Philip Morris on ‘Bespoke Empathy’: The Essential Philosophy for iGaming Success

In gaming and iGaming, where trends can shift as quickly as the wind, a deeper connection with customer needs becomes the anchor for enduring success. At the core of Innovecs’ approach is a commitment to understanding and meeting the customers’ needs. Rather than asking them what they want, we aim to discern their need by understanding their development cycles, portfolios, and roadmaps.

This philosophy of “bespoke empathy” towards our clients ensures we are not just led by trends but by a deep understanding of our clients, enabling us to offer unparalleled value in a competitive landscape.

A Fresh Start: Embracing New Beginnings at Innovecs

It’s been incredibly refreshing to start a new role at the beginning of the year, as it’s allowed me to look at the entire year ahead and not feel like I’m sailing into the wind.

I was also very fortunate to meet a lot of key stakeholders in Vienna before Christmas; this helped enormously with onboarding and integrating myself into the company.

My initial impressions have been exceptionally positive. I’m struck by the efficiency of our globally-remote team and their passion for the industries we serve. There’s a tangible openness to innovation, new ideas, and adapting to change that resonates throughout the team. Being in sync with the direction favored by other stakeholders has also been a highlight, reinforcing my sense of alignment with the company’s goals.

Uniting Insights and Strategies from Global Gaming Conferences

Apart from attending SIGMA in Malta in 2021, ICE London 2024 was my first official iGaming event: I was encouraged by the large attendance and thronging crowds, the vibrant energy, but mostly by how impactful our brand looked compared to other booths. iGaming is clearly in great shape: I hope to work across both video games and iGaming to position Innovecs as experts in both fields, helping to identify and evolve a healthy range of USPs.

The potential for innovation, particularly in the gamification of slots and the development of more profound, more engaging gaming experiences, is immense. Leveraging my 15+ years in the video gaming industry, I see a clear path to enriching iGaming with gameplay elements that can revolutionize player experiences.

After attending the Hamburg Games Conference, Cloud Expo Europe, and GDC, our strategy focuses on three critical pillars: networking, brand exposure, and pipeline development. However, the essence of our approach is not just in talking but in listening. We can’t just build and then try to sell it; we must first learn what customers want. And not just what they wanted in 2023, but buy what they will want in 2024 and 2025.

It’s clear from GDC that we have areas for growth, particularly in the competitive video gaming space. Despite the challenges, I am optimistic about our ability to stand out and connect meaningfully with our target audience. Our ambition is to participate and lead, with plans to host a GDC Session in 2025 and secure a regular booth starting in 2026.

These events provide a platform for us to fine-tune our gaming strategy, ensuring that Innovecs remains trusted, recognized, and, above all, relevant.

Selecting Conferences: A Strategic Approach to Industry Engagement

The value of face-to-face interactions is more significant than ever, leading our strategic approach to prioritizing conference attendance as a vital investment of both time and resources. While the immediate outcomes of such engagements — be it short-term pipeline boosts or long-term partnerships — are not always predictable, experience has taught me the indispensable worth of regular presence.

The criteria for selecting conferences are multifaceted, considering the events as investments in our growth and connections within the industry. Despite being relatively smaller in scale, the vibrant developer community in Hamburg and Northern Germany has proven the value of quality over quantity. The potential in each conversation can lead to fruitful partnerships, underlining the importance of our presence across various events. Furthermore, our strategy incorporates attending events that allow for balanced business approaches. This includes our previous participation in large-scale and niche events, like the DevGamm event in Gdansk, to ensure a diverse and balanced pipeline.

Having had the privilege of experiencing most global gaming events, I can selectively target those that align with our strategic needs and logistical realities, including schedules, personal commitments, and budget considerations.

Moving forward, the criteria for the future event selection will focus on opportunities for compact networking, the ability to pre-arrange meetings through digital platforms, and the availability of speaker slots or unique branding opportunities. It’s no secret that events are becoming more expensive, so we’ll remain vigilant. While ROI in the traditional sense — dollar attribution and KPI fulfillment — is critical, the immeasurable benefits, such as brand positioning, industry insight, and competitive analysis, are equally valuable. KPIs are part of the Sales Teams’ DNA. Still, ROI is sometimes immeasurable: brand vigilance, gaining insights into industry trends, and a level of finger-on-the-pulse competitor analysis is gold dust, too.

Adapting to Trends: Our Strategy for Unique Value

The broader economic environment has naturally impacted areas of the gaming industry, leading to cautious decisions and a preference for game sequels over new IPs. Additionally, there’s a noticeable shift towards monetization on mobile platforms, with a significant portion of the global population engaging in mobile gaming. This shift includes a lean toward Premium/Games-as-a-Service (GaaS) titles and in-app purchases (IAPs), reflecting short-term economic decisions by consumers.

By the end of 2024, an estimated 25% of the global population will play mobile games. The rise of GaaS or “Live Service Games” – games designed without a definitive end – presents new opportunities for long-term client partnerships. Our focus will be on targeting developers and publishers to leverage these trends.

AI is gradually evolving from a buzzword to another critical trend. We are keenly aware of the move towards Generative AI in game development and should plan to offer it as a specialized service. This initiative could play into a more general client base, helping out AAA, Indie, and everything.

Current Challenges in the iGaming

I couldn’t speak as succinctly to iGaming as I can to videogames, but a shared current challenge is certainly budget and the “Value Proposition.” Reflecting on my time at Apple, our discussions centered on the value provided rather than the price, and I carry forward this principle.

Regulatory challenges are another significant aspect that demands attention. Ensuring agility and fostering strategic partnerships within the iGaming industry can help mitigate regulatory challenges. This approach builds customer trust by demonstrating our comprehensive understanding of the industry landscape.

Consistently delivering a quality product or service significantly reduces challenges. Much like how no one questions the quality of Rockstar’s games or the anticipation for From Software’s Elden Ring DLC, we aim for our work to be unquestionably excellent.

Navigating New Trends: User-Generated Content and Interactive Gaming

While I’m still exploring Innovecs Games’ approach to UGC and interactive gaming experiences, moderation — whether through AI or human oversight — emerges as a crucial area for research and development in the UGC realm. The broad spectrum of interactive gaming, especially emerging technologies like AR/VR/MR, seems poised to stay niche despite the allure of platforms like Xbox Game Pass on Meta Quest 3.

Mobile is currently the king of platforms in terms of installed base and monetization data. Couple that with the strength of using existing IP rather than creating new: 25% of mobile game revenue now stems from such IPs, with “Monopoly GO!” serving as a prime example. I prefer expanding in mobile gaming territories rather than delving into the complexities of AR projects, though emerging technologies like visionOS deserve our attention.

Cross-platform projects are also interesting and quite different from multi-platform projects, with the former presenting unique challenges for developers. A potential direction could involve developing an SDK to simplify cross-platform game development. Moreover, understanding TikTok’s impact and its cultural significance within the 18-24 age demographic highlights the importance of community-building in gaming success. A third of gamers demand solid community-based features in games in which they invest time and money.

Adapting to Evolving iGaming Consumer Preferences

In the fast-paced world of iGaming, consumer preferences can rapidly evolve. Unheralded titles like Among Us, Only Up!, Pokémon Go, Goat Simulator, and Fortnite’s venture into Battle Royale have demonstrated the potential for games to become viral sensations without prior promotion. These titles remind us that gameplay remains core to all gaming experiences and should be front and center of our sales strategies, pitches, and USPs.

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