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We Listen and Build Trust

At Bally Technologies, it’s a Team Effort that Translates into a Diverse Product Portfolio

            The Bally Technologies duo of Marco Herrera and Jean Venneman are quite a team. Herrera, Vice President of Europe, Middle East, and North Africa, is versed in the strategy of developing market-specific games. Venneman, Vice President of Product Management and Licensing, is getting ready to showcase those specific games for Europe, Australia and Asia at G2E

            Herrera is based in Amsterdam and Venneman in Reno, NV. They were together in Las Vegas for a two-day Bally Technologies global sales conference, yet found time to sit with Jack Bulavsky, Special Assignment Correspondent for Casino Life.

What’s going to be your main focus at G2E?

Marco: G2E is an overwhelming experience. Our main focus is, and always has been, our customers. We’re here to reassure them that we’re continuing to innovate and will spend time getting reacquainted with them and sharing the wide breadth of products that we have to benefit their casino floor.  Jean started the Bally Technologies European Customer Panel and this enables us to have open conversation about what’s working for them and what isn’t.

Tell me more about Customer Panel International.

Jean: Our first Customer Panel Forum started here and it was quite successful. Then we brought 16 of our valued customers, meaning casino operators, to Amsterdam for two days and had open and honest conversations about how they feel about our products and services. We show them games we’re developing and they advise and give us feedback. There are more game developers in the room than sales people. This isn’t about doing something now; it’s about the future.

Marco:  The forum has had a lasting feedback. I still hear from these customers regularly. The interaction is so important. It builds trust and shows that we listen and are looking for innovative play mechanics that create excitement along with big win anticipation.  The input is passed on to our hardware and industrial engineers to develop a full game experience which extends to cabinets and everything else. The entire process is a team effort.

And what comes from that team effort?

Marco: We’re always looking for a home run. A good game is like making a movie: you can get the best actors and the best script and put millions of dollars behind it, but you never really know if it’s going to be hit. So when you do have a hit, you want to take it to the next level and spread it around the globe like we did with 88 Fortunes.  For us a good game is subjective: there is the pace of the game, frequency of payout, and how much you win when you do win.  It all plays into the total gaming experience. Everyone wants entertainment and they’re getting that with games like 88 Fortunes, but they’re also chasing the big hit.

Jean: The team effort allows us to discover player preferences that vary widely. Product managers are on the floor bringing us information on what is working in specific markets via focus groups or visits to casinos.  It’s a team effort that translates into a diverse and popular portfolio of products.

A global sales conference is a major event for Bally Technologies. Why?

Marco:  Bally Technologies is truly a global company and it’s important that we periodically gather our global sales leaders to introduce and discuss new products and train everyone accordingly. We have developed standard practices for staff across the globe and it’s vital they know and understand these practices.

Jean: Our product management people work closely with sales staff in various jurisdictions. These days however, instead of jurisdictions, we’re using the word regionalization. That means we have increased emphasis on looking at individual markets and making sure we’re tailoring those products specifically for those markets. We know it’s not a “one size fits all” type world and we make sure that in Europe, for instance, we don’t give a suite of products to all of Europe. Instead, we have specific games for Latvia or France or Italy. That’s because game popularity varies widely from market to market and player preference is different and gambling styles are different. So we’re developing products that are tailored for that region. 

How many regions are there?

Marco: The Europe region alone covers 44 countries and 24 different languages with many micro markets in between. We have matured in analyzing our data and in understanding each market.

Jean:  We’re able to do that because of staff who research and advise us. They are interacting and watching and participating to see what is working and what isn’t in the casinos.  It’s difficult for a game developer in Las Vegas to build and create a game that will be popular for a player in Portugal. How is that Portuguese player going to react to that game? So we have staff who spends a considerable amount of time with operators and players in making sure the configuration on that game is optimized and is tailored for Portugal.

Is there a consensus of any kind on what kinds of games players in Europe are looking for?

Jean: A massive game is a massive game no matter where it is located. And by massive I mean a game that is played by everyone.  One example is 88 Fortunes™ which has transcended all jurisdictions and player styles and has become a global hit. 88 Fortunes™ is the perfect chance for players to test their luck. It features 10 Free Games that can be endlessly re-triggered, the Fu Bat Jackpot Feature with four progressive levels, and lovely authentic Chinese artwork. It can be found in many casinos on a link called Duo Fu Duo Cai which translates loosely to good fortunes, good treasures. It’s a shining example of a game that has worked incredibly well across all borders.

The game was developed for Asia and tailored to that market and just exploded there. Then it had success in Australia, is gaining traction in the U.S, and we’re just now putting it in Europe where hopefully it will see similar success. So there are a few games that break all barriers. But that’s not the norm.  A theme can be global but configuration in one market doesn’t necessarily carry over to another market meaning one market wants to play 10 lines per game but someplace else the preference is 100 lines per game. Adjustments are made.

Marco: We’ve learned that Europe is a more aggressive gambler-style game market. Since the average size of a European casino is only about 100 machines, it’s important to offer multi-game configuration to give players more options to choose from. We also have learned that markets get created by other markets. Australian-style games have influence in South Africa, Asia and Europe. We notice this, study it, and develop along this line.

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