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IN-DEPTH 16 January 2019
Adapting to player psychology trends
Betting marketing consultant and online gaming PR specialist Mark McGuinness believes the future of digital gaming could depend on operators simplifying products in a fast-paced world
By Gambling Insider

As another year ends, many within the online gaming industry, in boardrooms, at industry tradeshows or even in their WhatsApp groups, cogitate that age-old question; what does the future hold for digital gaming?

The stark reality, and not the virtual or augmented reality, is that the future isn’t happening tomorrow; it’s happening now. In our hyper-connected digital world, technology pervades every tiny part of our lives. It is woven into the actual fabric of the human body, from biometric tattoos analysing the inner processes, to wearable tech, and smart-enabled applications or IoT (internet of things) to the secondary brain, although some would argue the primary brain, the smartphone. In this connected world, technology is driving changes in our innate learned behaviour and in our consumption and interaction with brands, products and services; so what could this all look like?

The attention economy

You have most likely heard or read about this marketing hyperbole. In short, that ubiquitous of all devices and perhaps the instigator of many digital-related synonyms, the humble smartphone has a lot to answer for.

This device knows more about you than your wife, lover or partner or your therapist and some would say is touched, coveted and fondled more than your nearest and dearest. It’s the one we use for shopping and messaging real and digital friends; it's the one that knows all our innermost and darkest secrets and keeps all our pictures for Instagram.

It is the synaptic backbone of our daily digital interactions and digital trivialisations and grandiose happenings through social media. Smartphones also have the highest number of user interactions per day and act as the most common starting point for activities across all multiple devices in this hyper-connected world. All of which leaves an unbelievable stream of digital data record imprints, which of course is another hotly-debated topic.

Digital decision overload

What does this all mean? Aside from the fact the mobile is the gateway to this digital universe and attention-based economy, it has created a narcissistic nirvana of espoused synonyms such as covert narcissist and introvert narcissistic. In simple terms and perhaps harshly, this has created a marketing and product paradox where everything should reside around and be centered on the individual, in terms of personalised and relevant communications. In short, while the mobile has created the attention syndrome and access to limitless information, it has caused an equal and opposition effect of digital decision overload and an attention or interest span of seconds. It’s almost akin to the goldfish effect.

According to the National Center for Biotechnology, the average human attention span is now eight seconds, whereas at the start of the noughties, it was 12 seconds. What would the evolutionary biologist Darwin make of that factoid?

Scientists at Cornell University, New York, concluded the average adult processes 35,000 conscious decisions every day, with 226.7 decisions each day taking place on the topic of food alone. Now that’s big, big data and shall only continue to overload us mere carbon life forms. Sadly, we can’t add another rack of servers or another organic brain to assist – at least not currently, that is.

The preponderance of choice

The psychology of choice is a well-researched discipline in other industry verticals. Yet if one is to review several gaming operator brands, or platform providers within the online gaming supply-chain, why oh why is every pixel or dot on the visible device screen or user interface crammed with the latest betting content? This includes available sports, statements of more than 3,000 casino games to choose and 50,000 live betting events per month.

Players aren’t a separate cohort group; they have a choice overload of trying to navigate irrelevant betting content, which is directly increasing betslip abandonment rates. Many sportsbook products managers would tell you off-record that only 5% of the available betting content displayed results in a confirmed bet, so that infers the other 95% of published betting content is irrelevant.

Players need assistance. However, I’m not sure if the industry is brave enough for a popular sportsbook or well-known casino brand to consider the reduction of choice to simplify the betting or gaming decisions-making process. Or to reduce choice overload, improve customer satisfaction and churn management for fear of the impact on their brand, and more importantly, EBITDA.

Hyper growth and hyper local

Everything in today’s digital economy is moving at lightning speed. Products, technology and even people, due to social networks, are becoming disposable, because new products, tech and friends are easy to find and source, as it’s only a swipe and click away.

Hyper growth and hyper local are relevant business concepts and models that will shape the future of digital gaming. Traditionally, gaming product marketing models that have been developed before the advent of the internet are somewhat outdated. Most rely on segmenting potential players based on factors such as age, gender, interests and media consumption patterns.

Other models use geo-demographic segmentation, based on principles that people who live in the same postal code area are more likely to have similar characteristics than two people chosen at pure random. Of course, I’m not saying these factors are unimportant when developing and shaping a gaming operator’s business or marketing product plan and roadmap. What I’m saying is more data points and perhaps different models need to be considered to be successful and stay one step ahead of the competition.

One area where the gaming sector could adapt is the growing area known as behavioural economics. This field involves the studying of the effects of social, cognitive and emotional factors on the economic decisions of individuals, of which gaming and gambling are affected and influenced by those processes. Behavioural economics therefore explore why people sometimes make irrational decisions, and why and how their behaviour does not follow the predictions of standard economic models.

Examples of such behaviour are players who keep betting even while expecting to lose. Loyalty programs generally don’t work in the gambling industry, as digital natives live for the day, not tomorrow. In other words, $10 today is preferred to the potential of another $15 tomorrow. We usually find gamblers prefer small and more immediate rewards or pay-offs to large and more distant ones.

You have to remember real people and those that gamble on the internet or via mobile devices are not rational creatures that can be shoe-horned into the same neighbourhood or suburban postal code standard segmentation models of old. Increasingly, objects of consumer desire are being described first by other people, not the marketers through social media networks, which then influence others to purchase or engage with that brand. Marketing, communication and technology are therefore not only changing the ways in which we reach gaming customers and how they interact with that technology, they are changing our innate behaviour.

The future of digital gaming per se is not about gargantuan leaps forward in technology or seismic innovation shifts. It’s about simplicity, reduction in betting choice and solving the mundane, striving to make products and services hyper relevant.

Sexy it perhaps isn’t but, ultimately, players shall make the decision for you as to where they deposit their hard-earned money.

Mark McGuinness has more than 22 years’ experience in digital marketing director roles with both private & public online gaming operators. He currently serves as the resident iGaming Futurologist & CMO of BetOlimp & is the founder of esportsbet.com, a resource for gamers and sports bettors who wish to start betting on esports.
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IN-DEPTH 4 September 2019
Virtual reality: Creating next-gen experiences for players

Singular CEO George Shamugia discusses a new revenue stream for casino operators

The competition in online gaming is intensifying, with players becoming more and more demanding. In some markets, single-customer acquisition costs can reach up to €400 ($440) alongside growing churn rates. Furthermore, the online gaming sector struggles to attract one of the most lucrative groups of players – millennials. The experience provided by casinos no longer appeals to the younger generation.

On  the other hand, the video gaming industry perfectly understands the needs of millennials and by introducing elements of luck in their games offers the best of both worlds. With the launch of loot box systems and Grand Theft Auto’s in-game casino, we have seen their first successful steps in targeting the online gaming sector. GTA V online, with 33 million active players, recently opened an in-game casino, where players gamble real money on games such as poker, roulette, slots, etc. As a result, churn users returned and GTA Online reached the highest number of active players since its launch in 2013.

The online gaming industry has almost fully utilised the potential of the mobile medium. The time has come to look for new, innovative ways of delivering a next-gen experience to customers.

The potential of VR

Could the next big thing for online gaming be a fully fledged virtual reality (VR) casino delivering an immersive experience and limitless new opportunities?

Although not widely adopted yet, VR has a sizable number of customers. Analysts predict it’s poised for explosive growth to become mainstream in about five years. According to market intelligence firms, the VR market will be worth $117bn by 2022, and according to Juniper Research bets made through VR will reach $520 billion by 2021. Upcoming 5G mobile network technology will propel VR’s mass adoption by allowing the development of fully portable untethered and affordable VR headsets.

Different level of social interaction

The captivating nature of gambling comes from its social aspect. Unfortunately, personal interaction is widely missing from online gambling sites. VR technology creates multiple opportunities to bring back and even enhance that social moment. The ability to connect with other players is one of the main reasons behind Fortnite’s popularity. This form of co-experience is the next generation of entertainment. Research conducted by Facebook has found participants spend more time on VR compared to any other medium. This directly translates into increased profits for casinos.

Pokerstars has made efforts in this direction by implementing Voice UI. Instead of using hand controllers to make a call, pass, or raise, players give voice commands.

Another opportunity for bringing in the social element are the players’ avatars. They enable players to build their identity reflected in the avatars’ appearance, but also the avatar's social, competitive and community status. For instance, players are willing to pay real money for virtual drinks at the bar. Operators can offer these social touchpoints for free to VIP customers as an act of appreciation.

VR also brings a new dimension to customer support. Customer support can also be represented with avatars to assist the player in person. The social moment increases the LTV of players and contributes towards lower churn rates.

Rethinking game design

VR is a way more capable medium than a 2D mobile or desktop screen. Instead of copying the existing online experience, games must be redesigned from the ground up for a competitive advantage with VR. For example, a VR slot game can become fully immersive by teleporting the user into the slots’ world of Ancient Egypt. Next, enrich the experience with high-fidelity graphics, realistic spatial sounds and animations. When betting on virtual race cars, the user can be teleported inside the car he/she made a bet on and experience the race firsthand.

New revenue streams

VR casino lobbies create new revenue stream opportunities: ad placement of brands on the venue walls, company logos decorating the bar etc. This kind of branding is not intrusive in the VR space and feels natural from the user's perspective. VR also gives users the ability to change venues from a Las Vegas casino today, to Macau or even Mars casino, the very next day. The dynamic and diverse experience increases retention rates.

The majority of profits for online gaming operators come from their high-roller players. Although they represent a small subset of active players, an operator can launch a separate VR casino brand for them. Providing exclusive VR gaming experiences to high rollers/VIPs, the operator can minimise churn and maximise VR efforts for these player demographics.

The catch with VR is to focus on quality, rather than scale. The target audience might be limited yet, once these players experience it, they will become ambassadors for your offering.

Surely, the opportunities and possibilities offered by the VR medium truly exceed anything offered by mobile and desktop. VR is a new frontier not just for gaming but for every industry, and it’s exciting to see where it takes the industry and what kind of innovation it brings upon us.

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