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Crash Games: Destination new markets

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In a two-part special ahead of ICE London 2024, we talk to the pioneering studios behind the crash games genre to analyse 2024’s growth potential.

Crash games have mostly flown under the radar for the last few years.

That’s all changing quickly however, with the vertical already being touted as one of casino’s biggest growth opportunities.

After part one of our feature last week, we follow on in part two to talk to the industry’s first crash games pioneer, SPRIBE, as well as BetGames, Aviatrix and 1X2 Network to talk new markets, regulation and engaging sports fans.

North America approaches

SPRIBE has certainly planted the flag in North America, with its recently announced UFC sponsorship in the US.

The world’s leading mixed martial arts (MMA) competition is one of the most recognisable global sports brands, with more than 300 million fans.

UFC is particularly attractive for partners and advertisers because of its supporter demographics. It has the youngest fanbase in sport – the mean age is just 40.1 years old – and the highest concentration of millennial fans. Data even shows that some 43% of fans come from the highly sought-after 18-34-year-old age bracket which is perfect for a crash game like Aviator.

Announced in October 2023, the deal between SPRIBE and UFC gives the games developer branding opportunities during UFC pay-per-views and Fight Nights. This includes placements inside the Octagon and within live broadcasts, and an annual Brand Ambassador fund in the agreement which will involve UFC athletes in various campaigns.

“Branding has always been a factor in the Aviator success story and our recent deal with the UFC is evidence of just how big the game has become,” says SPRIBE’S CCO Giorgi Tsutskiridze.

Does it mean they’re about to go big in North America? “This is absolutely part of our plans for the North American market, especially the US where we believe Aviator has the potential to be a gaming sensation.”

1×2 network’s alex ratcliffe sees a bright future with north america

“The deal provides a unique opportunity to enhance our presence in the region while leveraging the popularity of the UFC. This is our biggest partnership to date, and we’ll do everything we can to unlock its full potential.”

1X2 Network, one of the UK’s most famous studios, also sees North America as the next big opportunity.

Its debut crash game, Maverick, is set to roll out in the US – as one of the market’s first to have regulatory approval.

Alex Ratcliffe, 1X2 Network’s chief product officer, is excited. “Our US launch, beginning with Michigan, is a considered move, aligning with our broader market penetration strategy.

“We’ve conducted market research and identified a gap in the availability of quality crash game content in Michigan to many of the key operational players.”

The social element of crash games

The community element is certainly a big part of all three of the studios’ approach for cracking America. Harnessing the social aspect of gaming will no doubt be big in 2024.

“This trend towards community-oriented gaming is growing, and Maverick is perfectly positioned to meet this demand,” Ratcliffe continues.

“Our appeal lies in the ability to provide a communal and interactive platform, attracting players who enjoy the communal elements of a crash game. It makes it an ideal choice for players looking for a more inclusive gaming environment.”

Tsutskiridze agrees. “Players can experience Aviator together, sharing the excitement. Traditional slot games simply don’t offer this kind of social community gaming experience, and this is what sets Aviator apart and why it has become such a phenomenon.”

“This trend towards community-oriented gaming is growing, and Maverick is perfectly positioned to meet this demand.” – 1X2’s alex ratcliffe

This is the same for Aviatrix. As Anastasia Rimskaya, chief account officer highlights, the multiplayer element is proving a key differentiator.

“One great multiplayer aspect alongside this is that as you play, you can see other players’ customised aircraft flying in the background of the game, creating a truly social element.” she says.

“We also run regular network tournaments, always with big prize pools that are really appealing to players. Our most recent was a one million euro tournament, and we are finding these to be a really great way to create a loyal base of players and encourage them to return to the game.”

Converting sports bettors with crash games

The second big element, and a big reason for the success, is the wealth of sports fans available to convert.

Koeberl and his BetGames team are certainly going to make this a core focus.

“We see a massive overlap with crash games in our existing portfolio and a lot of interest in sports-heavy markets. It’s similar to the bet slip in terms of the mechanics, and that has great appeal to the average sports bettor.

“It’s the perfect fit for us given we position ourselves as a gateway between sports and gaming. We can put our stamp on it as we do with so many of our products being relatively niche. We see a massive overlap in terms of what our players play, so Skyward serves as an amazing acquisition tool for us because it allows us to put game launchers and their thumbnails, into different categories – casino, slots, instant games, crash games – and drive net new players towards BetGames on an operators’ lobby.”

crash games are proving to be a key acquisition tool for sports fans

Again, this is a big part of Aviatrix’s plan too – especially when it becomes a holy trinity of sports fans, crypto enthusiasts and also those looking for a new form of entertainment.

“Crash games are providing an accessible launchpad for those who are interested in checking out an online casino but want a game they can jump into without needing to study complicated rules. It is a chance for more people to enjoy the thrill of the game,” Rimskaya adds.

This chimes in especially when we look back at SPRIBE’s UFC sponsorship. As Tsutskiridze showcases, “to maximise the partnership, we have ensured Aviator’s brand has been seamlessly integrated with that of the UFC, creating a synergy that resonates with both gaming fans and UFC enthusiasts.”

For Tsutskiridze, reaching this demographic is paramount to the continuous success of Aviator, considering it’s not a new game release. But it’s not just SPRIBE that gets to benefit; instead, he believes that the partnership strategically leverages each other’s strengths for mutual benefit.

“As leaders in our respective fields, this collaboration with UFC is not merely a promotional tactic; it’s a strategic move to authentically connect with a global community through the powerful and dynamic world of UFC,” says Tsutskiridze.

Low spend, extended engagement

The final, and perhaps most interesting, element of crash games is the counter intuitive RTP.

Aviator, for example, has an RTP of 97%, which is higher than many slots. If it’s so high, how is proving to be such a revenue-driver for operators?

Tsutskiridze explains. “The higher the RTP, the more money players can win. While this might sound a little counterintuitive for operators, the better the experience the player has, the more they play the game and the more players overall that engage with it.”

He certainly sees that as a differentiator.

“Thanks to the unique experience Aviator provides, and the marketing tools we make available to operators, the volume of wagers going through Aviator is unrivalled.

“For many operators, it’s actually the highest generator of GGR of all the games in the lobby.”

This applies to bonusing too – and it’s a big part of what Aviatrix are doing.

aviatrix is placing major emphasis on bonusing

“Our recently launched free bet bonus is also a game-changer for operators, allowing them to reward players with free flights,” says Rimskaya. “They have complete control of the bonusing mechanism, making it an appealing tool for retention.”

BetGames have also made bonusing a core focus on the product, and that’s proving to be a real boon for the studio.

Koeberl highlights the gap in the market that they saw: “One of the main differentiators is the bonus engine which is something that the market currently lacks. We give bonuses and extra plays to value players who take risks and play continuously.”

Indeed, one problem that needed solving is that element of bonus abuse, where due to the quick nature of the game and players betting on 1.1x or 1.01x (i.e. at low odds) to turn their bonuses into cash.

“We give players bonuses based on their gameplay, but instead of just randomly throwing cash at them,” says Koeberl. “We look at the player behaviour and you can reward those that, for example, have a risk profile not cashing out before 2x, 3x and have placed a certain number of bets, then they get a reward while bonus abusers don’t benefit.”

The role of regulation

Last but not least, we also need to consider regulation, given the vertical is still relatively nascent. BetGames’ Koeberl believes it’s a variable that needs consideration.

“We certainly see challenges in some markets. We’ve picked up on early signals from Africa that the concept is being challenged by some regulators already.

“As we speak, we’re still in the certification process in various jurisdictions, so we’ve yet to witness any massive obstacles.”

Indeed, being such a new vertical means regulation hasn’t yet caught up. “At the end of the day, it’s an RNG game, right? So, we hope there won’t be any specific issues with the genre,” he says.

This will likely be the bigger question of how they’re defined. Slots, for example, seem to be absorbing the most regulatory attention.

That’s certainly the case with stake limits. One can argue that Crash Games, just as SPRIBE says, are all about low stakes and extended playing time, which is regulation friendly.

BetGames’ Koeberl sees regulation following an instant game framework, rather than that of slots

Koeberl agrees. “I think regulatory issues have to be seen from a broader perspective because of this incredible boom and rise of the instant games category.

“Slots see a lot of player protection campaigns alongside the rise in volumes in the last year, and I think crash games fit into that broader picture of instant games rather than crash games alone.” Koeberl adds.

1X2’s Ratcliffe concurs this is a vertical that still requires regulatory definition in many aspects.

“The regulatory landscape for games like Maverick is complex, as this is a relatively new game type in the igaming sector.

“Different regulatory bodies across jurisdictions have differing views on how to categorise and regulate crash games.

“This presents both challenges and opportunities in our planning and development process. While navigating these regulatory nuances requires careful consideration, it also allows us to innovate within the framework of different regulations.”

As arguably there are very few studios still defining this space, this will likely be the biggest factor in how crash games take off in 2024. The popularity is clearly there.

The multiplayer and social element is perfect for harnessing Gen Z, as well as the low barriers of entry for sports fans.

Indeed, providing the perfect product that can persuade sports bettors to give casino a try for the first time is the perennial holy grail for all operators.

The sky certainly looks clear for making that happen this year – regulation permitting.

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