In the early part of 2020 Gamblit was on a gradual but steady upward trajectory: our interactive games were present in 24 jurisdictions across 9 states, being played on hundreds of positions at 55 locations operated by 30 casino partners.
Our performance metrics had been continuously improving as well: our latest generation of games managed to hit – or in some cases even exceed – floor averages. (These developments are discussed in more detail in this recent Global Gaming Business Magazine article.)
But perhaps most importantly, our player demographics continued to validate the founding thesis of the company, and our games demonstrated an impressive ability to successfully engage and capture a much younger, tech-savvy, previously elusive player base, unlocking a stream of incremental revenue for operators:
Then the pandemic rolled in.
The lockdowns created an extinction-level event for most of the hospitality industry – including casinos of course – and severely impacted our trajectory as well.
At the same time, it was almost immediately (and correctly) recognized that this convergence of events may provide a once-in-a-lifetime catalyst for the largely dormant U.S. online gaming sector, and could even pay extra dividends for us due to the innovative nature of our content and our younger audience.
Gamblit had gone through several intense pivots over the years and always managed to successfully adapt to new circumstances, but this time the transition was one for the history books.
Almost overnight we switched to fully remote operation, shut down our publishing and manufacturing activities, started scaling back our land-based presence, and began the process of building an igaming portfolio for online use, based on a blend of both existing and new content.
What initially seemed like an absolutely bone-crushing learning curve quickly gained momentum, and within less than 3 months we had several functional, playable, fairly polished title conversions capable of running in any HTML5-capable desktop or mobile browser, or be packaged as self-contained standalone native applications.
At the start of the process I was seriously concerned about 3 things: loss of quality and polish when compared to the Unity originals, performance issues, and device compatibility problems.
Fortunately, none of my concerns turned out to be actual problems, thanks to the combination of the extremely competent and capable team and going with the Cocos Creator Engine as the development environment of choice.
While the quirks of web-based content forced many developers to rely on legacy tool-chains and esoteric workflows in the past, Cocos offered a modern, light-weight, open-source development eco-system featuring sophisticated and comprehensive content-editing and design tools similar to Unity, which significantly tempered the learning curve.
In parallel with the content push a significant business development effort has also been in the works behind the scenes. The objective was to find a suitable, mutually beneficial strategic partnership to take this unique content portfolio to market with.
Unlike in the land-based domain – where we made our own content, built our own hardware, and had our own regulated gaming platform – in the online world we had to plan to rely on an existing backend infrastructure to integrate the games against.
In August, after some twists & turns, the announcement we have all been waiting for was finally made: Gamblit is about to be acquired!
The acquiring partner seemed like a great match with a perfectly complementary profile, and the ability to put our content in front of millions of players.
By this time our content portfolio had also grown to 11 titles, which quite aggressively pushed the envelope when compared to virtually any other igaming content out there.
The acquisition process continued to move forward: a company meeting was held with our new CEO-to-be, new office space was picked, even our new employment contracts got prepared and signed.
Then at the end of September, completely out of the blue we got hit with the news that the acquiring party decided to back out of the deal, and deploy their capital elsewhere.
. . .
While reflecting on the ethical aspects of such a move is beyond the scope of this article, in practical terms this meant the end of the road for Gamblit.
Our funding was structured to carry us until October 1st (the intended completion of the transaction), so this amazing, exhilarating, almost decade-long adventure of innovation and perseverance against all odds came to an abrupt and unexpected conclusion.
A friend recently pointed out that the fate of the trailblazer is to get the most arrows in their back. While this may very well be true, there are few more deeply rewarding things than venturing into uncharted territory, challenging the limits of what’s possible, and working alongside truly exceptional people while doing it.
This normally cringy one-liner feels like a perfectly applicable closing thought here: “Don’t cry because it’s over, smile because it happened!” Stay tuned for more.
…but before you go, check out this trailer of the igaming portfolio we had built (complete with timestamps for each title). Some games are brand new, some are from-scratch remakes of our best-performing casino titles. Keep in mind that all this content is running directly in a browser:
…and strictly for the nostalgia factor, here’s a playlist of our “sizzle reels” from several Global Gaming Expos: