Time to play the (free) game, by John Gordon, CEO, Incentive Games

John Gordon - CEO Incentive Games

John Gordon, CEO at Incentive Games, says that Free-to-Play (F2P) games are a powerful acquisition and retention tool for operators in emerging markets

Operators are attracted to emerging markets such as Africa because of the tremendous potential they offer, but they are not without their challenges.

To enter a new market, build brand equity and loyalty and lay the foundations for a long and prosperous future, operators must clear legal, financial, technological and marketing hurdles.

This often means delivering a highly localised product that engages players, provides the experience they are seeking and ultimately fosters trust.

But the standard practices deployed in mature markets are not always available in emerging markets, especially when it comes to marketing.

If you take social media platforms such as Facebook in Africa, for example, it is very difficult to run consistent real-money gambling campaigns due to their strict restriction.

The same applies to the Apple App Store; sportsbook brands are prohibited from listing their real-money betting apps forcing many to consider alternative options.

An effective way of acquiring customers in emerging markets is to offer Free-to-Play games and apps, which can be promoted on social media and listed in apps stores such as the Apple App Store and Google Play store.

These games can also be embedded in other marketing activity, such as on sports news and information sites run by betting brands as part of their content marketing efforts.

What’s more, Free-to-Play games can also be embedded into an operator’s betting site providing a seamless journey from the Free-to-Play game to making a real money bet.

But engagement with a Free-to-Play game is not guaranteed. To launch games that genuinely appeal to players, operators must understand the market they are in, the technology the users have and what bettors are motivated by.

For example, in emerging markets such as Africa players are drawn to Free-to-Play games that allow them to win large jackpots – the incentive being to win big without having to place a bet. But many of the users are on low-end handsets and restricted java-script browsers (such as Opera Mini Extreme mode). As such, you have to provide a game that works on their devices and browsers, and has the correct gamification mechanics.

Let me explain by way of example.

A player visits one of our client’s news site and starts playing one of our Free-to-Play games for the chance to win a jackpot prize.

They enter their score predictions and are then required to register an account with the parent betting site in order to confirm their entry to the Free-to-Play game.

Once they have created their account, they are then given the opportunity to place real money bets based on their Free-to-Play predictions.

This all takes place within the free to play game. If they decide to place a real money bet, they are then taken to the operator’s website, already logged-in, and their bets are in their bet slip.

The good news for operators in emerging markets is that Free-to-Play games can deliver incredibly low CPAs – it is not unusual for them to offer a 90% reduction in costs over other marketing activity.

Why? Because Free-toPlay games meet player needs, and when combined with smart marketing activity that puts them in front of engaged bettors they deliver acquisition at scale.

The cost of offering Free-to-Play games is not particularly high, either. While this requires an initial investment and at times a leap of faith from operators, over time the ROI free to play games provide is hard to beat.

For those in emerging markets where standard marketing channels are not available, they are the best way to engage players, build brand equity and deliver the experience players are seeking.

In more mature markets where Free-to-Play games are a powerful acquisition and retention tool, the motivation is more around entertainment and as a “second screen” opportunity. In these markets, we focus more on quality engagement and rich UX/UI.

John Gordon, CEO, Incentive Games