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For the Games People Play

Peter White chats to Harald Kaiblinger Managing Director 8 UnlimtedRRD Ltd

Your organisation has been involved with many projects for major names in the gaming sector; indeed, the list is a veritable who’s who of the industry. What were their reasons for choosing your organisation from among other operators in this highly competitive sector?

Their reasons for choosing us include our ability to deliver new and unique ideas and concepts; our ability to acquire efficient and experienced resources; evidence of past successful execution and delivery of complex projects; our integrity and honesty.

Can you explain how you came up with your company name “8 UnlimtedRRD Ltd”?

It’s a bit of a mouthful, I agree. Eight is a Chinese ‘lucky number’, unlimited refers to ‘no limitation’ in terms of what we can offer, and ‘RDD’ is an abbreviation for ‘relentless digital development’.

What aspects of your original role at Sun International where, in reflection, decisive in your choice to make this industry your career?

I originally attended a hotel school in Salzburg, Austria, where I trained in hospitality. Sun International gave me the opportunity to apply my IT skills, starting with POS and inventory systems, then rapidly expanding into the casino realm with cashless and loyalty systems.

What, in your opinion, are the biggest challenges that lay ahead for Casino operations both large and small?

Casinos will continue to have taxation eating into profits, as well as live gaming areas facing increased staff and operating costs. Future challenges will include attracting a younger player generation – largely by selecting appealing game concepts and the appropriate technology. I would see a combination of ‘young’ fun and gaming lifestyle concepts paired with technologies such as augmented reality, 4D and virtual reality. Moreover, mobile [cashless] payment will increasingly become a necessity and this must be seamlessly incorporated into the payment processes.

Your expertise covers development for both land-based and online operations. You must therefore be aware that while these have developed in conjunction with one another in many ways, they might enjoy faster progress if development was better coordinated?

Although there are now operators and suppliers covering both land based and online, following more than a decade of online gaming in many parts of the world, there are still ‘silos’ separating them one from the other. My observation, especially with the big players, is that the crossover is largely confined to adapting games - for example, taking the graphics and maths from land based into online. In my opinion, developing an overarching concept between land based and online, especially with regards to marketing and promotions, would achieve at least a 10 percent increase in ROI/ revenue. Technology will play an important part in this and utilising systems that enable you not just to ‘know your customer’ but also to ‘understand’, predict and direct your customers’ behaviour will be key. Modern databases and cloud computing will enable this.

Is it all about creating the next big breakthrough game, and can operators do more to assist those organisations that provide content systems, hardware design and development departments?

I have been in this industry since 1990 and creating ‘breakthrough games’, in my opinion, is still a bit like reading tea leaves. There are games that sometimes pop up and through their features (maths) and themes (graphics) appeal to a wide spectrum of players. Yet I have seen the same maths fail with a different theme and vice versa. Again, technology aimed at gathering data about player behaviour - so-called ‘big data’ - can provide better insight into what works for different player spectrums in different markets.

Development is costly with no guarantees of success. Do you think that’s why so many games look so similar?

Games development nowadays is utilising a lot of ‘cloning’ whereby a successful game is used as the base and ‘clones’ of this are spawned with different themes and sometimes slightly different maths.

Once the new game idea has been turned into an actual physical working prototype and the operator gives the thumbs up, is that ‘job done’?

Now that would be nice! The reality is that the prototype is the easy part as it is merely the application of technology into something tangible. The most difficult part is to take that prototype and make it into a commercially successful product.

Is it true to say that online regulators are often more open-minded to agree to new technology as opposed to those overseeing land-based?

By and large that seems to be true, especially in pure online jurisdictions.

So with more coordination between land-based and online, would you say that there are more benefits to be had with the regulators?

Whilst certain aspects would not necessarily be enthusiastically welcomed by operators and suppliers, regulators could benefit in terms of streamlined legislation and certification processes. If used correctly, data could also provide a political tool to demonstrate responsible gaming applied and working. The subject of land-based and online clearly has benefits for both markets so the question is: do we think it gets talked about enough?

There are frequent discussions about the subject, but very few actual case studies are published. Have you come across any innovative new gaming product or system over the past year that has particularly impressed you?

I have seen some good augmented-reality game concepts and some great virtual (or fantasy) sports applications. On the home front, we are currently busy with three innovative new gaming product developments that are all set to be game changers. The first one is a complete new hardware solution introducing new technology to analogue games, while the second is a cloud-based system based approach to the collection and analysis of gaming data in order to predict - and direct - player behaviour. The third is a unique device-independent game with collaboration across land-based and online/mobile, plus optional links to social media. We are aiming to present these three innovations at the next ICE in February 2017

Have you an example of where you have been contracted to assist with the development of a game and gained cooperation from land-based operators?

We were approached by an online operator to set up a cooperation with an EU-based supplier and adapted a successful land-based game, optimising it for online use.

Last year this industry lost Jens Halle, by most peoples’ reckoning one of its most successful and charismatic personalities, admired and respected in equal measure. 

I got to know Jens in 1990 whilst working at Sun International and we became friends over the years. Jens was responsible for getting me into Novomatic, and was my role model and confidant. He was a ‘Mensch’ and a good friend and will be missed.

‘Think globally, act locally.’ Does that term work for you or should it be the other way around?

The industry may have some global trends, but to be successful you have to ‘think and act’ locally. The ultimate is to streamline your development, manufacturing and operating processes and deploy them into a local environment and market. For me, the key words are ‘flexibility’ and ‘adaptability’ – being able to react quickly to constantly changing requirements.

Would you say that the practical realities of regulatory issues, combined with global differences in terms of culture and government, are more difficult to address than those relating to technology?

In general, technology is never an issue. There are very few issues that cannot be solved technically, given unlimited resources. The limitations are always practical and commercial in the context of regulation and culture.

How would you like to see the industry developing over the coming years?

Generally, I would like to see more integration of R&D; the removal of silos from manufacturing, regulations and operations; and the development of open regulatory/technology standards. I would also like to see responsible gaming dealt with in a more open and transparent way to address long-term political issues.

Outside of business hours how do you relax?

Spending time with the family especially my seven year old son.