Churn And The Life Of A Casino Game

First published on iGaming Business, 18 December 2017

This month, iGaming Tracker’s Ken Muir drills down into industry churn rates, analysing two recent games releases from Microgaming and NetEnt across 32 main casino pages in seven countries

Online game developers frequently release new casino titles, often at a frequency of least one game a month. Developing, marketing and integrating these new games onto operator sites no doubt takes up significant resources. Which begs the question, why release new games so often?

Operators of course like to keep their offering fresh, with new games always available for returning customers to try.

Additionally, if their competitors are offering fresh content, they don’t want to be left behind, thus the demand for new games from is always consistently strong across all operators.

With casino sites regularly releasing new games regularly, it is inevitable that this will reduce the exposure of pre-existing content on the site. Their prominent position on the casino page will inevitably diminish with a likely loss in revenue.

So these games effectively ‘churn’ from the top positions.

We provide monthly top slot rankings to our clients every month, and after a few months of doing this, it became evident just how much their games churn. We found that of the top 20 ranked games each month, at least 50% of these would leave these top positions on the pages by the following month.

The following analysis looks at two major game releases and how their exposure on operators’ main casino pages changes over time from their release date. We also look at new game releases from one supplier and see an interesting pattern.

The games
We chose Phantom of The Opera by Microgaming and Planet of The Apes by NetEnt as they were released within a week of each other and both had a wide distribution across multiple sites and countries. Both releases were also heavily marketed in the trade press, social media and at trade fairs.

Casino sites all have different mixes of games suppliers. For the analysis, we chose 32 casino pages where both games were present (though interestingly when we did the same analysis for all pages, regardless of whether both games were present, the results were similar).

We selected the main landing pages on the casino sites, as these pages are where new games releases are featured most prominently and where the majority of the revenue is driven from.

The list of casino pages and the country in which these pages were tracked can be found at the bottom of this article.

The comparison
The graph below shows the weekly average position of each game aggregated over the casino pages. Both games follow a similar pattern: the average position peaks in the first weeks and then gradually declines.

Planet of The Apes maintained high positions for the first five weeks then dropped away at a rapid rate. The Phantom of The Opera started to fall away from the third week onwards. Its average position declined at a slower rate but always occupied a lower position than Planet Of The Apes.

In some instances, the games will disappear from certain casino pages after just a few weeks.

The next chart looks at the exposure of the game in a different way – the number of aggregated days the game is present on all the pages analysed, so this graph shows total exposure across all the sites.

The results display a similar pattern. Planet Of The Apes peaks at week two and its presence remains high over four weeks, then it starts to decline. The Phantom of The Opera starts to fall away after three weeks.

What is striking is that once the games’ presence on the sites starts to decline, they seem to do so at broadly the same rate.

When you run the same analysis, but only taking into account the top 10 positions of each page, the pattern of decline remains.

However, it is clear that Planet Of The Apes is more popular and shows more strongly in the higher positions across the tracked sites compared to Phantom Of The Opera.

So why do the positions decline and follow this pattern? Usually it’s to make way for new game releases, as only a few games are truly ‘sticky’, i.e. they have enough popularity to remain prominent on the page.

Examples include Starburst by NetEnt, Rainbow Riches by SG Interactive and Book of Dead by Play’n Go.

What about games from the same supplier?
The last three charts looked at two games from different games suppliers, but what about games from the same supplier? The following chart shows the average positions of seven recent game releases from NetEnt.

You would expect that each time a game is released by NetEnt, the exposure on the tracked sites would be similar due to their relationship with these operators. The drop off from that point will be, in the majority of cases, due to the games’ success relative to other content.

As you can see from the below, there is a pattern for game launches from individual suppliers. Planet of The Apes is just one of a series of NetEnt releases in the last six months.

The exposure on main casino pages follows a predictable pattern. They rank highly in the top positions for a couple of weeks then drop off sharply, to be replaced shortly after by the next games release.

NetEnt: average position of seven recent games releases

You will see one notable exception to this rule on the chart above – Starburst. This has more aggregated days in the top positions each week than any of the games in their launch week.

The enduring popularity and traction of this game is clearly something that NetEnt, and all other game producers for that matter, are striving to emulate.

iGaming Tracker – how it works
iGaming Tracker tracks hundreds of casino sites worldwide every day. From this data it can ascertain which games are on which sites and where they are positioned on the pages. It can also measure the market share of casino games suppliers by percentage of “real estate” on casino sites at any given date.

Game Loading Times

Slot Loading Times Across Operator Sites

First published on iGaming Business, 17 November 2017

The time a slot takes to load is a key customer service KPI in online casino. In this month’s exclusive analysis for iGaming Business, Ken Muir from iGaming Tracker analyses the loading performance of four popular titles from NetEnt, Play’n’Go, SG Interactive and Yggdrasil across six leading online casino sites – Bet365, LeoVegas, Mr Green, Sky Vegas, Unibet and William Hill.

One of the most common customer complaints in an online casino is that a game loads slowly or fails to load. The reasons behind slow loading times can be difficult to ascertain, as they can be many and varied.

It could be the customer’s bandwidth connection, it could be problems with the website or with the gaming platform hosting the game, or it could even be the game itself.

We work with clients to try and understand the scale of the problem and establish why it is happening. In this article, we will analyse the game loading times of four popular casino games – Play’n GO’s Book of Dead, SG Interactive’s Rainbow Riches Pick’n’Mix, NetEnt’s Starburst and Yggdrasil’s Vikings Go Bezerk, each launched from a different selection of four operator sites.

The operator sites used in this study were Bet365, LeoVegas, Mr Green, Sky Vegas, Unibet and William Hill.

To be clear, the analysis is only of the loading times of successful game loads; it ignores any failed attempts to load the game (we have found that generally 1-2% of load attempts fail).

As you can see from the table below, the games and sites tested are a representative mix of popular games and casino sites.

Test conditions
The tests were carried out between 4 November and 12 November, 2017 in a controlled environment with consistent bandwidth connection. This approach eliminates any issues with the customer’s bandwidth speed.

Testing the game over several sites helps us understand the performance of the gaming platform as well as of the individual casinos. By looking at the overall average game loading time, as well as the file size, we can understand the differences between the games and the sites.

How we performed the tests

  • Each time a game was launched, we tested it “uncached”, i.e. without browsing history/cookies, and “cached” where browsing history is present
  • For consistency, we used a ‘virtual machine’ with the bandwidth speed “throttled” at 32 MBps, emulating a typical broadband speed and ensuring each game test was using the same broadband speed
  • The games were launched in a mobile browser within the UK
  • We carried out at least 100 tests for each game, ensuring a comprehensive picture of game loading variations by day and hour
  • Loading times are defined as the time from clicking “play” to the time the game is ready for the customer to play
  • Game file sizes were recorded using Chrome developer console. The total cached and uncached file size was recorded

The results

  • ​File size vs. load time
    As you would expect, there is a direct relationship between the game file size and the game load time. However, there are games that under- and over-perform compared to their file size. The chart below clearly shows the different approaches games suppliers adopt with regards to the file size of their games.

Starburst by NetEnt has a small file size and consequently a short average loading time. Likewise, Book Of Dead has a relatively small file size and a proportionate loading time.

However, Vikings Go Bezerk has a much higher file size typical for Yggdrasil games, but the game loading time is much shorter than you would expect.

  • Cached vs. uncached load times
    The graph below shows the load times per test by game. The horizontal axis shows the loading time on an uncached browser, while the vertical axis shows the second part of the test, testing the game loading time with the game cached in the browser.In the tests, we throttled the bandwidth speed to a typical home broadband speed to make the tests realistic and consistent. As you can see, there are different time distributions for each game. This seems to have affected Rainbow Riches Pick’n’Mix to a significant degree.

  • Casino site performance
    As we have seen, there is a direct relationship between file size and game loading time. However, the operator site also affects the performance, and our testing the games on different sites produced some interesting results.

Book of Dead – Bet365 gave consistently better loading times for this game, with Leo Vegas, Mr Green and Unibet clustered closer together.

The graph below clearly shows the amount of ‘outliers’, where a significant proportion of game loads resulted in abnormal load times. Unfortunately, this is not unusual.

Starburst – as with Book Of Dead, Bet 365 has consistent and short loading times, as does Leo Vegas. At the other end of the spectrum, William Hill has slightly longer and more erratic loading times.

Vikings Go Bezerk – this Yggdrasil game has much more consistent loading times than others, although they are longer due to their file size. The game loading times between the various casinos do not seem to differ to any degree.

Rainbow Riches Pick’n Mix – this SG Interactive game possesses a large file size, and the LeoVegas and Bet365 sites seemed able to handle this better than William Hill.

The results for Sky were also much higher for the same test. This level of performance is not typical for Sky Vegas based on the tests we performed for other games on the site, but the large file size of this particular game and the bandwidth speed seems to have affected Sky Vegas disproportionately more than the other casinos.

Summing up
This analysis took in a small sample of games across a small sample of online casinos. However, it does illustrate that on a key customer service KPI – the time a slot takes to load – marked differences exist between games and casinos.

Some may say it’s only a matter of few seconds and the games always end up loading anyway, but these differences give a strong indication of the attention developers and casinos pay to their service levels.

On this basis, it is therefore not surprising that the shortest and most consistent loading times are for the most popular slot game, Starburst, on the most popular website, Bet365.

iGaming Tracker – how it works
iGaming Tracker tracks hundreds of casino sites worldwide every day. From this data it can ascertain which games are on which sites and where they are positioned on the pages. It can also measure the market share of casino games suppliers by percentage of “real estate” on casino sites at any given date.