Slots have long been known as a solo way to gamble. The sector’s somewhat solitary, companionless reputation is something that casino-streaming platform Livespins is looking to change with its entry into the slots market, creating a shared streaming experience where patrons can bet together. The company’s move is underpinned by a sector-wide push for more shared experiences, particularly in the wake of the novel coronavirus (Covid-19) pandemic.
Streaming, at least in igaming, is in its infancy. Right now, the likes of SharedPlay, Interactive Gaming Group and CasinoGrounds are vying for position as the company that cracks the streaming conundrum.
At the same time, there’s a push by developers to create multiplayer slots – something many argue could be as big a game-changer for the industry as the first online casinos.
But as evidenced by streaming site Twitch’s ban on casino links during streams, can such a traditional mechanism prosper with a more modern feel to it? Livespins’ Michael Pedersen certainly thinks it can.
Talk us through how Livespins works. What makes it different from what else is out in the market?
The best way to explain it is through the old-school land-based mechanic called ‘bet behind’.
You know when you go to a land-based casino and you don’t have to sit at the table, and you can place bets behind the person sitting at the table? We’re taking that mechanic and we’re smashing that together with casino streaming. Instead of passively looking at a casino streamer, you can join the ride and bet behind the streamer yourself and also with other players simultaneously.
There’s that community aspect to it that maybe 50 players are betting behind the streamer and if he wins, you win, so you can all celebrate together. To our knowledge, we are the first company in the market to be able to do that. It’s built on a proprietary platform, so we’re not relying on Twitch or YouTube or any other streaming platform.
Slots have traditionally been a solo product. Why did you decide to launch a social gaming experience?
Something that we see when we look at statistics and data around the world, and the consumption habits of consumers, is the lean more towards streaming. In Asia, about one third of all online shopping now takes place through streamers. The normal Amazon shopping experience is now outdated, especially in Asia. We’re seeing that trend in the West.
The consumers out there, especially Gen-Z, are looking for more engagement. Apple are doing SharePlay, where you can watch a movie or listen to music together. Disney+ is coming out with a new feature called GroupWatch, where you can stream a movie into 20 different living rooms but watch it at the same time. Outside the industry we’re seeing these social tendencies kicking in.
We’ve been speaking about it for a long time in igaming, but I think that 2022 will be the year where it will become mainstream and it will no longer be a niche adoption.
Considering the wave of gamification and engagement features rolled out in recent years, it feels as if developers have not yet been able to create a genuinely multiplayer product – why is this?
That’s probably why I fell in love with Livespins. When Robin [Reed] presented this product to me, it was the first time I thought, this is relevant to the masses. It’s not some outlier niche. So far, the multiplayer experiences have been somewhat clunky or very niche.
Whereas Livespins is less so. Of course, there will still be players who will want to play on their own, who are not interested in all the givings, but I think Livespins is positioned much less niche and much more appealing to the mass consumer and player.
Is that the ultimate goal for Livespins?
The ‘bet behind’ product that we’re launching through Livespins is definitely not the last from our side in terms of product. It’s very much the beginning. We see Livespins as a brand new category.
When you go on an operator’s website, you see your live casinos and table games. Livespins will effectively become a separate and new category for these kinds of live experiences. We will build the product portfolio over time. It’s like we are laying the foundation right now for the new way of playing casino games. There will be many different variations coming up in the near future.
Do you feel that the slot sector in particular is in need of more disruption? Considering the core gameplay is essentially unchanged since machines moved online, do you feel there is scope for serious innovation?
Absolutely. I think there is plenty of room for innovation. I think the trick is to find innovation that makes sense. I’ve seen a lot of incremental development in slots, with tournaments, races. There are a lot of things that are utilising the core gaming experience.
Livespins is coming up with something that is a new core product. It’s not something like it – it’s literally a way of consuming slots content as a group. I hope to see much more of that coming up, because it is definitely in need of innovation. But it also needs to be sensible innovation, where there is actually a consumer need for it. Don’t innovate for innovation’s sake.
Do you think this innovation will come from the industry itself, or from other sectors such as video gaming?
I would like to think it’s both. We’re definitely pushing from within the industry, but there’s also a massive push coming from the US. We jokingly speak about what will happen if Amazon enters online gambling.
We’re already seeing it. Netflix is moving into gaming, not gambling. That trend will only continue. What is unclear right now is whether they’ll draw the line at social gaming or fun-to-play, or whether they’ll enter the real-to-play space. Who knows?
The main thing we’re trying to get across is that it’s not just another type of game, it is literally a new category. It is a new way of playing slots that hasn’t been seen before.