Q&A with Abhinay Bhagavatula, Chief Technology Officer at Quixant and Lewis Pek, Editor of G3 magazine
Quixant exhibited at the latest G2E show in Las Vegas when many were unable to attend the event – what was your view of the show?
Being in the gaming industry for over 15 years now, gaming shows continue to be an exciting part of our business that gives us an opportunity to meet our customers and prospects face-to-face.
G2E has always been a coveted gaming event and one of the shows that I most look forward to – especially having missed last year’s exhibition due to the pandemic. Given those challenges, G2E 2021 turned out to be a successful and positive event for Quixant. Attendance was certainly down on previously years, but this was to be expected. What was very positive was the support of the gaming manufacturers who showed their latest products in Las Vegas, which meant we were able to talk to all the key suppliers in the market.
What was the focus of customer enquiries on the booth – and what were you specifically able to show in Vegas?
We have been working hard to ensure our product reaches our customers. This year, that’s been challenging on many fronts for the gaming industry, especially as the markets opened up to enormous demand for product. Unfortunately, there have been supply chain shortages and shipping delays, which has been affecting the delivery of product to our customers. As a result, G2E enquiries were focused upon fulfilment of deliveries to meet the demands of the market.
Another important topic discussed at the show concerned ‘end-of-life.’ A lot of suppliers are currently in the situation in which they are unable to deliver product, as a lot of key component suppliers announced end-of-life for their products. The question at the show was: “how is the industry adapting to make sure they have a deliverable product.”
The situation is compounded by the fact that the regulatory nature means it takes considerably more time to create a new product in this industry. At Quixant, as a supplier of technology solutions, it is upon us to provide customers with all the options they need to ensure the least disruption possible.
How important is the software suite offered by Quixant to enhance its hardware solutions to the buying decision of new clients?
Our clients really value our offering of gaming hardware platforms which come with integrated software tools and solutions as standard. Demonstrating the added-value of this software was a key focus at the G2E show. The combination of stable hardware and effective software is very powerful, enabling customers to got-to-market much faster. As our customers continue to put their energies into content, software becomes increasingly important. For example, we have launched a product called Play, which is Quixant’s media solution. Play helps customers cut significant licensing costs while benefiting from a powerful game rendering tool. There was a lot of interest and interaction with customers at G2E for the Play product.
At the same time, there are a lot of customers entering the gaming market, which requires a great deal of regulated features. This type of customer really benefits from our integrated software as it helps ease of integration in this highly regulated sector.
Has the demand for faster, bigger, more – continued during Covid – or has the pandemic pinned back the expectations of clients? Have we lost a year of technological progress?
I think the opposite is true – we have seen a lot of customers launching new and innovative product, while also exploring the means by which they deliver that content to market. Better content always requires better hardware, which is the reason why demand is so strong for Quixant product right now.
We have seen many of the major manufacturers releasing new cabinets ahead of G2E. Aristocrat, for example, just released its new Arch cabinet with the game Dune on sale ahead of the film release, which is an industry-first. Visiting the G2E booths of Aruze and Bluberi, they were both presenting new ways of engaging the customer with new game types. We saw entertainment focused show-pieces that combine video games with RNG-driven bonuses on the machine. These are new ways manufacturers are engaging with players – and it all requires bigger and better hardware.
What effect has changing demands for cashless, offline-online and omni-channel integration made on the platform driving the slot machine?
Looking at the regional reports released this year, in markets such as New Jersey we’ve seen online revenue increase over 400 per cent . This is a consistent trend across markets that allow online gaming and that has opened up new opportunities. Cashless installations are also driving this omni-channel shift in the retail market and the convergence of online to land-based. It is very evident when you look at the effect on electronic table games, which grew by 200 per cent in the last year. The attribution of this rise is thanks to people playing these games online.
Have sports betting terminals increased their presence in North America, especially as single-events betting is now legal in Canada?
We have been talking about sports betting terminals for several years, and the expectation before the pandemic was that we’d see a two-three year timeline for this market to establish itself. What Covid has done is to accelerate jurisdictional adoption of sports betting across the US. The upshot is that we are now seeing immediate demand from our key customers for the SSBTs (self-service betting terminals). We are working with a few customers who are applying for GLI 19 and 20 certification. We have had many integration and go-to-market strategy conversations in the last year, but now we’re at a stage in which we are submitting product for approval. We expect that in Q1-Q2 of next year we will see more implementations and integrations of the retail sports betting platform.
Which markets are recovering the quickest – and why?
Gaming has always been a key industry in raising revenue for state and local jurisdictions. I think that due to the current situation, we are seeing economies enable new gaming and betting measures to deal with the effects of Covid 19. In Pennsylvania, for example, during the pandemic the state declared that gaming was an essential service. As economies continue to open up to sports betting I think this is something we are going to see more and more as states look at ways to improve their revenues.
Are we returning to normal 2019 levels of purchases?
Looking positively, at Quixant we met and outpaced all our targets for 2020, despite the challenges during that period. And revenues show that 2021 has been at 90-120 per cent of 2020 levels. Looking at these figures, we are almost at the 2019 levels as a result of the pent-up and new market demand that we’re experiencing, meaning that we’re on track to exceed 2019 levels by the end of this year.
Listening to the interviews from G2E, many CEOs discussed the supply chain problems and described addressing the shipment of product via air freight – but also that they were seeking out new partners to ensure supply of components and materials. Has Quixant seen interest from new clients as a result?
Supply chain issues are affecting many, many industries, including car manufacturing and technology products such as mobile phones and computers. I think one of the things that Quixant has done successfully this year is proactively respond to this problem. We sought out new partners to manage our critical components, which were in short supply or entering end-of-life, and we started working on dual/multiple sources and dual design.
End-of-life scenarios, as I mentioned, have been a significant problem for production. Quixant has helped our customers to increase stock, an issue that remains challenging for OEM producers building in-house products. And so what we have seen is a drive towards standardisation and outsourcing, which is where we see great opportunities. We are building a huge pipeline in which customers work with us as partners, which helps them with economic of scale as we help build across multiple products for multiple customers. It’s a scenario in which everyone benefits.