We’ve sat down with a short interview with the Comparer himself to talk about one of the latest big-name live dealer releases – Cashback Blackjack by Playtech.
With this interview, we aim to focus more on the player perspective of live casino gaming – specifically, the way the industry innovates and changes. We’re sure Neil’s breadth of experience from both sides of the live stream has a lot to offer to our readers, so we hope you’ll enjoy our chat as much as we have.
- Hello Neil, and welcome to Live Casinos! We’ve already taken the liberty of writing a short introduction, but perhaps it’s best to hear some things straight from the horse’s mouth. Tell us a bit about yourself and your work as the Live Casino Comparer.
You’re so kind with your introduction. I just consider myself to be an ordinary guy who plays live casino games, writes reviews and content about them that players like me would want to read. As a player I want to know the ins and out, I’m not interested in all the glitz and bonuses and free stuff. I want to play at good casinos and I want to play good games that I can understand. I also want to know the best way to play the games. So I produce that sort of content because it’s what I look for, and I assume there are other people out there looking for the same. If I help someone have a great experience that’s all I’m after.
- At this point, it’s safe to say you’ve devoted a good chunk of time and energy into live dealer gambling. We understand you’re primarily a fan of card games, but what initially drew you to live dealer casino games? What would you say are the main advantages compared to, say, RNG-based online card games?
I was “introduced” to Live Dealer by a guy I was sitting next to while playing Blackjack in the Hippodrome Casino in London. He told me how you could play online with a live dealer dealing the cards. So when I got home I had a look, opened an account and had a play. It’s fair to say it wasn’t as slick as it is now, but that one experience was enough for me. I wanted to find out more and hence I started doing what I do now. The main advantage is you’re playing for real. There is no computer providing the results, it’s a good old shuffle of the cards and let lady luck and a bit of skill determine if you’ll win. The bad beats are exactly the same you get in a land-based casino and the experience is almost the same.
- Speaking of which, our topic for the day – Playtech’s Cashback Blackjack – is only made possible through an online blackjack format. While most live casino game design is focused on keeping up the illusion of playing at a real casino, titles like Cashback Blackjack lean into the inherent technological advantage of online gaming. What are your thoughts on such innovations? Do you prefer games that stay true to the original, or do you welcome new approaches?
I like a bit of both. What is great about Cashback Blackjack is it’s played as a normal game of blackjack. But the game only exists because of the technologies used to create it. It can’t be played in a land-based casino because of the way the games are presented. Technology has allowed a new version to be created, which gives players an enhanced playing experience. In Cashback Blackjack two technologies are used. The “one to many” format allows an unlimited number of players to play the same hand. Each player has their own blackjack experience. The second thing the game does is calculate the cashout value as the game is being played and additional cards are being dealt from the shoe. This is only possible online, again because of the technology. The game, Blackjack is exactly the same, the extra capacity comes because online can use technology in a way that land-based games just can’t at the moment.
- It seems that live casino gaming reaches maturity, innovation is becoming more and more important to software providers. In our eyes, there are two ways to innovate – “spicing up” existing concepts the way Cashback Blackjack does, or coming up with completely new ideas like Evolution has been doing with the likes of the recent Cash or Crash. Would you say either of these approaches is better or worse? If so, which do you prefer, and why?
There is definitely room for both, but I think the game providers have to be careful when they are playing around with existing games. It’s very easy to ruin the essence of a game by making rule changes and changing the way it plays. There are a few examples online where I think they have got it wrong. As for new games, well the skies are the limit and it’s down to the imagination of the developers and designers. What we are seeing now is a nod to old school board games, which give us themes and the designers ideas. It’s a tricky one because at the end of the day, we want entertainment, but also the opportunity to gamble and win or lose a bit of money. Find the right combination and the software supplier will be laughing all the way to the bank!
- Do you think novelty games will ever reach the popularity and size of the classics? Will we ever see a real contender to the mainstays of roulette, blackjack, and baccarat?
Some will remain niche, some will open up live games to an audience that haven’t experienced live gaming online before. I think the mainstays will always remain – they are the highest revenue earner for the casinos at the moment. The entertainment games certainly have the player numbers, (Evolutions Crazy Time topped 10,000 concurrent players the other day!) but most of the players are playing with small stakes. But I also think that we will see things change as the generations grow older. The youngsters of today may not like Blackjack, Roulette and Baccarat in the future as their tastes are being changed now through the novelty games.
- Speaking of which, do you think the position of these classic casino games will change in the coming years? There is more than enough competition out there for, say, live European roulette wheels. Will software providers continue contributing to such saturated markets? And, if so, is there anything they can still do to stand out?
I’ve half answered this above. I think the software providers have to provide the basic games. Everyone expects them. They, over time will all look the same. The biggest difference will be the quality of the stream, the dealer/player interaction and for the casinos, the commercials of running a table.