Pessimists who claim that the online bingo sector is at saturation point will find a spirited debate from Neill Whyte, Head of Bingo for Microgaming.

"We've been involved in this burgeoning market segment since 2008 and now have 8 brands on our network," Whyte says. 
 
Online bingo is a $2 billion-a-year business with particular focus in the UK, where there are an estimated 300+ brands operating, and to a growing extent in Western Europe and the Nordic countries.

"As much as 70 percent of the business is in Europe at present, mostly in the UK," Whyte observes.

Competition is fierce, with bingo providers like 888's Dragonfish, Playtech's Virtue Fusion and the independent Cozy Games all active.

Microgaming concentrates on quality, entertaining and diverse content and product diversification, leaving its operators free to focus on customer care and marketing.

Whyte sees the currently hot topic of free bingo play as a potential acquisition and retention tool, but feels there is a need to sensibly balance free play with real play, with industry pundits pretty evenly split on its true value to business.

Independent estimates from respected research firms have predicted that global growth is set to continue at anything up to 30 percent, including the UK.

Interestingly, bingo players are seriously into side games, with as much as 60 to 70 percent of revenues emanating from this source.  Microgaming thrives in this department, with a massive inventory of innovative games and the capability to deploy these into the bingo sites, increasing player pull.

Microgaming's development teams have so far provided licensees with some 300+ instant-play Flash side games, mostly well-proven 5 reel slots….and there are plenty more in the group inventory.

Progressive jackpot, scratch card and AWP interactive pub slot games are all popular as side games, which are used extensively by players.

"We listen very carefully to what players are saying and what they want," says Whyte. "We invest in pre-testing and extensive research with the changing demographics of bingo players, which now embrace a younger and more equally balanced gender profile.

"Bingo players tend to spend less per visit, but play more often and stay longer, providing operators with better life-of-customer longevity."

The current focus for Microgaming bingo is a major upgrade to the software, which bingo fans will see on their screens some time in the upcoming months.