Online poker company Unibet announced on Tuesday that it will be leaving Microgaming Poker Network (MPN) in a move to become an independent poker room. Unibet plans to leave MPN in early 2014 meaning their standalone service could launch next month at the earliest. The company won’t be alone for this new transition, however. Unibet will be partnering with Relax Gaming, a software developer who has created online poker, casino and bingo products.
Moving with the Tide of the Industry
Unibet’s foray into independence is meant to create a community for casual and social online poker players. “The environment in the online poker industry has changed over the years and we have come to the insight that being part of a poker network is not sustainable for Unibet in the long term,” said Daniel Eskola, Unibet’s Head of Gaming. “This project has given us the possibility to start from a blank piece of paper and define everything we believe is important for a fun poker experience. In a way, our goal is to bring the fun back to poker by creating software with a clear focus on the casual player.”
The software which Eskola speaks of definitely has a clear audience in mind. With the aim of being highly user-friendly, the new software will feature a new lobby, 3D backgrounds, the ability for players to change their screen name and avatar, and gameplay features like earning achievements and completing missions – features that have become commonplace within the video game industry. These changes and new features follow the recent trend Internet gambling has been taking. Instead of spending a majority of their time wagering real money, players are going into rooms looking for fun games and a challenge. Unibet was confident enough in this move that they invested €1.25 million in order to take partial ownership of Relax Gaming.
Amicable Parting with MPN
Despite Unibet’s departure from MPN, there was no bad blood to be had. The two companies still have a relationship as Unibet’s Quickfire games will be offered at Microgaming’s casino. Though Unibet has made a name for itself over time, determining what kind of effect the move will have on MPN is hard to know currently. The MPN ecosystem is ranked as the tenth for cash game traffic and with an average of 1,250 players weekly, the blow shouldn’t be significant enough to cause severe waves.
A Well-Timed Departure?
Without a doubt, Unibet’s assumptions of the online gaming industry’s new direction are sound. The question is, does this surprising move come at the right and most financially secure time? New Jersey’s recent regulation of Internet gambling is likely the first of many events that will create a large market for online poker rooms; it will also make the market that much more competitive. Not being under the Microgaming Poker Network will lose Unibet that traffic. Few rooms have been brave enough to become independent with big names like PokerStars and Full Tilt Poker out there. If Unibet has the right plan, though, their risk could come with great reward.