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.

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