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Eggs/bacon. Love/marriage. Angelina Jolie/YOUR NAME HERE. There are some things that just go together well. Matt Broughton examines the coupling of Greentube and Novomatic.
Following the recent acquisition by Novomatic, online games developer Greentube, now finds itself in the enviable position of having the entire Novomatic slots portfolio land in a very large metaphorical Jiffy bag on its doorstep.
The word ‘synergy’ is used all too often in business, but when you look at the ramifications of Greentube becoming part of the Novomatic Group, you realise very quickly that this transforms the shape of business for both parties. The benefits are huge; Greentube gives Novomatic the ability to have an online interactive division that’s been operating successfully for ten years; with the perfect client server and technical infrastructure in place to service operators. It seems to be a win-win situation.
For Greentube, Novomatic’s acquisition gives the company enormous additional strength in terms of being able to increase speed of growth, not only through financial investment, but also via access to more than 30 years of experience in land based casino operations and the huge library of Novomatic games. Greentube now has a list of immensely successful Novomatic content that they are in the process of developing for online and mobile. in the Novomatic portfolio, there is enough content to keep Greentube busy for a couple of years at least – and that’s besides the work the company is already doing, as the Greentube say they are increasing the number of games in their 3D line-up.
3D products have been an area of great success for Greentube. ‘Ski Challenge’ was initially developed by the company in 2004 and is now in its sixth season, having attracted more than six million unique players from around the world, producing nearly 1.5 billion online races. However, Greentube’s initial focus was a long way from the Piste. Greentube itself was established as a games developer in 2000, with a specific focus on multiplayer skills games. Like all the companies in the casual entertainment business, they did try different business models to monetise output. If a casual or skill gaming company wants customers and wants to link payment to any kind of scenario, Greentube quickly realised they needed that in place technically as well as conceptually.
Greentube began with the simplest technical option, which was a subscription model for cards and sports games. This offered unlimited access to play on a monthly subscription basis. Of course, charging by-play or having cash wagered on individual games sessions requires an increased level of technical ability, a level the company reached relatively quickly, starting with card and board games at a local national level in Austria and German-speaking markets. The next step was expanding to an international level simply by taking the internationally-successful generic games like Backgammon, Mah Jong, Solitaire, and adding national specialist products; ‘Schnapsen’ for Austria, ‘Ulti’ for Hungary, ‘Belote’ for France, and so on.
With their Austrian roots, a skiing game was a natural starting point for their 3D sports game development – just like if it were a UK company it might be football, or baseball for a US company. A lot of Ski Challenge’s success seems to be a matter of accessibility. Greentube has successfully targeted the mass market because their games are easy to learn, and in particular the controls for a downhill skiing game are accessible even to non-gamers. Easy to learn, hard to perfect – you have to keep people wanting more, and the difficulty of a game is key to ongoing success, something Greentube appears to have mastered already.
The length of a ski run (or a race track, or indeed anything with ‘game miles’) also leads to another of Greentube’s successes: in-game advertising. For one thing, a downhill ski run without advertising is simply not an accurate representation of its appearance in the real world. Another thing is, it’s a potential revenue earner as the advertising hoardings can actually be sold to real-world advertisers, or even used by Greentube to promote new games.
Another feature of Greentube’s products is the ability to play not only on PC and on mobile, but to link players across the formats at the same time, creating a larger pool of multi-platform gamers. By all accounts, this is unique to Greentube and began when they started offering multiplayer card and board games for mobile players in the mid 2000s. As the mobile client developed, the company saw something interesting – liquidity is key. If a player enters the game area looking for competitors and there’s no-one there, they won’t wait, they move on to the next thing.
Companies approaching Greentube for mobile content tasked the company with solving this issue. The key was their large user base of players online, and the company created a link so the player pools could access each other to compete directly, in real-time. Of course, there could not be any limitations obvious to the mobile player, as the linkage also meant greater potential player retention; players would want the exact same experience they got online.
Fortunately for Greentube, its server infrastructure had been set up in a way that this link was made comparatively easy, with most of the game delivery, mathematics, logic, and features handled by the server, meaning the comparatively ‘thin’ client didn’t have to care too much about the game itself from a technical point of view. Not only were they optimised to connect the mobile clients to the PC client, but were also able to include additional liquidity from Interactive TV.
While access to the Novomatic portfolio is an obvious positive in this partnership, one has to wonder if it might lead to land-based business, or content sharing, from Greentube. There is some recent history where an online developer has been bought by a slot company and content has travelled both ways – from slot manufacturer to online, but also from online into a slot cabinet. It’s likely that such traffic would be localised, rather than a game making its way into a casino while simultaneously being available online and for mobile players. Legislatively, that’s still a potential minefield, whereas a standalone casino game or even a WAP will be subject to stringent local regulations which the Novomatic Group of Companies obviously is obliged to strictly adhere to The fluidity of the online world is not something that casino legislation is ready for just yet.
From an investment, logistics and distribution point of view, as server-based gaming is showing us, network technology is full of benefits, but the legality of merging online and land-based gaming still leaves many questions. But it’s only a matter of time before the two merge more completely and to greater effect than ever before – and when they do, Novomatic and Greentube will be front and centre, riding the first wave in to shore.