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Everi Digital: Valuable test environments

By - 16 September 2020

In an interview with G3, David Lucchese, Executive Vice President Sales, Marketing, and Digital, explains why casinos serve as valuable test environments for Everi’s digital team. David details how the relationship between Everi and its online division has evolved since the latter’s inception in 2012.

David, could you describe the evolution of Everi’s online division into Everi Digital?

When the division was first formed, it was named Everi Interactive, which has since been rebranded to Everi Digital in June of this year to better reflect the organisation and its offerings. Early on, most of our development efforts and deployment of games were done in conjunction with third party content distributors and other vendors.

Over the years, our internal team has expanded and focused our in-house built remote gaming server (RGS). Everi’s robust RGS is architected to the latest standards and leverages Everi’s vast library of land-based games from Everi Games. Today, we have many online partners in numerous jurisdictions and anticipate substantial growth in the coming years.

How independent is Everi Digital from Everi’s land-based operations with regards to game development and division of assets? Are designers specifically allocated to land-based and online, or do they work across both mediums?

Although the Digital team is independent from our games studios, we have digital employees working at our Games corporate headquarters in Austin, Texas, as well as additional game studios in Chicago, Reno, and Las Vegas. At Everi, we believe in open collaboration between all our teams and promote sharing of ideas and creative elements.

The Everi Digital team currently consists of approximately 30 people made up of developers, artists, quality assurance, and sound resources which is shared with the Games team in Austin.

Everi Digital is focused on two objectives: to enable casino operators to deliver world-class online social (“play for fun”) and real-money gaming content and to build player loyalty. Most of our constantly growing games library is made up of our popular land-based titles. Branching out, we recently created a custom game for one of our online partners which will be launching in the next few months which we are very excited about.

As a traditionally land-based company, what is the product in your mind’s eye at the outset of developing a new title? Is it a land-based title on a casino floor, an online game or a combination of the two?

In our case, the end product is a land-based title which we’ll then evaluate for online deployment depending on how the theme resonates with players and performs. Casinos serve as valuable test environments for our Digital team and help inform decision making to determine if and when it makes sense to transition a title to the digital space.

Based on what we have observed, online play can increase land-based play and vice versa. Operators are providing their land-based players the opportunity to extend play beyond the casino floor at their leisure and regardless of platform. At the same time, online play may encourage players who have never played at a casino to step out of their comfort zone and visit their local casino for that exciting sensory experience of playing slots on a physical gaming cabinet.

How do you predict the games that will perform well across land-based and online? Do the successful mechanics of the land- based environment mirror those of online or are their big differences between what works across both?

We have found our top performing land-based titles typically tend to also perform well in the digital space. An excellent example is our award-winning Cash Machine title which continues to consistently rank in the top 10 of top indexing high-denomination mechanical reels in Eilers Game Performance Report since its debut in September 2019.

The theme has also created a tremendous amount of buzz among slot influencers, having generated more than 700,000 views on YouTube to date. It’s data points from the land-based environment like these that help us more accurately predict online success. Cash Machine is a top performing online title in New Jersey.

All our online stepper and video titles are designed to deliver the exact same look, game features, and math as their land-based counterparts so no differences exist in terms of mechanics. While video slots are more popular online, we believe a large community of loyal players exist who are drawn to the classic three-mechanical games and enjoy playing them.

We believe a sizeable portion of this same community want to play these same titles online, but can’t find them. Everi is aiming to close this gap by offering distinct content to what we believe to be an underserved market in the online space.

How do you transfer titles from tall, curved land-based screens to the horizontal medium of mobile phones and tablets? How do you manage the graphic assets? Does the game undergo a transition or a wholesale rebuild?

Games are rebuilt using the same assets used for land-based production, but into the new form factor for mobile and desktop. Put simply, it is a new layout we port game content into. Some games are rather straight forward while others need to be reimagined a bit to ensure critical game mechanics are made available.

Also, supporting this transformation is the support of portrait and landscape in our RGS. As we designed our RGS, we identified this need to compliment our games library as well as offer player a versatile playing experience.

For example, a player is instructed to look up when a certain combination is hit on the reels if a cabinet has a wheel on the top display on a land-based title. For the online application, we would instead have the wheel slide over on top of the reels then slide off in the landscape version. In other cases, some titles might be designated as portrait only (think growing reels) which is communicated to the player.

The pandemic has seen many traditional land- based players shift to digital. Are we going to see a more permanent change in the future of the player environment? Does this enforced change mean we will see less land-based play?

We believe great slot products will find their way on to casino floors and we are working closely with our customers to provide the most entertaining products for their casinos. In fact, some of our premium banked product configurations help with social distancing requirements, which in turn makes for an easier placement. Since the shutdown, we have also seen a significant increase in our online play and excited about what the future holds for this segment.

As casinos gradually reopen their doors across the globe, how has Everi altered its approach to the allocation of resources and scale of investment in its online division? Are any changes that have been made likely to remain longer term?

Our approach to resource allocation and investment for our digital business hasn’t shifted even amid the pandemic. Most of our team began working from home shortly after the initial shutdown and will continue to do so depending on the region where staff is located.

We will work within the laws of each of the states where we have team members and office locations and will likely implement a hybrid strategy, where individuals can either work from home or work in the office for a portion of the work week.

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