• Kevin Jones

A CTO's approach to measuring the right tech and game building across industries.

It's curious to understand the back end difference with the video game and the gambling world, both forms of entertainment but what really sets them apart outside of the wagering. Gaming Eminence spoke with Chris Yates who has over 30 years experience within this area, we discuss approaches to new innovations in mainstream technology, game building differences across the video game and gambling industry, loot boxes, and mobile technology.

GE) Christopher, you have over three decades of experience in gaming technology and in your earlier career worked with brands such as EA, Sony, and Rockstar to name a few, with your last role being at WynnBET. What are some of the key learnings you would share in how CTO’s should approach new innovations in mainstream technology, specifically how to be aware of which ones to consider implementing and which ones not too?


CY) A lot depends on the context of the business, but in general, I believe looking to bring new innovations in technology should be very measured. Most of what businesses need can be accomplished with existing, proven technology. When the teams I’ve been fortunate to be a part of are looking at a new technology, we’ve tried to measure the potential over time against the downsides. How stable is it? Do we have the capability to support and extend if needed? Is this really better than something we can achieve with what we already use? I believe much of the battle is lost or won on the fundamental architecture of your implementation and the specific technology can be secondary.


In cases where a new innovation can push you over the line in terms of achieving business or operational goals, we’ve tended to do thorough research and hands-on evaluations before adoption. You can’t get emotionally wed to a solution and therefore bias your evaluation.


GE) How would you break down game building in the gambling industry vs the video game industry? What does that look like from a back end technical perspective and where do you see the biggest crossover coming in the next 5 years?


CY) Online Sports Betting and Casino Game applications and their service infrastructure are dramatically different in many ways to video games, but the core aspects of creating a compelling user experience remain the same. In the Online Gambling Industry most have a heavy reliance on partner infrastructure unless they acquire the provider. This is driven by the regulatory environment online Sports Betting and Casino Games must adhere to, as well as the complexity of building a Sports Betting engine. Most consumer companies in the space do not create their own Sports Betting engine, player account management or actual Casino Games. They attempt to create compelling user experiences to differentiate from the competition. It’s the same with the brick and mortar experience in Las Vegas. Most casinos have largely the same gambling products to offer customers, but Wynn Resorts is an entirely different (and superior) experience to Circus Circus. But the actual gambling possibilities are largely the same.


In terms of crossover, compelling graphical applications that engage people exist in both spaces and that will continue. But the experiences are clearly richer and deeper on average in video games versus gambling.


GE) What is your opinion on the connection between loot boxes and gambling? Based on the technical mechanics should loot boxes be considered a form of gambling?


CY) The element of drama and surprise is what is compelling in both instances, which makes them analogous from the perspective of how we as humans are excited and many get addicted to that experience. It’s why there is a far more structured way to deal with that compulsion in the Gambling space and regulators require companies to strictly adhere to the Responsible Gambling laws in each state. Research does support the idea that whales in video games are akin to problem gamblers. Clearly, the idea of cool down periods and the ability to self-exclude are not popular ideas in video games.


Compulsive behaviours are a challenge in both spaces and you can consider loot boxes a form of gambling. Should they be regulated in the same way? Not for me to say.


GE) The majority of the population use mobile and both the gaming and gambling related businesses are paying a lot of attention to mobile technology. What similarities and challenges between each industry do you see as it relates to the user experience when building products for mobile devices?


CY) These are largely the same challenges: both need to deliver beautiful, compelling, and easy to use experiences. Platform requirements and technology iterations are the same challenge in both spaces. But the regulatory environment adds an extra burden in the Gambling space.


About our contributor

Chris is a growth-minded software engineering leader with seasoned technology leadership experience in low-latency, highly scaled platforms, international development management, and a vertical leader who loves strategy and operations. With 30 years across engineering and technology his most recent position was Global CTO at WynnBet he also spend part of his career as Head of Platform at Wargaming.net and Rockstar Games. SVP of Technology at Sony Network Entertainment. Connect with Chris