Benedict McDonagh, managing director of Green Jade Games, says developers will need to create an entirely new genre of game if they are to compete with other entertainment options
ONLINE slots developers are no longer achieving the same customer engagement on new titles as they once did. Consumer behaviours are changing, in part, due to the rise of new forms of digital entertainment interaction – and online slots players are not immune to these distractions.
Via their smartphones and tablets, consumers have instant access to a huge range of entertainment and game options that invite them to play an intrinsic role in how the narrative unfolds and influence the eventual outcome of the story.
Now, Netflix builds content allowing viewers to choose their own endings in some of the movies and TV series offered through the channel.
To date, the slots industry has only focused on its own expertise, which is building better slots.
Indeed, just recently I was talking to a regular slots player who told me more of his time – and attention and spend – was being given to World of Tanks than his regular slot
But he also said he had yet to find a game that combined the narrative and interactivity of World of Tanks with the option to wager real money on the outcome. This is a gap that slots developers should be looking to fill.
This is not just to tap into the interest of non-casino players, but also mature consumers that have been playing casino games for many years – the World of Tanks player, for example, was in his mid-forties, and has long been a devoted slots player.
By creating slots that offer a narrative that can be manipulated by the player, and outcomes that can be wagered on, I believe the industry will be able to capture the attention of a huge and varied range of players, many of whom do not currently engage with online casino.
I’m talking about those who perhaps gamble semi-regularly on the lottery, as well as those that enjoy free to play and social games. For these players, immersing themselves in the
story and impacting the direction of the narrative is the ultimate thrill.
“THEY WANT TO PLAY ENTERTAINING GAMES AND… STAKE A COUPLE OF POUNDS ON THE OUTCOME IN THE HOPE OF MAKING A TENNER BACK“
But being able to wager on the outcome – even if just a small amount – takes this experience to the next level, allowing them to become even more invested in the narrative. They are different to a casino player and I don’t believe they would expect, or necessarily
appreciate bonuses or promotions.
They want to play stimulating, challenging, entertaining games and every now and then stake a couple of pounds on the outcome in the hope of making a tenner back. Of course,
these games will also appeal to regular slots players, too.
Sure, some slots developers have gamified their games and tweaked the volatility so that
they deliver similar levels of anticipation and surprise as video games, but this really doesn’t go far enough and so far has done little to engage social gamers and wider audiences.
We have a Twitch generation to cater to and an esports industry struggling to monetise. The online casino sector has a huge opportunity to take the lead in both areas; streaming technology is perfectly suited to the gambling sector and is already proven, for example.
If the online casino industry doesn’t take advantage of this situation, the future for online
slots play could be bleak. Some tier-one casino brands are already reporting a drop in KPIs
for their 18-24 customer segment.
So, what can developers do to create games that appeal to historic slot players that have
found new forms of entertainment that are more compelling, while also appealing to new
players of all ages, even if they do not consider themselves casino players?
I believe the only answer is an entirely new genre of casino game that:
- Prioritises storytelling and allows the player to influence the outcome of the narrative;
- Lets the player control the character movement 100 per cent;
- Shifts the focus from wagering to entertainment, but still allows the player to win big;
- Is streamable and also appeals to an online audience.
These games will combine gambling and entertainment (gamble-tainment, if you like) to create a category of game that is entirely accessible for a vast audience – old, new, casino players, video gamers and lottery dreamers.
I see this behavioural change as an opportunity for our industry to thrive in the fiercely
competitive digital entertainment sector.