Mike Brennan’s career in slot supply has seen him reach the pinnacle of product management at the largest supplier in the business. But Brennan will tell you that his experience at small companies is what has contributed most to what he does today as chief product officer of Las Vegas-based Bluberi.
Brennan started his slot career at the Arizona-based U.S. subsidiary of Atronic, an Austrian supplier. By any measure, Atronic at that time in the early 2000s was a small company in a sector then dominated by IGT. During the ensuing 16 years and a succession of mergers and acquisitions, Brennan’s company became huge. Atronic was acquired by Spielo, which was acquired by Gtech, which itself acquired IGT.
By 2022, Brennan was IGT’s vice president of product management, leading global property teams and considering the needs of customers around the world.
That was when Andrew Burke, CEO of Bluberi, offered Brennan the chance to join in the transformation of a small Canadian Class II supplier into a player in the U.S. Class III market. He jumped at the chance.
“The main reason I came to Bluberi was my experience with the Atronic speed level,” Brennan says. “You get the chance to feel every bump in the small-company journey. When the lows happen, you scrape your knees, but when the successes happen, it’s pure elation. Everybody should work for a smaller company at some point in their career if they can. There’s less insulation, less shielding, and you can have so much more impact on the business.”
Bluberi’s journey is still in the early phases, although it has moved from what was basically a Class III startup into a growth phase for what is now an award-winning manufacturer. Bluberi landed two nods in last year’s Eilers & Krejcik Slot Awards, including Most Improved Supplier-Core and Top-Performing Game from an Emerging Supplier for the hit game Devil’s Lock.
Brennan is now charged with sustaining that success for Bluberi. In that effort, he has the advantage of working with a team that includes veterans of the company’s original team in Drummondville, Quebec as well as veterans of some of the largest suppliers in the business. His team may be small, but collectively, it boasts more than 500 years of experience in the industry.
“The talent is, and was there,” Brennan says. “My job is to put people in the best position to succeed, to bring in new ideas and processes, to really support these talented folks along the way and lead by example.”
For 2024, Brennan’s focus will be to spread Bluberi’s footprint to more Class III jurisdictions, and to follow up Devil’s Lock with more hits. The first two sequels—or what Brennan prefers to call new products on the same design “track”—are Shark’s Lock and, on the new Beacon Elite cabinet, Devil’s Lock All In.
“With Beacon Elite, we’re really getting into true premium product,” he says. The other new hardware rollout is the Phoenix Stepper, a unique oversized cabinet.
Brennan has internal and external goals for 2024. Internally, the job is to groom the company culture and to continue building out Bluberi’s R&D system.
“We are continuing to increase game quantity without sacrificing quality one iota,” he says. “So, we’re going to double how many games we get approved in the market from this year to next year. We’re also going to double how many studios contributed to those games. Our games in the field come from two studios. Next year, there will be four.”
Externally, it will be more markets, and more market share. “We need to take more market share at a sustainable rate,” Brennan says. “We’re trying to do something that’s virtually unprecedented—to grow from an obscure vendor up into the second tier of vendors, if not the top echelon.
“We’re aggressively growing our investment, but we really are still the small-market baseball team that’s taking on the Yankees. What that means is we’re going to have to maximize every at-bat.”
So far, Bluberi’s batting average is impressive. And Brennan is constantly looking for the home run.