Aristocrat Leisure’s focus on social casino gaming and digital gaming apps is paying off one year later. The company’s digital earnings increased 17% year to year from Q1 2018 to Q1 2019.
Social casino gaming’s revenue growth jumped to 37% year to year, with earnings of US$586 million (digital’s measure in US dollars). The digital gaming sector generates US$32 billion a year and Aristocrat now is a major player.
Aristocrat bought Big Fish Games in January 2018, which is the chief driver of the revenue boost. Big Fish Games is an online social casino gaming site founded in the United States.
It cost the Aussie pokies manufacturer AU$1.3 billion to buy Big Fish Games, but it’s in an area with huge potential growth. Big Fish was available because Churchill Downs faced lawsuits over its business model in the United States. It’s an issue Aristocrat was more than happy to deal with, because it offers such growth potential worldwide.
A look at the latest Aristocrat Leisure financial report tells the story. The new digital gaming sector, which hardly existed 10 years ago, is now one of the chief pathways for gaming company grwoth.
The report states, “In 2014, Aristocrat only participated in the Core Slot segment of Social Casino, which represented an addressable market of less than US$2bn. Through acquisitions of Plarium and Big Fish, Aristocrat is now targeting a US$32bn market opportunity.”
Big Fish Games draws 12.4 million unique players each month, which exceeds half the population of Australia alone. Those gamers play popular titles like Big Fish Casino, Fairway Solitaire, and Gummy Drop!. The free games drive revenue through in-app purchases and adverts, but many do not view the games as a form of gambling.
For example, Disney signed a deal with Big Fish earlier this year to develop “Toy Story Drop“, a game based on the popular Pixar movie series. Disney canceled its lucrative Marvel Comics pokies license with Playtech, because Disney wanted no link to gambling.
Along with the Seminole Tribe of Florida, Disney paid $10 million to fund a referendum which made it harder for gaming companies to expand in Florida. Instead of expanding gambling through legislative action, now Floridians must vote on a constitutional amendment to do so. A statewide vote is needed to expand gaming.
The reason Disney paid millions for the Amendment 3 initiative the company is based in Orlando. Disney World is the animation and entertainment company’s largest and most iconic theme park. It wants tourists to see Florida as a family-friendly state, so Disney blocks gaming expansion.
Yet Disney signed a deal with Big Fish to develop a social casino app for Toy Story. Aristocrat never could have signed that same deal with Disney before. Toy Story Drop is a free-to-play mobile match-3 puzzle game.
Jeff Kemp, the president of Big Fish, said at the time, “Our talented studios and developers have been perfecting games in the match-3 space for over a decade. We couldn’t be happier to introduce the world to the new and challenging puzzles in Toy Story Drop!”
When asked when Toy Story Drop would launch, Kemp said, “Ahead of the anticipated next installment in the film series.”
While the Australian gaming industry has been challenging to Aristocrat and rivals like Ainsworth, Big Fish is a big success. Investing in global gaming growth makes the Sydney-based company stronger for expansion in the Aussie gaming market.