The i-gaming industry is going through interesting times.
From the expansion of licensing jurisdictions in Europe continuing at a good pace, to the uncertain optimism of a grand return to the US – well punctuated by shots heard across the i-gaming world on Black Friday and the recent indictment of Calvin Ayre – there is certainly no shortage of news and events.
Away from all that excitement, there’s another facet of i-gaming, which is undergoing transformation and evolution that lurks with less fanfare – the i-gaming industry is going social.
While some have argued that with the jurisdictional and regulated nature of i-gaming, it is a different business online, others have long-stated that i-gaming is simply another form of online entertainment that will have to compete with other internet businesses for their customers. With the rush into social i-gaming, this is certainly becoming evident.
This move towards a more social, more mobile i-gaming experience is certainly changing how the industry looks at technology and the overall approach to system design and deployment. There is a need to move out of traditionally encapsulated environments to one that is much more scalable, adaptable and can be integrated into social and mobile platforms.
Exciting developments certainly include IGT’s Caesars move into the social gaming space with its recent acquisitions, as well as the innovative embracing of Twitter by 888 Poker.
Adding to the mix, the cloud has also roiled the industry, bringing efficiency to some, marketing clout to others and a healthy dose of confusion to go around.
So what is this cloud and how will it affect the i-gaming space?
The definitions of the cloud are as varied as the types of clouds and the names that meteorologists and geologists give them. In i-gaming, that’s no different. Everybody has a different interpretation of what their cloud is and how it will differentiate them from their competition.
From a technical perspective, the cloud can be described as an elastic computing platform that moves away from describing computing resources in terms of an immutable set of servers, processors, memory and storage.
Still confused? Let’s use the power of analogies to try to break through the overcast skies.
Let’s say you are trying to run a train line. To move passengers and cargo on your network, you have to configure a train appropriately before allowing it to leave the station. Things to consider include how many passenger and cargo cars to hook up, the number of engines you will need to handle to load and get the whole lot to the destination on schedule.
Before the cloud, you would probably have to do a projection of the ratio of passengers versus cargo, fuel prices versus customer patience then go out and purchase the right combination of equipment and hope you’ve got it right.
If demand increases, you might have to consider doing all that again to see if it makes sense to buy more equipment and increase the fleet, all this time knowing that if demand should drop, you’re going to be stuck with a bunch of equipment that will just sit and gather dust. Then you have to throw in redundancies and spares to further add to the toll.
Here comes the cloud to save the day.
The cloud brings about this magical train that isn’t composed of individual cars and engines. At every trip, you simply tell it how many passengers and cargo you need to carry, how fast you want them to get there and if you’re willing to pay the price, this magic train appears and does the job – you just pay for what you need.
If passengers demand rises, you simply dial up the passenger cars. Need more speed, there’s a knob for that too, and when it comes to redundancies and spares for those rainy days, the cloud is supposed to have that covered too, but often a rain cloud is still a rain cloud and you will get wet.
So if that analogy brought some light, the one liner to take away from it is that the cloud provides an abstraction layer over hardware, making it more about what you need versus what you have.
In a perfect world, it means that a sportsbook can turn up the dial during the World Cup to handle the exponential increase in wagers and turn it back down when the rush is over.
In practise, if it is a private cloud, you will still be paying for all that hardware to make this possible behind the curtain of abstraction. But if your software is written to take advantage of a cloud, the magic is that it can be a knob you just turn.
If you’re using a public cloud, then the provider picks up the hardware tab and you pay for what you use, when you use it. Done right, there are little to no compromises to security and privacy, and it can work in a regulated environment.
Examples of such services include Microsoft’s Azure and the ever-popular Amazon Web Services, which can claim customers from small websites to large social gaming platforms that support millions of active daily users. Unfortunately, these systems don’t account for the regulated needs of the i-gaming industry in their box of cookie cutters.
The i-gaming industry is certainly going through interesting times in its late teens and now faces an imminent confrontation with the casual and mobile gaming kids in the school yard. However, there are many lessons that can be learned from the other kids and those lessons need to be picked up by the regulators as well as the operators.
Without regulatory support, the industry could be heading down a dead end track when faced with the prospect of competing for playtime with the unregulated world of casual and entertainment gaming.
We have had the opportunity to touch on the cloud and perhaps in a future instalment, we can crack open that social gaming and marketing nut that everybody seems to be scrambling to crack.
Article appeared in iNTERGAMINGi, Issue 2 2012