From an outside perspective, Microgaming, a privately held gambling software firm based in the Isle of Man, has gone through a period of major change during recent years. In this regard, Stephen Fisk, the most recent CEO who took over the position in May, said: “After the sale of Quickfire, Microgaming’s sole focus is its platform business. That’s what made it great in the first place.”
Sale of Quickfire – major change
The changes mentioned above include the official shutdown of Microgaming Poker Network in 2020, followed by a major change two years later, Games Global’s purchase of the Quickfire aggregation platform along with a large portfolio of games. However, during the past decade, Microgaming’s PR strategy has revolved around casinos and slots, so selling Quickfire felt like a really big change.
Speaking about why the sale of Quickfire had such an impact on the firm, Stephen Fisk, said: “But it’s not so much a change of direction and more a case of focusing on what made the business thrive in the first place. You have to remember Microgaming started as a full platform provider, offering a number of services beyond game and content provisions. We’ve had our poker and bingo networks as well as other services and products along the way, but we’ve always retained an identity around our full platform product.”
Quickfire was responsible for servicing over 900 brands. Additionally, while Microgaming’s platform technology backs up those brands as a provider to Games Global, the firm is focusing its attention on a little group of key partners, involving Super Group’s casino and sports operator Betway, and that’s what actually helped Fisk land the top job. Taking over the role of CEO in 2018, he concentrated on the development of the platform. On that note, he commented: “There’s always a certain level of learning. And it never stops. As CEO, I continue to learn new things every single day in terms of what it takes to manage the business as effectively as I can. Leading everyone and the buck stopping with me is a change and a challenge and I am sure there’ll definitely be more learning to come.”
Many talented employees
Fisk is the newest executive to rise to the top via Microgaming’s C-suite. After Roger Raatgever stepped down as CEO after 17 years, Microgaming went through a period of comparative upheaval.
After Raatgever left in 2018, Coleman, Clucas and most recently Fisk took over the CEO job. Additionally, there is a constant trend of these appointments.
Josh Coleman first served as CFO, before moving up. Andrew Clucas was also his replacement as CFO. Then Fisk took over as COO instead of Clucas, and now as CEO, all of which represents a long series of internal promotions.
Fisk is remarkable for taking on the role of CEO before marking a decade in the firm, as Coleman and Lucas served over 10 years before being promoted. He has extensive experience in gaming, having been in the industry for over 20 years. Formerly at Rational Group, the operator of Poker Stars, he was accused of extending into sports wagering in 2013, when it was still a poker-focused operation.
Reminiscing about earlier times, he said: “In a very traditional poker business, as PokerStars was at that point, I think everyone was very happy to be moving into sports betting. But it was also a big change to the day to day. It taught you about management and leadership in terms of how to bring people along with you. Change requires a lot of focus, dedication and drive. The more you can align everyone with the same focus and driving towards the same goals, the better off the business will be. Communication is key in building buy-in from a team.”
A new future under new leadership
Although Quickfire now belongs to new owners, Games Global stays a close ally of Microgaming. Relatedly, Fisk pointed out: “For Games Global to distribute their games around the world, we still provide the technology platform to do that. The same focus on tracking the market across products, content and services remains. Focusing on providing bespoke services to a smaller number of partners still requires the latest solutions. We are going back to Microgaming’s core identity as a platform provider. However, we have to remember that casino forms a very large part of our customer and revenue base. It’s extraordinarily important to us.”
Sports wagering as part of the company’s new vision for the future
Sports wagering will play an increasingly important role in the future of the firm. As Microgaming is the driving force behind Betway, worldwide, Betway already represents a checked solution, which is probably underrated. That little but perfect customer base will propel it forward.
Fisk does not foresee the provider being tied to other B2B sports giants. In this regard, he says: “I think that’s the key to our success. We provide bespoke products and solutions to our partners. We will provide them with products they need, that we believe will service their customers well and grow both of our businesses simultaneously. It’s a true partnership. If they see space in a market or a different product set than perhaps we do, it’s a very open honest conversation in terms of what needs to be done.”
“That bespoke path,” he claimed, “is Microgaming’s differentiator going forward. Working with a select client base lets the business move quickly when opportunities arise.”
Tracking new markets
Commenting on excising and emerging regulated markets, he said: “We are keeping our eye on many, many different markets around the world. There are obviously some key [markets]
and up-and-coming ones we would like to see regulate. The work that’s gone into Ontario over the last few years, for example, is a very good sign for us and for the industry as a whole.”
In addition, he added: “Microgaming advocates for regulated, safe operating environments with a particular focus around safer gambling. A focus on bespoke solutions means it can build in regulatory compliance requirements and go further in developing additional safeguards. If a customer wants to build their own tools, Microgaming provides the tech and advice. This extends to supporting industry-wide projects such as GamCare’s National Gambling Helpline and peer-to-peer group therapy trials, as well as local programmers on the Isle of Man. It goes into the culture and the mindset of staff, not just the products we offer. It’s something we try to ingrain in the organization; responsible gaming awareness is baked into our business as a whole. We figure if we do that, we will provide better products and services to our customers as well.”
Taking advantage of one of the legacy brands of online gaming
Its main goal of improvement is particularly crucial when the company experiences something like reorganization in the market. Like Fisk said, the focus of tapering is less about changing direction and more about getting back to the roots, but some rest is still needed.
However, there is also a lot of brand value in the name. Microgaming is already globally famous as the driving force behind the first ever online casino, in 1994, exactly 6 years before Fisk entered the industry.
Speaking on the matter, Fisk emphasized: “The quality of its products and its level of service has helped it endure for 29 years and counting. We need to focus on the heritage of always delivering for customers and continue to leverage those relationships as best as possible. As well as communicating to the rest of the industry we’re still leaders. We need to focus on the heritage of always delivering for customers and continue to leverage those relationships as best as possible. As well as communicating to the rest of the industry we’re still leaders.”
Source: “Microgaming goes back to its roots under new CEO,” IGB. September 15, 2023.