game ideas for both digital and analogue products. We have a genuine desire to keep creating new concepts and game mechanics and are committed to continue doing so. We also feel that analogue players are predominantly a different set of players to those of digital machines, so we continue to cater for analogue players as others seem to be running out of desire to support this uniquely British game style.
Where do you sit on the balance between analogue and digital?
I feel analogue machines remain relevant, but their longer term viability very much depends on the will of the pub retailers. We can see from the income levels of test and injection reel-based machines that players are still enjoying them, but as always, reel-based products do need moving regularly to maintain income levels. The strategic drive of some operators seems to be to inject minimal levels of reel-based products and therefore the ability to cascade through an estate is greatly diminished. So, where reel-based machines end up over the next 10 years will come down to retailer focus on operational injection rates.
There has also been a substantial increase in the number of digital products sited in pubs over the past few years, but the roll out rate has steadied somewhat recently. This is down to a number of factors, some of which are regional, but equally, some operators do not offer the digital product mix to maximise revenues. So again, pub retailers will need to look at how best to incentivise operators to install digital machines which are both best of breed and best for site.
How has digital changed the approach to Cat C for your company?
Digital has enabled us to provide a much more technologically architected product and extended roll out has driven earnings that we simply weren’t able to attain through analogue machines. For example, the effect of regular new content released at specific times of the month, has ensured that we have maintained consistently highincome levels. It also enables us to gather enough data to monitor trends and understand more deeply the effect of games on the overall game portfolio, which we now understand to be a fairly sensitive ecosystem that can be hugely affected by single games or content release strategies.
What challenges are preventing Cat C from further growth? Do you feel the product segment could use a change of stakes and prizes or of technical standards?
There has been stagnation in the Cat C arena for some years now. This category has been somewhat hamstrung by prescriptive technical standards which provides for much less freedom in game design than some other more principles-based game categories, such as online. Stakes and prizes reviews have historically injected stimulus for both players and industry alike and provided an opportunity for CPI / RPI stake increases. Without this historically well proven mechanism being in place, the sector would of course eventually wither on the vine.
Do you see cashless payments as an opportunity for Cat C?
With over the bar spend now being so skewed towards non-cash payment methods, coupled with the removal of many ATMs from pubs, it’s not difficult to see the threat posed to the long-term viability of pub gaming machines unless we developed a method to take non-cash payments. There has been so much work invested into this recently with the likes of the Game Payment Technology app, but we’re only just on the cusp of understanding what this will do for machines on site. It’s certainly an opportunity to protect the viability of pub machines over the longer term and I for one am keen to make the most of it over the coming year or two. At some stage there could even be a tipping point in player acceptability resulting in a higher proportion of e-funds play than cash.
Social responsibility has become a focal point for Cat Cs, particularly in pubs. How are you shaping up to this challenge and what solutions are you introducing?
Social responsibility and age verification have been extremely hot topics for the pub sector over the past 12 months. Reflex has been keen to invest significant resources to assist pubs raise the bar, and to this end, we’re first to market with power up messaging for venue staff, on display messaging for players and are spearheading on machine age verification by way of state-of-the-art age recognition tools. I think that 2020 will be the year we see both cashless payments and SR solutions forever changing the way pubs operate gaming machines.