How One Company Evolved an 187-year-old Game


The decision to expand a product line, innovate around a new idea, or move into a new area of business altogether is a difficult one. For example, you might reap the benefits of a larger customer base but spread your staff too thin to provide any semblance of effective support. Regardless, expansion will likely cost more time and money than anything your company has ever done before.

Here’s a quick look at how one casino company gambled on an ancient card game to improve its poker offering and convert the attention-deficit players of 2016.

Old Favourite

While it’s arguably too well-established to ever die out, poker nevertheless has parallels with a product in the late stages of its lifecycle. The game is an old favourite (estimates place its invention somewhere around 1829) and, for that reason, people don’t flock to the off-the-shelf experience anymore.

Much of the innovation in the online gambling sector has focused on modes of access (the shift away from brick-and-mortar establishments to online-based gaming websites, and from there to mobile phones and virtual reality) and the increasing portability of the game. The actual rules of the game of poker and blackjack, in contrast, are relatively consistent.

Humans now have a shorter attention span than goldfish (officially) and it’s perhaps no surprise that participation in poker, a game that rewards studious attention to past hands, psychology, and everything in between, is in decline in some areas. Ironically, online and mobile casino games remain a growth industry.

So, how do you unite a fondness for gambling and card games with a trend away from the slower, more thoughtful games like poker?

Careful Study

888poker recently launched a Sit ‘n’ Go poker variant called BLAST. It differs from the standard game of cards in that the game is timed (players are forced to go all-in once the timer expires) and the prize pool and blind structure aren’t revealed until the game starts. It’s a seismic shift in a game that traditionally favours careful study over blind luck.

However, it’s precisely in line with current trends in the wider gaming arena. It’ll come as no surprise that there was only one non-action or sport game (Minecraft) in the sales charts for consoles and PC in 2015. People are also trending more towards the ‘pick up and play’ style of game, with mobile apps providing entertainment on an on-demand, no commitment basis.

With that in mind, BLAST ultimately fulfils an audience need and a market opportunity; it’s a more high-octane version of poker that’s easier to get on board with (and get to grips with) than the original. And, as a variation on an existing product, it’s also something that appeals to 888’s existing customer base, generating an audience without the marketing outlay.

As a final, cynical point, there are no guarantees that BLAST will change the poker landscape for good. Whichever way you swing it, poker is a complex undertaking that might lose its appeal in a fast-paced, more luck-based environment. However, as far as innovation goes, BLAST is one of the more unique offerings available in the iGaming market this winter.