Aristocrat Leisure’s efforts to establish itself in the real money online gaming space are gathering steam.
The company first announced that it would branch out this way in February. Bonus has noted that a job listing has appeared in recent weeks for a Head of Product for the new division. That suggests that the company feels it has completed the necessary financial and planning steps and is ready to dive into product development.
That still means a long road ahead until those products come to market. Representatives for Aristocrat didn’t respond immediately when asked about a possible timeline.
The job listing describes the position as follows:
We are seeking a Head of Product to direct the overarching product strategy for our newest brand as we enter the exciting world of online real money gaming. The successful candidate will be an innovative and creative problem solver, passionate about expanding our product team as we build the ultimate new experience by transforming some of your very favorite digital casino games.
Aristocrat is currently one of the world’s largest and most popular manufacturers of digital slot machines for retail casinos.
Mitchell Bowen, formerly CEO of Gaming for the company’s land-based operations, leads the new division. He held that position for three years, and his LinkedIn profile also includes Chief Transformation Officer for that period, suggesting that the company has been thinking about a pivot to online for some time.
Are Buffalo Slots Coming to Online Casinos? Seems Like a Good Bet
What Aristocrat’s new direction means depends on where you’re coming from.
For investors and those working in the industry, it’s a complicated story. If you’re a player, the impact is a lot simpler. It means that many slots titles that were previously only available at retail casinos (and in free-to-play Aristocrat apps) will also start appearing at online casinos.
The phrasing of the Head of Product job post makes it clear that the plan is to convert at least some of Aristocrat’s retail titles for online play: “…as we build the ultimate new experience by transforming some of your very favorite digital casino games.”
Exactly how much of a transformation is involved remains to be seen. Some games may be direct ports with only the user interface changing. Others may see adjustments to their features, as what makes for a good user experience with online slots isn’t always the same as when playing on a dedicated slots cabinet.
Either way, it looks like Aristocrat plans to start with online versions of its most popular retail titles rather than creating brand new games. And why wouldn’t they?
In particular, it should be a no-brainer for them to bring their Buffalo series of slots to the online casino space, as well as the Lightning Link slot machine. That is, after all, one of the most successful retail slots franchises of all time. The only question is whether Aristocrat can steal online players’ attention back from Playtech’s suspiciously-similar title Buffalo Blitz, which has been filling that niche since 2016 in the absence of the real deal.
Building from Scratch Wasn’t the Plan
Aristocrat’s February announcement came just after another similar plan fell through.
In October 2021, the Australian gaming giant announced plans to acquire online supplier Playtech for $3.7 billion. However, even that hefty price tag proved insufficient to satisfy Playtech’s shareholders. In early February, the companies announced that the deal was off.
A majority of Playtech shareholders voted in favor of the sale. However, a 75% supermajority would have been necessary, and there were enough dissenting voices to prevent that.
That has left Aristocrat in the position of having to blaze its own trail into the online space. It won’t be entirely uncharted territory, however. Although the combination of “real money” and “online gaming” is new for Aristocrat, it is already doing well in each of those spaces individually. Aside from its retail slots division, it has a strong presence in mobile social gaming, primarily through acquisitions. It can therefore hire internally for some of the necessary talent.
Aristocrat currently owns the following mobile games brands:
- Big Fish Games
- Pixel United
- Product Madness
Aristocrat also has a patent cross-licensing agreement with IGT, another online supplier of even greater stature than Playtech. The two companies expanded that arrangement in April. Although the announcement focuses on Aristocrat’s free-to-play mobile gaming activities, it may also benefit the real money gaming division.
Big Ambitions for a Latecomer
Based on its current activities, one might expect Aristocrat to focus primarily on slots with the online real money division. That doesn’t appear to be the plan, however.
The Head of Product job listing makes it clear that the company’s plans include iLottery, sports betting, casino table games, and even live dealer casino products. That’s a tall order for a latecomer to the space.
It’s worth noting that at least one potential rival is moving in the opposite direction. Light and Wonder used to fish in most of those ponds back when it was known as Scientific Games. However, its leaders decided it was spreading itself too thin. Along with the name change, it divested itself of its sports betting and lottery divisions to focus on online casino gaming as the most lucrative vertical.
Still, given that the aforementioned Buffalo series of slots is the world’s most popular at retail casinos, it seems inevitable that slots will get the most attention and bring the most revenue to the new division.
A Hiring Spree to Make Up for Lost Time
A Head of Product isn’t the only position Aristocrat seeks to fill for the new division. Not by a long shot. To avoid pulling too many people away from its other areas of business, it needs to assemble a new team almost from the ground up.
To that end, it has an open call for applicants looking to work remotely in the US or Australia, or at its offices in Uxbridge, UK. The request is extremely broad, for “team members, managers, and executive leaders from companies spanning the gaming, digital technology product, and media and entertainment multiverse.”
Possible roles include:
- Product Design, Development, Innovation and Ideation
- Product and Project Management
- Digital Product Technology Development
- Product Commercialization, Marketing and Sales
- Customer Experience
- Senior Management and Leadership
It will be interesting to see how all this plays out for Aristocrat. On the one hand, the combination of fresh talent and the backing of a well-heeled multinational company could mean a lot of exciting ideas for the new brand. On the other hand, that depends heavily on how well the team members work together.
The real money online gaming space is exceptionally competitive at the moment. The endeavor could quickly become a giant money pit if things aren’t clicking from the get-go. Even Buffalo brand power might not be enough to change that, given the number of imitators already populating online casinos in the US and elsewhere.