Blueprint Machines has grown rapidly in the past couple of years – what have been the highlights for you?
The whole team works so hard, that it is often difficult to take stock on how far we have come. The UK shows are a great opportunity to mark the progress of the company. Seeing the product that we have all worked so diligently on – lined up on the stand and welcoming all of our customers and distribution partners makes it all worthwhile. For me, I would say that the traction we gained with digital first in the retail pub sector with King of Games and then into Bingo and AGC with titles such as Community Cash Vault have been real highlights. People forget that we are still a relatively new company within the UK gaming sphere and yet we have built up a loyal following among the player base – who follow our titles online, in the arcades and on pub machines. So, we have come a long way in a few short years.
More than any other company, Blueprint has moved digital gaming forward into the pub sector – what’s the next step?
The next step for us is undoubtedly Server-Based Gaming. We are working steadily on this with our sister company Praesepe and it has given us an insight into how this will inform and transform both the operation of the machines and the development of the games. It is a challenge to try to achieve the right conditions in terms of connectivity when it comes to the pub sector in particular but not an impossibility.
What do you think the UK player wants from machine gaming and does it vary greatly between in pubs, AGCs and bingo?
No – it doesn’t vary at all! The player wants entertainment more than anything; even jackpots! The game must be interesting and offer enough incentive to keep the player interested and motivated to play on. But with all the choice on offer – players don’t want to waste time and money on games that they don’t know or trust. That’s why we are finding games that work online, or in AGCs can also work in pubs and bingo. Players know them – they like them and they will seek them out.
What makes Blueprint different from the other suppliers in the UK market?
I would like to think it’s the fact that we are not just ambitious for ourselves but also for our customers. It’s a team effort – we really value their input into what we do and we know that we would not have grown so rapidly without their support. There have been some difficult issues we have had to work through in recent months and it has been frustrating for all concerned but I hope that those affected have appreciated that we have worked tirelessly to sort things out. We might be part of a big global group but we are also a very experienced team that knows the UK industry inside out.
Coming from the casino industry, what are your impressions of this sector after 9 months at Blueprint?
There are definite synergies and it’s about providing excellent service and creating brand recognition. Casinos have changed a lot in recent years where they have recognised that although the high rollers are important – the infrequent player that visits once a month is also vital. Whether we are talking about casinos, pubs, bingo halls or arcades it is important that all sectors retain both core and new players by providing a positive customer experience, combined with the leading products that are available. Most of the UK Casinos have recognised this and created an atmosphere where people feel comfortable coming in off the street to play a few games and enjoy a drink while they are in town and a good, well-known example of this in London is the Hippodrome. This is certainly what it’s all about. That said – I have found the pub retail sector a bit of an interesting learning curve as it is quite unique.
What have your priorities been since you joined Blueprint and do you feel you have achieved them or are achieving them?
My priorities have been to support and develop our internal and external sales, while fully understanding the Blueprint product and the processes that are involved in bringing that product to market and then on to the customers gaming floor. As well as a certain amount of team-building, I have spent a lot of time learning what people do, shadowing Andy Hall and Nicola Wallbank our Key Account Managers to understand the challenges their customers face. In addition, Steve Brownlow our Technical Support Manager, James Lowe our Content Manager and Nadia Volosina our Head of Operations – all provided me with an incredible amount of information and insight.
I also gained a lot of valuable knowledge from our distributor UK Gaming Solutions (who do a fantastic job for us). I have returned the favour by keeping them abreast of all the new product developments and providing the support that they need to maximise their sales. Lastly, it was my own ambition to build the necessary interpersonal relationships with all Blueprint Machines customers’ which is still very much work in progress. It is paramount that they know who I am and how I can help meet their expectations on both product and net cash box.
What have been the highlights since you joined the company?
Undoubtedly, the cycle ride I completed with Nicola and Andy to Gauselmann HQ in Espelkamp in Germany with James providing us with support. When I joined Blueprint, I had just sold my road bike and Simon told me to go out and buy another! It was a baptism of fire, but that 400-mile bike ride was the best team-building exercise you could possibly have. We still laugh about it! It was also my first visit to the Gauselmann headquarters in Germany, and it was a great honour to be met by Armin Gauselmann himself. I was struck by the fact that although it is a huge company, it is still a family business and everyone who works there is part of that big extended family as well.
In the run-up to the UK shows this Autumn and Winter – what will the main focus be for Blueprint in terms of product?
A lot of our new product developments are still under wraps understandably – certainly for EAG and ICE. However, I can reveal that at ACOS we will be unveiling the new Alphastar Grey cabinet, together with a showcase of our Fishing Frenzy on Cat C – Titan Pub and the Merkur Magic Eastern European style B3 menu which are certain will gain its own unique following in the UK.
Why is SBG so important for the UK market?
I think because it gives operators and game designers the information they need to run their businesses more effectively. By supplying bespoke reporting tools to operators and machine managers, we can provide them with extra security against fraud as they are immediately alerted to unusual activity, while also ensuring that they can make informed decisions about what games work best in their sites.
What exactly is dynamic reporting and how can it drive income?
Dynamic reporting really means drilling down through the data and presenting it in such a way so as to help make operating decisions. So, enabling comparisons to be made easily to gauge player preferences for example. Then tweaks can be made to menus which will ensure that all of the content is relevant and appreciated by the player to maximise income. It really does work – we have evidence of this in the site trials we have done with Praesepe. We can record and report on cashbox collections from across the whole estate. We can look into Game Pack performance, from overall figures down to single game performance in real time. In addition, it allows us to time release new games onto cabinets without the need for an engineer visit, improving efficiency and reducing operational overhead expenditure through fewer site visits.
With the benefit of real-time data analysis across multiple sites, Blueprint Machines and Praesepe can work together to tailor game packs for each market, including changing game stakes, game Return To Player and attracts. Test games and game packs are also released in a more scientific way, with accurate and timely performance reports to ensure that all game packs are designed to maximise cashbox. And from a technical point of view, Blueprint Machines can ensure all cabinets are running the most up to date service packs and technical standards, while any suspicious activity can be quickly investigated.
What are the benefits of coordinated game launches across sites – do they make a difference to cashbox?
This is very interesting – it comes down to the marketing of a new game to the players. It is something that is quite commonplace in the online gaming sphere – which is my background. It is also done in the casino sector. It means that multiple sites can create a buzz around a new release, in terms of on-site promotions and information ahead of the game appearing on the menu. Normally – new games just show up and players don’t know much about them. This way – there is a sense of anticipation and it really drives interest and player participation.
How important is the ability to remotely update peripherals via SBG and what benefits will it have for the operator going forward?
The main benefits will be fewer operator visits to site and therefore reducing the costs surrounding this. If updates can be done remotely, this also cuts out any machine downtime and disruption to the site. Currency changes, stakes and prizes, security updates can be carried out with no fuss giving complete peace of mind.
If you are coming down to the Autumn Coin-Op Show at the London Olympia from 3rd-4th August, please pop over and see us at Stand 168.