The Watching Generation

Why the play button is the web’s most compelling call to action

Unless you have been hiding under a rock for the last couple of years, or asleep in the House of Lords, you have almost certainly heard of Content Marketing.

It’s buzzy right now – a vital part of the marketing mix. For those of you not running your hands through hipster beards nodding sagely, the appositely named Content Marketing Institute defines it as this;

A strategic marketing approach focused on creating and distributing valuable, relevant, and consistent content to attract and retain a clearly-defined audience — and, ultimately, to drive profitable customer action.

So far so good?

Content marketing can take all sorts of forms, Blogging, Podcasts, Social media conversations, microsites, etc. One iteration seems to be emerging ahead of all the others however – Video.

We are all busy people, and if a picture is worth 1000 words then it has been said that a one-minute video is worth 1.8m (utter rubbish of course but a juicy sound-bite to band about). While the numbers don’t add up, the sentiment has merit. Video is very good at explaining things; it’s helpful in comparing things and brilliant at showing people products and services that they might want to buy.

The recent Force Friday, saw Disney previewing some of the up-and coming Star Wars merchandise that will be available ahead of the new movie release. The toys were launched across the (also Disney owned) Maker Studio network and watched by millions of drooling fan-boys and girls around the world.
The unboxing phenomenon (that’s videos in which people unpack recently bought booty) accounts for eighteen, of the top 100 most viewed YouTube channels (over 8.1billion views in Q1 2015).

So Video is huge – we know that, so why hasn’t the real money gaming Industry embraced it in a meaningful way?

Well it has – kind of, or at least it did.

Look, I understand that Sports betting pretty much looks after itself – there is a world of content around sports and the athletes that participate. Millions of fun facts, gossip, and argument to fuel social networks, and forums and of course, there are the sports events themselves.

And then there is (or was?) Poker.

The incredible rise of poker in the latter part of the last decade was indisputably down to television. I’m not going to rehash the story here, but the success of the World Poker Tour on the Discovery owned Travel Channel, created a feeding frenzy for emerging poker operators and networks to sponsor, or produce, broadcast TV content.

TV gave credibility to what was, (at that time) a somewhat jaundiced public perception of online gaming operators, but more than that, it drove registrations, with a clear call to action to qualify players to appear on television themselves. It was both hook and reward with players qualifying online for a chance to become a TV star – “Flop Idol” if you will.

As it developed, TV Poker tried to establish itself as a sport. Poker players loved it, but they were already online players – they might have ended up playing for longer, but as coverage became ever more technical, ever more serious, and ever more about the pros, it was actually starting to turn potential players off, rather than on. It felt like, unless you had a PhD in game-theory, or a masters degree in maths and statistics then the game was beyond mere mortals. Poker began to look like work rather than fun – and it was supposed to be fun right?

The future of poker marketing needs to reclaim the fun part of the game.
For a generation who watches, instead of reads, that means video content that reminds players that poker is fun. If poker can’t get back to it’s roots, it is doomed to die as new players are intimidated away from the game by it’s obsession with expertise at all levels.

But what about the rest of the gaming industry?

While poker was having it’s ups and downs, how did the rest of the industry address the fact that it was actually in the entertainment business?

Well the short answer is that it didn’t, and it hasn’t.

Prize for the biggest fun-sponge in the sector, is… (Drum-roll) the online casino industry.

Like it or not, Millennials, aka the Net Generation, are the future customers of online slots and casino games. It’s biology, people get old, they die, along come more people (watch The Lion King for a more detailed explanation).

So what is the industry doing to prise open the wallets of this increasingly large group of 18 – 45 year-olds who rely on the net, for much of their entertainment?

Swedish gamer PewDiePie has just chalked up 10 billion views for his YouTube channel. This Swedish gamer posts videos that show him playing computer games while commenting on them. He has 39 million subscribers.

There are 13 gaming channels in the YouTube top 100. As a category, gaming is at number two only just behind music.

Why should you care?

Because it tells us that millions of people love games, not just playing them, but learning about them and watching other people play them. Crazy Huh?

Entertainment, Fun, Excitement, Thrills, Competition – these are all factors that dictate how this generation chooses to spend their time online.
Can you honestly say, that the range of games available in most online casinos have appeal to a generation brought up on Call of Duty, Grand Theft Auto or Super Mario?

I have been told, often, that only a tiny percentage of casino players produce almost all of the revenue and those avid players all have particular games that they like to spend time on, for them it’s about RTP, volatility, jackpots, bonuses and music that doesn’t annoy them or alert their boss.

So maybe no one cares about the others, the casual players, – too much effort, not a profitable approach, pointless. But is that attitude helping to fill the funnel with new players – where are the next generation of super users going to come from in the future?

The big Slot companies spend big bucks licensing image and IP rights from Hollywood movies and celebrities but then the games themselves are mostly unsatisfying to play for this new gamer generation.

There have been steps in the right direction. Rabcat’s Castle Builder and Odobo’s Gourmet Ranch Riches have moved the slot genre on developing the idea of the Story Slot. From an operator perspective, and are taking an unusual and interesting approach to competitive play in their casinos that will be recognised by players of Sim and Roleplay games. Elsewhere the story is, well, the same as it has been for the last ten years.

One way we can try and stimulate engagement, apart from better games, is by offering potential players more and better information. Quality videos that show players how to play, and reveal some of the best features of the game should be the bare minimum. The little content that exists (on YouTube) at the moment, are mostly player produced. Videos, with all the production value of a stag-night selfie.

Do we really want our products and industry represented like that?

Content Marketing is not about selling, it’s about communicating – delivering information that potential customers find rewarding. I don’t want to believe that offering bonuses and free spins is the only thing that gaming operators think customers are interested in, but it certainly looks that way at the moment.

Content marketing is being used by everyone from car companies to fashion brands, food retailers to holiday businesses. With more and more people accessing online content from a mobile device, reading is difficult – watching is not. Latest results from Google show that on mobile, the average viewing session is 40 minutes. By 2019, the prediction is that 72% of all mobile traffic will be video.

Over the next few years we will be competing head-on with other forms of digital entertainment, and, looking at what is being offered elsewhere, we are going to have our work cut out to explain why casino games deserve our customer’s money.

Perhaps we should make a start?

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