Innovation and Casino Games – A Mexican Standoff

The value of our businesses is often measured by the software we use, our ability to track the customer journey, the content we produce, the ever more creative ways that we package games, interact with customers and offer new ways to gamble, but is our pride in innovation really justified? How do we measure up compared to other forms of digital entertainment?

If this article was a school report it would say something like, “ RMG is attentive in class and appears to work diligently, but often seems to be unwilling to acknowledge that his classmates are working several levels above where he needs to be – must try harder, 6/10”

Let’s take game recommendation engines as an example. The idea of telling our customers “you played game A so we think you would also enjoy game B” is just starting to be implemented. Yes, it’s a step forward but why so long? Amazon and Netflix have been doing this for years, why has it taken us until now?

The pace of change in our user’s experience has been glacial. As an industry we have been successful in providing a gambling experience online where none was available before. Gamblers who want the convenience of playing at home or on the move have been taken care of. Blackjack on the daily commute – tick. Slots on the ipad while watching TV – tick. Job done right?

Wrong.

There may now be a lot of choice for the customer as far as operators are concerned but what they are offered has barely changed in ten years. Blackjack, Roulette, Slots, the graphics may be better, the availability across a variety of devices may also be better, but there it stays, innovation in content has more or less stalled.

This a problem that is being felt in bricks and mortar casinos too. The big casino resorts are seeing their core customers literally dying, Millennials find slots boring. A generation that has grown up with multi-player video games is not going to be engaged for any length of time by a Sex in The City slot machine – not unless they can compete with other people or at least be able to exercise some element of skill or judgement.

Generation Y still comes to the casino, but not to gamble.They come for the night-clubs, the restaurants, the pool parties and the shopping. Vegas understands this and is accommodating them accordingly. We can’t do that online, we must instead address the issue of innovation in the games we offer.

Millennials Las Vegas Party

And there’s the rub. Innovation in content requires risk, it also requires a relationship with a customer that allows them to share that risk by taking time to learn a new game. A move towards gamification has seen sites like Casumo and Casino Heroes emerge and while they have been laudable in adding a layer of social interaction and the ability to measure achievement, the core content, the games, remains the same.

With table taxes, the cost of introducing new games into Bricks and Mortar casinos can be expensive, it’s notoriously difficult to do because there is so little time allowed to spend encouraging and educating players without incurring substantial costs. Online we have an unlimited casino floor to use, we have a relationship with players that allows us to know their playing patterns and interests and a platform that can introduce innovation and education with little risk.

There is innovation to be found, companies like Odobo have worked hard at encouraging small game studios to think outside the box and develop new and exciting games. Rabcat has had a hit with Castlebuilder which introduces a progressive gaming style to a traditional slot, but these are isolated examples. Little thought seems to be given to the millions of potential customers who would be happy to play gambling games if the games themselves were interesting, engaging and a fit with their lifestyle.

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It is ironic that the gambling industry is so risk averse, equally ironic is the fact that Bricks and Mortar casinos are leading the charge in engaging the digital generation by recognising the social and shared experiences that Millennials crave. In our world, an operator will emerge who understands the need to embrace this new generation with different content and genuine innovation. At the moment there seems to be a mexican standoff with no one prepared to be the first to make a move.

Who will blink first, will it be you?

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