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B 2 B


Essential Guide to ... Category C Market Analysis


PUB SECTOR NEW ENTRANT


A strong start for 24 Seven


Relative newcomer 24 Seven Gaming has found success in Cat C by appeasing a diverse player base with high quality design.


The change in Cat C jackpots has lead to more than just increased


Mixed fortunes for Cat C at Young’s


Young’s has fully embraced the new generation of Cat C products, despite tough times for the wet-led pubs in which leisure machines traditionally flourish.


T


he Young’s estate of pubs made a bold and wholehearted leap into the new era of £100 Cat C machines, opting to


replace its entire portfolio of machines with new models. “In order to try to achieve maxi- mum player impact for the new £100 machines we took the decision not to have any on-site conversions of existing £70 models,” said commercial manager Bill Epsley. However, with the early part of the year a


naturally quieter season for the UK’s public houses, it has taken time for players to take to these new machines in earnest. “January is generally recognised as being a quieter time of the trading year, so perhaps it is not the ideal time to launch any new product,” said Epsely, “but even taking the [new set of machines] into account it still took a few weeks following installation before our cus- tomers started to recognise the attractive- ness of the £100 prize.” Taking the opportunity to upgrade its hard-


ware across the board has also resulted in added benefits, as the advances in technol- ogy made over the past few years are intro- duced into the £100 machines. “I think one of the greatest benefits I’ve noticed is that of live/active hoppers which have greatly reduced the need for refilling,” said Epsely. “This has delivered a real benefit, particularly in tenanted and leased estates where, histori- cally, regular refills were generally at best irregular and at worst non-existent.” Epsley believes that gaming machines in


Young’s pubs are fighting a tough battle against the pull of bookmaker’s Fixed Odds Betting Terminals, but that Cat C games still have the potential hold player’s attention. “I think we all recognise that our player base has shrunk significantly over the last decade


Coinslot JUNE 20 - JUNE 26, 2014


or so, particularly since the proliferation of FOBT’s,” he said, “but for pub goers I think the Cat C machine still provides the opportunity to have that little ‘flutter’” in comfortable sur- roundings whilst enjoying a drink with friends or colleagues.” Looking ahead, the future for Cat C


machines in modern pubs is not rosy, with the types of venues most commonly associ- ated with these games going slowly out of fashion. “I think we need to accept that Cat C machines, and indeed leisure machines in general, have historically tended to be a key feature of the traditional ‘wet-led’ pub,” said Epsely, “but the pub world has been evolving and post-smoking ban these venues continue to be the most vulnerable to either closure or re-positioning as food focussed operations.” With landlords needing to adapt to stay


afloat, the increase in food-centric establish- ments is creating an environment that is less friendly to gaming machines. “Many pubs are now serving a much wider customer base by offering good restaurant quality food a greater selection of drinks,” said Epsley. “All within a comfortable and contemporary envi- ronment, far removed from the smoky male- dominated pubs of the past and therefore, often, the presence of any machines in these ‘new’ venues can stand out and conflict with the ambience they seek to create.” In order to secure the future of Cat C games,


and pub-based gambling in general, Epsley notes that it is important to establish a regu- lar schedule of governmental evaluation. “I think most will welcome the return of the tri- ennial review of stakes and prizes,” he said, “as it sets a formal timetable and removes uncertainty for manufacturers, operators and end-users alike.”


player engagement. Companies new to the sector have been stimu- lated to bring their own unique approaches to the market, driving innova- tion and quality


Chief among these new adopters is 24 Seven Gaming, which brought a selection of Vegas-style machines to operators around the country. “Overall we believe that the increased jackpot has been a positive one, especially for new entrants into the market place like us,” said managing director Simon McCarthy. The company’s early success has also been boosted by a demand for variety in pubs and AGCs. “The customers and retailers alike are very supportive of a varied supply chain, therefore our product has as much chance as any other product in the field to achieve market acceptance,” noted McCarthy. 24 Seven has seen players respond well to the range of products it has designed especially for the £100 jackpot, with a wide selection of games a key component of it’s success. “In our opinion players have accepted the new £100 prize in the UK Cat C sector, as we have seen a good response to it,” said McCarthy. “The uplift in both the game per- formance and the diverse game styles that have resulted have been extremely encouraging. In fact, the increase in stake and prize on the Cat B4 (£400) has been more challenging.” Cat C players come from a wide range of backgrounds and are playing games in a diverse range of venues. Attempting to cater for this variable selection has been a challenge, but one that 24 Seven has risen to. “The game style on Cat C product is somewhat ‘bespoke’ as we try to cater for the diverse player base,” said McCarty, “and it is all about enter- taining the player and giving them some ‘fun time’ on the product. We are in the amusement with prizes business, so we are guided by how our product is accepted by the player base.” The company has been able to meet the unpredictable needs of players by maintaining an ongoing open dialogue with its operator customers. “We have a range of design options and directions to offer the player,” said McCarthy, “so keeping close to the site feedback is imperative for us - this guides us in our future games design process.” This includes ideas that have not yet made their way to market for 24 Seven, but which could bear fruit in future. “The community and multi-player aspect of Cat C is something that we as yet have not engaged with,” notes McCarty. “We have a watching brief on this aspect of the business.”


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