A few weeks ago we wrote an open letter to Playtech (within one of our online slot reviews) where we expressed out regret at the output and direction of their online slot division. Now we were not expecting a reply from Playtech (we didn’t get one) and we were not even sure if they would pay any attention to it at all, however the letter clearly struck a nerve at Playtech HQ as within a week according to our website analytics, the article was viewed 2-300 times by staff at Playtech!!! Due to this reception we decided that we should expand on the letter and turn it into a full analysis article.
Just before we get to work and because this article is going to start off being very negative and seemingly anti-Playtech, we should point out that we do see a bright future for Playtech… but only if they heed our warnings and make a huge effort. We have consulted for representatives from a couple of US based slot brands already and are open to consulting for Playtech. We are sure we could get their online slot department back on track and back up to where they used to be. Our contact details are available on the Contact page so Playtech feel free to email or Skype me.
Playtech were founded in 1999 in Estonia and received their first casino license in 2001. They soon became one of the market leaders within the online casino industry with some classy and innovative online slot machines. In 2006 they expanded their network and also added sports betting to their portfolio on top of the online slots. From 2010 onward their strategy was one of diversification by way of company acquisitions. In this way they added bingo and poker to their portfolio as well as expanding their online slots portfolio, multi-channel gaming platform and mobile gaming.
In 2015 it looks very much like Playtech see the future in the Forex. Foreign exchange, commonly known as ‘Forex’ or ‘FX’, is the exchange of one currency for another at an agreed exchange price on the over-the-counter (OTC) market. Forex is the world’s most traded market, with an average turnover in excess of US$5.3 trillion per day. This year Playtech have already acquired forex brands: “Markets.com”, TopOption, AvaTrade and are working on buying Plus500. They have also reportedly secured a hefty loan from Barclays to finance more Forex takeovers.
Playtech slots – The good
Playtech didn’t become a market leader by accident. Back in the early 2000’s they were one of the leading lights in the online slot world. And when they brought out the Marvel jackpot slots they elevated to another level. While the development of their Marvel branded slots has seemingly ceased, these slots still stack up with the best of the new breed. In fact 3 of the Marvel jackpot slots made it into our top 30 best online slots of all time. With 4 entries in this list, Playtech were equal top along with NetEnt.
The Marvel jackpot brand really saw Playtech flying and gaining massive numbers of fans. However since the development and release of new Marvel slots stopped, the Playtech market share has been cut drastically.
Playtech slots – The bad
Whilst NetEnt have completely taken over the online slot marketplace in the last couple of years – producing an unrivaled amount of new slots on a regular basis, all featuring the usual NetEnt high quality graphics and animations – all the other slot developers are playing catch up, Some better than others. Microgaming took a little while to come to terms with the new kid on the block taking over, but at least they are trying to come back. The major USA online slot brands Rival and RTG, etc were a bit too sure of their position and have been complacenet, something which is likely to come back and bite them in the a$$ if NetEnt get their way in gaining entry to the US online casino market (they are already at an advanced stage in getting into the New Jersey market). But it is Playtech who have been the biggest losers.
Playtech haven’t been bringing out much over the past couple of years and some of their newer slots (for example Arrow and Fortune Jump) look like they were designed in the 90’s.
Playtech slots – The ugly
The biggest shame (and by that we mean Playtech should be ashamed) is in the daylight robbery Playtech are committing with some of their slots. Their (admittedly very nice looking) White King slot has an rtp of 90.05% and that is a slot without a progressive jackpot! To compare, NetEnt slots usually have an rtp of between 95% and 98% with the greater percentage of them 96% or 97%. Microgaming, Thunderkick, NextGen, iSoftBet, Yggdrasil, Elk and WMS (to name but a few) generally have an rtp between 95% and 98%.
Playtech on the other hand range between 90% and 98% with a greater portion of them UNDER 95%! Sorry Playtech but most hardcore players are much smarter than that and greed only serves to push them away.
Playtech mobile slots – The even uglier
NetEnt recently created a new mobile interface for their online slots and are porting them over from the old to the new system at the moment. There didn’t seem much wrong with the old system, but the new system allows mobile devices to be help upright and not just landscape and they have tried to make the options easier to find and use.
Playtech mobile slots… well what can we say. They are just getting worse and worse and worse. We have checked on numerous portable devices and most Playtech slots at most Playtech casinos on most devices, simply fail to load. That’s right, over the past 2 years it has gotten harder and harder to actually play any Playtech mobile slots at all.
Mobile gaming is definately the future and by letting their software get so out of date and buggy, Playtech have basically lost a whole market. And that of course knocks on to the desktop market because people want to have accounts which work on both desktop and mobile. Absolutely crazy!!!
The simple things
Most of the major online slot makers allow for players to use the spacebar to control their slots. This is a simple option that can alleviate RSI and makes overall gameplay much easier and less stressful on the body. Playtech have not considered this option.
Logic & Interconnectedness
Playtech started out with slots. Slot players’ support enabled them to expand into bingo, sports and other areas. Playtech bookies and casinos often feature multiple forms of gambling so it is logical to assume that one form supports the other. So if players start defecting away from Playtech slots then they are also defecting away from Playtech bingo, bookmakers, poker etc. There is a knock on effect to everything so it would seems implausible to us that a company the size of Playtech would go down without a fight.
How Playtech can return to the top
All is not lost for Playtech, while NetEnt are running away from the pack they are still catch-able. With the right investment, some hard work and the right strategy, Playtech can easily get to the top within a year. They have the financial muscle to do it if they want to. If they don’t have the in house expertise to do what is necessary then they can carry on their tradition of buying the knowledge.
A new mobile platform
Absolutely critical to their success is developing and releasing a new mobile platform a.s.a.p. Finding the necessary tech developers to do this should be no problem with mobile gaming and mobile apps being the flavour of the moment.
Bringing their RTP’s in line with the competition
The Playtech flagship slots are the Marvel jack0pot slots. However ALL of them need to be within the same RTP bracket. A 95%-96% rtp should be standard for all of the Marvel jackpot slots. In fact all their progressive jackpot slots should be raised into this bracket. Their other slots should all be raised into the 96%-97% rtp bracket. This is the standard for online slots these days so they need to get in line.
Playtech casino bonuses
Most if not virtually all Microgaming and NetEnt casinos offer cashable casino bonuses. Many Playtech casinos are still offering only sticky bonuses. Playtech could encourage more of their partners to take the plunge and switch their bonuses. Mansion, Casino.com and a few others have already switched to offering cashable bonuses but many haven’t as yet. Furthermore there are some rogues like Grand Reef who have ridiculous bonus terms. If they want the Playtech brand to be strong then encouraging a solid strategy among its partners is critical.
Playtech progressive jackpots
Another huge black mark against Playtech casinos is the number of casinos who are not playing by the rules with regards to progressive jackpots. Playtech holds onto the contributions for a progressive jackpot and once won, they pay the casino the full jackpot. The casinos in turn should pay the winner out in one lump sum. This is what happens with all other networked progressive jackpots but for some reason some Playtech casinos think it is right that they pay these out incrementally, pocketing the interest for themselves and hoping players lose a huge chunk of their winnings whilst waiting for the trickle payout. Playtech should enforce the rule that if a casino wants to be a part of its progressive jackpot network, that the casino then also pays any winners out immediately. Reputation is everything.
Doing what they do best
We have made it abundantly clear on this site that we love the Marvel jackpots. This is what Playtech is all about. Aside from raising the RTP’s for these slots, they should be thinking about expanding the range. If however they do not have the licenses in place to expand on the Marvel brand then with some creative thinking there’s no reason why they cannot create a second big progressive jackpot brand by buying some less costly licenses. iSoftbet have a whole range of licensed slots from 80’s and 90’s franchises, as do Odobo. This is an angle Playtech could very easily and affordably take.
Innovation and range
Playtech need to also start innovating and expanding their range of slots, not only with the progressives but throughout their whole range. If as we suspect they simply don’t have the resources in-house then their business model of company acquisition should come to the fore once more. Two smaller slot development companies that would be an instant good fit are as mentioned above, iSoftbet and Odobo. They would bring with them a healthy back catalog which ties in nicely with the existing Playtech style, as well as giving them the necessary programmers, designers and developers. Going for a more wild card approach would be the likes of Endorphina or Thunderkick who are really pushing the boundaries of what an online slot really is.
NetEnt are massive and have a huge team of developers which is hard to compete with so we have seen even the mighty Microgaming coming up short and making a deal with Rabcat. Williams Interactive of course and simply trying to buy every slot developer up they possibly can. On the other hand the Coral/Gala group have set up their own in house development company CR Games with developers brought in from the outside. They have already released a few slots on the Gala sites. Mergers, takeovers and partnerships are nothing new, especially to Playtech so if they want to stay in the game and push back to the top then this is their only course of action.
Cutting a long story short
Playtech are in trouble whether they like it or not. Moving away from what made them so powerful and successful is not the best course of action. They need to invest, to innovate, to consolidate, to take risks, to think outside of the box, and to be strong leaders with a clear vision and direction. With the right strategy they can dominate all sectors of the industry. But if they take no action then they are going to be in deep trouble!
Update: It has been 2 weeks since this article was published. We have seen over 100 visits from Playtech staff members to read the article but as yet they have not responded to our emails asking for an official statement. As soon as we receive a reply we shall let you know!
Update 2: Things are starting happening