AAC 2015 Trip commentary

So, returned and recovered from the Amsterdam Affiliate Conference (AAC) 2015. Having missed AAC 2014 I was quite looking forward to this year’s event. AAC 2013 had been an unusually educational and eye-opening experience as loyal readers may recall:

… the i-gaming affiliate scene is undergoing seismic changes right now and more than a little power is shifting hands. Until recently a reasonably good affiliate could expect a healthy income and a fairly bright future: the casinos needed them and everybody knew it so the money flowed from player to casino to affiliate and there were lots of happy affiliates.

Today a lot of those affiliates are looking distinctly nervous. … affiliates are being told they’ll have to produce greater results on an ongoing basis for a smaller piece of the pie. In other words the casinos are demanding a steady stream of new, active players and affiliates are going to get paid less for providing them.

Today the landscape of the affiliate scene has changed considerably from even two years ago and I dare say my AAC2013 observations pretty much nailed it. The talkative operators all said pretty much the same thing: “it’s dead out here, there is no new affiliate business”. To be fair that quote is from ICE/LAC earlier this year but AAC2015 was basically more of the same.

As I read it what the operators were really saying is that the days when eager new affiliates would queue up at their stands in droves offering waves of new players are gone. For the most part operators are dealing with the same affiliates they’ve been dealing with for years. Combine that with the higher operator demands and the whole thing might seem like just another gust of the same ill wind for the affiliate business. I think that would be an unfair and inaccurate conclusion.

That said, there’s no denying that the “put up a web page, shovel in the cash” brand of affiliates are in serious trouble. The general prediction at the conference was that their days are VERY numbered, as in they’ll be extinct within two years. The reasons? They don’t have those vast reserves of untapped players that existed a few years ago and the operators are demanding far more than a page full of casino links can deliver. If you’re not already finding and holding a steady flow of players then you’ve got a real problem on your hands. But adaptation is always an option for a species under threat and that’s most definitely what’s happening on the affiliate scene.

Half the meetings I sat in on at AAC2015 were with affiliates discussing strategies to stay relevant and survive the sea changes that are sweeping through the industry. I won’t discuss details because these are early days and no one wants to see their battle plans up on a billboard. Suffice it to say that the same basic changes that have and are occurring in the rest of the industry have now become the affiliate’s reality too: consolidate, secure a profitable niche, emphasize brand differentiation. May not sound very exciting but it’s survival we’re taking about here and I can vouch for the fact that hard-working affiliates are taking that very seriously indeed.

Of course any good conference is as much about good play-time as is about hard work. I’m happy to report that the play-time at AAC2015 was exceptionally good. There was the Bryan-and-Max Warm-up Pub Crawl on Monday night, the First Annual Casinomeister/AffiliateREPUBLIK + Friends Pub Crawl on Wednesday night, an all-you-can-eat sushi outing with Bryan and Lloyd Apter on Wednesday night, and the excellent Intertops wind-down canal boating on Thursday which lasted the better part of the afternoon. As far as the socializing part of the conference was concerned we did what needed to be done and we did it well!

Friday morning I saw Bryan off at the train station and spent the remainder of the day wandering the city: a mildly underwhelming visit to the Begijnhof (too many tourists ignoring the “quiet please” policy), an excellent espresso and almond biscuit at Screaming Beans, a fine solo picnic beside the canal in De Pijp fueled by tasty organic offerings from Marqt. Then back to the hotel to fetch my bags and out to the airport for a grueling 75 minute flight back to lovely Scotland. It was good to get home.