G3 speaks to Steven Spartinos, co-founder and CEO of Kiron Interactive, about how the specialist supplier’s games have performed since the outbreak of the coronavirus and the key to ensuring virtual games remain a successful alternate revenue stream once live sport resumes.
Could you outline Kiron Interactive’s portfolio of Virtual Games?
We offer a comprehensive suite of virtual content and numbers games for retail, online and mobile, ranging from a selection of racing games including horses and dogs, to action packed sports events such as football and ice hockey and territory focused games like table tennis and badminton for Asian markets. To capture the vitality of the real sporting fixtures, our 25 strong portfolio of virtual games are delivered using the highest quality graphics and the latest CGI technology available in the market, combined with an advanced physics and maths engine that delivers highly realistic sporting events with fast-paced betting opportunities across a wide-variety of markets.
How are the Virtual Games performing following the COVID-19 global outbreak? What markets are responding well to this vertical?
Interest in virtuals has shot up dramatically amid the COVID-19 outbreak as customers are no longer able to bet on live sports. The vertical’s offer of betting on life-like sporting events has proven to resonate with sports betting audiences. We’re already seeing a sharp uptake among online customers, particularly in markets where operators are leveraging the existing popularity of virtual content and increasing availability and promotion around the products.
How do you tailor virtual games to individual markets?
In addition to the mainstay virtual events of horses, greyhounds and football, we offer betting opportunities on races and sports which resonate with customers in specific markets. For example, our table tennis and badminton products typically perform well in Asian markets, while our ice hockey, trotting and speed skating content are targeted at markets such as Scandinavia. Given the intensifying focus on virtuals currently, the vertical is expected to grow rapidly to encompass a more diversified offering and expand the availability of country-specific content that reflects the sports which are popular locally.
What is the average shelf life for a Virtual Game?
As long as the live sport on which it is based remains popular, the virtual counterpart won’t have an expected shelf life. Our existing products have experienced consistent growth over recent years and in the current climate we expect this trend will continue. To stay relevant, however, it is of course important to constantly update our virtual offering with new betting markets and keep the content fresh using the best graphics and technology available.
What is key to making an engaging Virtual?
There is a science to developing a successful virtual sports game. Many have tried unsuccessfully to do so. Virtual sports typically take time and significant investment to get them to market. The most engaging virtual products capture the atmosphere and excitement of real sports events down to the finest detail. From the visuals and sound to the underlying game mechanics, every aspect of a product has to be executed to the highest quality and delivered in one seamless package in order to captivate the customer. Recent advancements in motion capture and animation technologies and even the introduction of historical footage to the virtual offering have significantly added to the life-like feel of virtual content and widened the appeal to new audiences.
Are there specific Virtual Games that attract a new audience to Gaming?
Creating localised virtual events tailored towards market preferences, such as our badminton content in Asia, has proven to be an effective acquisition tool. These products attract a new group of punters to the world of virtuals and often lead to them showing interest in other virtual games. The popularity of a portfolio depends on its diversity and how it is targeted or positioned towards a specific territory.
Standard market types, such as winner, forecast and place, are commonplace in Virtual Sports. How much scope is there for creativity in Virtual markets? Is there demand out there for greater variety?
Providing a variety of betting markets is key to ensuring virtual games appeal to a range of betting styles and preferences. Forecast bets, for example, allow customers to enjoy longer odds bets than you would ordinarily find in a single bet, adding additional excitement for those looking for more complexity in the experience. With these games being virtual, there still exists plenty of room for creativity, and as technology advances and new markets are created the variety available to customers will naturally increase.
What is key towards ensuring Virtuals remain a successful part of a modern Sportsbook?
Now more than ever operators need to recognise virtuals as an alternative revenue stream which can help offset the recent and sudden decline of sportsbook revenues. Given the synergies between the virtual offering and sports betting, by giving these games more prominence on home pages operators can fill the void left by the cancellation of live sports events and maintain the relevancy of their brand with customers. When we emerge out of the current crisis, and as the virtual experience becomes ever more ubiquitous with that of live sports betting, it will be further cemented as a staple component to the sportbook offering.
Can in-play Virtual Sports ever replicate the momentum that affects player performance in Sports Betting? Is a unique selling point of Virtual Sports that bettors do not require in-depth knowledge to place a bet?
Virtual sports are high frequency, rapid-play events that allow punters to place bets every 60-90 seconds. This fast pace nature does not necessarily accommodate for in-play betting, but new products are being introduced to the market that include such abilities. Although unlikely to replicate the captivating nature of live sport in-play entirely, these products will no-doubt attract players that enjoy this style of betting to the virtual offering. One of the key attractions of virtuals lies in the ability of the customer to easily place bets on various games at any time, in both online and in retail environments, without having to have great betting knowledge. All they need is an understanding and love for the game.
Is greater clarity required from regulators, particularly in emerging markets, to define the Virtual betting marketplace?
The virtual sports betting marketplace is well-regulated with strict requirements from gambling boards, licensees, suppliers and operators. It is the responsibility of both the supplier and operator to be aware of these regulations in all territories and ensure that the events are offered safely and securely in accordance with the respective laws. As the popularity of the vertical continues to grow we are sure to see new regulations invoked, but by offering a certified product these frameworks should not be a deterrent to operators or suppliers.
What are the potential future applications for Virtuals? How do you see Virtuals developing in the future?
Virtuals are constantly evolving with the introduction of new products, new game formats and new betting opportunities. The games have attracted a core and growing audience, who continue to demand more from operators and providers alike. We are only at the beginning of a fast-innovating market and as technology develops so will the way we interact with virtual games. We are sure to see a lot of new and exciting components to the virtual games being launched over the next few years. As providers we are working hard in continuing to bring the virtual experience closer to that of live sporting events.
Steven Spartinos is co-founder and CEO of virtual games provider Kiron Interactive. Established in 2001, the specialist supplier now services web, mobile, and land-based sportsbook and casino operators on four continents. Prior to joining the betting and gaming industry, Steven worked in banking and finance.