Understanding player preferences

Serge Mukhanov, CEO of Connective Games, says game localisation should be a key consideration for operators launching in new and emerging markets.

New and emerging markets such as Africa, Asia and America offer tremendous opportunities for online poker operators to expand their geographical reach, engage new players, and drive bottom line.

Most will now have plans in place for how to gain a foothold in each region, while some have already opted to start offering games to players while lawmaker thrash out rules and regulations.

Regardless, key considerations prior to launch cover aspects such as whether they need to partner with a local land-based operator, whether mobile is the dominant channel of play, how to market to players and the promotions, bonuses and rewards schemes players engage with.

What most don’t consider, however, is the specific games that should be offered to consumers in each market.

This is particularly true for operators in established markets looking to make a play in emerging regions. It is often the case that games popular in the UK, Italy, Spain and so on do not resonate in the same way with players elsewhere.

Take poker. While Texas Hold’em is internationally regarded as the most popular variant, there are traditional local card games played within different countries that should also be added to a portfolio, attracting a potential new audience. For example in Italy it is Stoppa, but in Asian countries, Russia, LatAm and India, OFC (Open Face Chinese) poker is the special game of choice.

The gameplay is a little slower than with Texas Hold’em, but the stakes are much higher and the greater element of skill means it is actually more engaging and entertaining to play.

Skill games are hugely popular in emerging markets such as India, Latin America and Asia, which is the opposite of most established markets where games of chance dominate.

As the game involves 13 cards for each player, it can make it slightly more challenging when playing on smartphone and tablet devices. But it is definitely worth the effort. In the CIS region, for example, more than 40% of rake from Chinese Open Face Poker comes from mobile, while in India it is 62% and in Asia a massive 82%.

This is key in many new emerging markets - particularly in Africa and Asia - as consumers have jumped the desktop stage and gone straight to mobile. If operators do not offer mobile friendly games, they will simply fail to gain traction in that region.

Of course, OFC Poker has been around for many years, and to continue to attract new players and retain those already engaged with the game, it is important to launch innovative formats and features that continue to up the ante and improve the player experience.

Here at Connective Games, we have spent of lot of time developing and improving our OFC Pineapple variant to ensure that it meets and exceeds player expectations in markets such as Brazil, Argentina, India and Africa.

It offers asimple and convenient interface with a unique layout and optimised controls and which allows players to easily read the game. In addition, we also offer a wide range of tournament play, including multiple knockouts, flight tournaments and re-entries.

The popularity of the OFC Poker should not be underestimated by operators not overly familiar with the variant. The Russian Poker Tour offers OFC side events, as does the Asian Poker Tour.

There is a huge opportunity for operators in these emerging markets to host their own tournaments and competitions for the game. Indeed, leveraging this social/competitive element of playing poker, and particularly OFC, will be key to success in the region.

Indeed, leveraging the opportunity in new and emerging markets comes down to being able to offer players the best possible experience. To do this, operators must understand their needs and expectations, and ensure they meet them.

While marketing and promotions are important, they mean nothing if players are not given access to the games they want to play; they will simply walk through the doors of another online casino or poker room that does.

Published by Gambling Insider, Jul/Aug 2018, Page 82

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