The Excel Centre, London was the venue for this year’s ICE Totally Gaming exhibition. The largest of its kind in Europe, the ICE is one of the most influential gaming and entertainment conventions on the calendar, drawing experts from across the iGaming industry, including professionals, gaming operators, regulatory bodies and software developers and suppliers. Every year the ICE showcases key trends and innovations that could dominate the market, and one key takeaway from the 2018 edition is that the iGaming industry is very much at a moment of change.
Technology and innovation are doing much to disrupt and improve the industry as we know it, effectively forcing market leaders to change their game plan and step into this new and exciting period of evolution. At the forefront of this is cryptocurrency. Bitcoin and its fellow virtual currencies could be some of the most beneficial technologies to be integrated into the iGaming industry, and during the ICE a CoinPoint event was held to raise awareness of Bitcoin Cash. Attended by a surprising number of senior iGaming executives, the success of the event stands as a testament to the validity of Bitcoin Cash as a serious player in the iGaming arena.
Another important area of innovation that has become a priority with major players in the industry is Virtual Reality (VR). Today’s gamers and online players are demanding the very best experiences, and it’s certainly evident from a number of exhibitors at the conference that VR will provide a new platform on which to run prize-play entertainment. This emerging technology is already being applied throughout the gaming scene as VR iGaming and its own stand-alone entertainment platform.
Building on the overwhelming success of smartphone gaming apps, iGaming operators are starting to make concentrated efforts to develop even more compelling offerings. JoinGames are currently hoping to build on the success of last year’s Kleopatra VR slot title with the brand-new Zombie Escape VR. This will be a multi-level game accessible through a mobile VR platform. Similarly, the Scandinavian software giants NetEnt have released an updated version of their hugely-popular Gonzo’s Quest for the Oculus VR system. Zeusplay, one of the largest software development specialists in the industry, showcased a brand-new, stand-alone platform at the conference (Zeusplay VR), which will modify a number of their existing prize-play titles to run on a mobile VR headset.
Although the UK has been at the centre of the iGaming industry for some time, global markets are set to become increasingly more important in 2018. Leading online operators such as PokerStars are beginning to tap into the potential of the European market. Last year the firm became one of the first casino operators to go live with their mobile app in Google Play stores in the UK and France, and they have recently begun rolling out a shared player pool within the licensed markets of Spain and France. Italy and Portugal are also tipped to join the merged player pool initiative, which will enable far greater control and responsibility for both operators and players in these regions.
What will really drive VR investment and better performance in European and global markets for the iGaming industry is momentum. The ICE proved that plenty of momentum has already been built up by some of the leaders in the field, and it’s now time for operators themselves to take advantage of the opportunities on offer. As it currently stands, the industry is at a key moment of transition; if it continues to follow innovation and expansion, then 2018 could see it surpass itself.