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Katya Machuganova, product owner at Silverback Gaming, talks about the social casino opportunity in the US and why simulated gaming benefits operators, their players and indeed studios.

Sweepstakes casinos have been making the headlines recently with regulators in some US states clamping down on operators offering these experiences to players.

But with social gaming a powerful marketing and acquisition channel, and a driver of significant revenues in its own right, operators will want to find a way to keep offering it to players.

The terms sweepstakes, social and simulated are often used interchangeably, but there are key differences between them.

Sweepstakes casinos require players to complete certain actions, such as making a purchase, registering for a newsletter, connecting their social media accounts, etc in exchange for being entered into a prize draw.  

Social casino and simulated gaming, on the other hand, see players purchase virtual coins or tokens that can be used to play a range of slot and casino games. There are no prizes up for grabs – it’s all about having fun.

It’s the prize draw aspect of sweepstakes casinos that has caused regulators to sit up and take note, with some saying they do not comply with the regulations in place in their state.

While social and simulated gaming do have to be mindful of certain requirements, broadly speaking they can be offered to players in any US state regardless of whether online casino regulations are in place or not.

But why do operators offer simulated gaming to players? And for those that don’t, why should they get in on the action?

Simulated gaming is a powerful marketing tool for casino operators. It allows them to launch a branded, free to play online/mobile casino that players can engage with when away from the bricks-and-mortar property.

It builds brand awareness, familiarity and loyalty, with many social casinos linking their land-based rewards schemes to the online casino.

For those in states that have or are considering legal online casino, simulated gaming is the perfect gateway between land-based and online play. It helps players become familiar with playing online table and slot games, but with no monetary risk involved.

If and when real-money online casino is permitted, these players can be easily transitioned to the full online casino experience if that’s something they wish to explore.

Of course, simulated gaming is money-generating for the casino, too. Players purchase tokens and chips and because they can’t win real money back, operators can enjoy robust, stable margins.

But because players can’t win real money, it’s important the simulated gaming experience offers high levels of entertainment, engagement and social interaction.

This means social casinos must offer plenty of gamification – customisable profiles, avatars, etc – tasks and missions for players to complete, tournaments and leaderboards as well as daily incentives and bonuses for returning.

They must also stock their social casino lobbies with slots that have been developed specifically for simulated gaming and this is something that Silverback provides.

For the titles that make up our simulated gaming portfolio, we have focused heavily on entertainment value, engaging gameplay mechanics and social features. While these slots look very similar to our real-money games, under the hood they are different.

The gameplay is progressive, with players able to unlock bonuses and rewards within the game. Social interaction is provided through the chat function and all of our simulated gaming slots are compatible with tournaments and leaderboards, missions and tasks.

Producing a portfolio of simulated gaming titles is not just valuable to operators, it’s valuable to Silverback, too. It’s proved to be an invaluable tool for testing new concepts, themes, mechanics and bonuses, allowing us to push the boundaries even more with our real-money titles.

It also provides a platform for gathering early player feedback and data reports on game performance, allowing us to iterate and refine our creations before obtaining certification in the real-money states where we offer our slots.

This means that when these games do go live, they have already benefited from real player feedback and are far more likely to go on to be chart-toppers.

There are so many upsides to social casino and simulated gaming that all casino operators should embrace it and offer it to their players.

It provides the fun, entertaining and interactive experiences that consumers are seeking while building incredible brand equity and loyalty. That’s why Silverback Gaming is betting big on social casino and has developed a portfolio of simulated gaming titles.

So, operators, what are you waiting for? It’s time to embrace simulated gaming and get social with your players.

Katya Machuganova is an iGaming & digital media professional, games producer graduate and an ISTQB Certified Quality assurance specialist. Strong communicator with a Bachelor focused in Electronic Media and Communication and a Master in Digital Media and Video Games.

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