July 26 is a big day for online poker network MPN. The network is launching a completely new poker client which will be available on several skins including; RedKings, RedStar, Guts, Betsafe, Nordicbet, and Betsson.
The new platform has been given the name “Prima,” a reference back to the early days of Microgaming when it was known as the Prima Poker Network.
It is up to each skin to decide how they will promote the new platform, so at the moment MPN doesn’t know precisely how the deployment will pan out. Some poker rooms will want to migrate players immediately, while others will keep open the option to play on the old poker client, at least for some time.
6 months development to replace 6 poker platforms
The new poker client has been developed in only six months, and is designed to provide a single base of code that works across all platforms.
The old client came in as many as six different versions suited to different operating systems, so upgrading to add a new feature was a major project. The six were reduced to two in the last software release, but now there is just one common platform for all devices.
The speedy development cycle has been possible because the new client won’t launch with all the features of the old software.
MPN is using a new approach to software development that begins with the launch of a simple poker client with additional features added rapidly:
“In the past, we would design new features to accommodate everybody, but now we will design a feature that we think is viable, release it to market quickly, and test it. If people like it, we’ll build on it, taking into account their feedback. If people don’t like it, we’ll drop the feature or deprioritise any further development of it. (This is why we have built a feedback mechanism into the client, which players can use to send feedback directly to the team).”
Alex Scott, Head of Product (Network Games) at Microgaming told Poker Industry PRO:
“By the end of the year, this new Prima client will have significant new features that the old one doesn’t have. At that point I want to be really pushing it to players over the old one.”
Lesson learned from the experience of others
Some players will recall when partypoker released its own new platform in September 2013. The new client came fully equipped with all the bells and whistles, adding new features such as missions, buddy lists and a redesigned lobby.
The software was a clear improvement, but the following few months were plagued by technical glitches and cash game traffic suffered until the company could fix the problems.
MPN’s plan avoids these risks. The old client will remain available if the new client doesn’t meet players’ initial expectations, and the new development process means that the changes that players do want can be quickly implemented.
Slim build client drops several features
One of the features that has been left out of the new client is the player chat. MPN accepts that these decisions will be controversial, but it remains open to reincorporating them rapidly if player demand is there:
“This has meant we’ve dropped some features that might be controversial – like chat, the tournament lobby, and the Bad Beat Jackpot. Upon release, we’ll measure the success or failure of the new client very carefully, and adapt our roadmap to ensure that we deliver what is important to players, with a healthy amount of innovation mixed in.”
Alex Scott explained that many players won’t even be aware of many of the features which have been left out:
“Our current download client is full of features that nobody uses. Did you know that you can configure the bet slider to raise in three different ways, with 5 different shortcut buttons, with custom profiles for pre-flop and post-flop, separate profiles for NL and PL, and separate profiles for flop games versus Stud or Draw games? Did you know we have three types of hand history (not counting the database file that tracking software uses)?”
“Our new download client simplifies the experience greatly and goes back to basics. We’ve kept the stuff that people actually use – like the loyalty, bonus and achievements features – and got rid of the things that they don’t – like 5 Card Stud, the mini view table and, perhaps controversially, the chat feature.”
New features incorporate MPN’s responsible gaming philosophy
One new feature that really does set an example to other operators is the new “Player History” tool.
This really goes against the grain of traditional gambling consumer theory. Letting players have an easily accessible account of their wins and losses is a big step in the direction of encouraging responsible gambling.
The most visible measure of the success of the new software will come from the cash game traffic numbers.
MPN currently averages around 450 occupied seats at its cash game tables. This is a far cry from the heady days pre-Black Friday when traffic was as high as 2,300 occupied seats.
Those glory days of the poker boom may not be coming back, but the changes MPN is making may well give it the boost it needs to regain some of the ground it has lost.