Next Generation iGaming: The Value of Community

Helen Walton of Gluck Games

The majority of online betting is still engaged through the traditional channels that have been a reliable source of traffic for so long. However, there is a fast-growing audience of new players being engaged through social-based platforms such as Twitch or Youtube. Is this a reflection of what the future holds for online engagement?

We spoke with gaming expert and Founder of G Games, Helen Walton to hear her view on community-based gaming products and whether this is something the industry should be shifting towards to ensure the future growth of our sector.

As a new generation of online players enter the iGaming market, how can we adapt the traditional customer journey to incorporate the social elements that are ingrained into some of the most popular platforms such as Twitch or YouTube?

“We need to take a step back to answer a question like this. What’s the point of social connection for a player and what’s the point for the operator?

“For operators, it’s pretty clear right – we want recommendations from within a player’s network as a really great trusted way to acquire new customers. Plus, we want to generate a positive buzz or at least awareness of our brands and games.

“What’s the point for the player though? We – as human beings – self identify into tribes that are meaningful to us, but sometimes we hide our affiliation with tribes. Shy Tories, for example; middle-class people who shop in Lidl but pretend they bought those vegetables at the local farmer’s market; and – notoriously – slots players who don’t really want to share what they’ve just spent on a slot for fear of judgement.

“Social” has to work for the player – you might be happy to share a tip, a review or win, but then again you might not. You might be prepared to follow a company or a page if bribed to do so with some free spins – but the bribery hardly makes that engagement terribly meaningful.

“Most operators, it seems to me, have spent a long time struggling to grapple with what these differences mean for gambling. Fortunately, I think we’re starting to see some smarter responses.”

Are there any good examples of more social or community-based initiatives currently in the industry that you can highlight? Is this a trend you see happening in the future and what impact will it have on the market? 

“First of all, I think twitch has been a wake-up call to how engagement can work. We see Roshtien and similar independents attracting significant viewership and we even see those directly affiliated to casinos managing to achieve respectable audiences. We’ve learned that players are prepared to talk about and share gambling stories in the right context; that there can be a real pleasure in sharing the anticipation of another player’s experience and celebrating their wins, even if we suspect they might have access to better deals as influencers.

“We shouldn’t over-emphasise this as a sea-change, mind you! Only a very small proportion of the world’s gamblers are watching twitch or similar channels. Yet I think it does point to an underlying type of engagement that is distinct from the likes, follows and network shares of Twitter, LinkedIn or Facebook. Here, is an idea that works for gambling, and we are already seeing companies experimenting with types of social play that builds on this engagement.

“There’s Come on experimenting with community remote sessions in ‘we spin’, and the wonderful Karolina Pelc pledging to make solo sessions shared experiences – and the Evolution gameshow products showing a new type of product where a host and the view of others winning/commenting gives a different type of experience.

“I find these examples much more compelling in terms of product development than previous ones. Rather than ‘adding social’ they think about underlying human behaviours that work for gambling – the joy of winning together; the thrill that can come from seeing pots/jackpots go up quickly; the connection that comes from knowing you’re part of a crowd and even the reward that can come just from seeing someone else win (or lose) big.”

Are there any plans for Gamevy to create more content in this area? How much focus will you put on socially and community-oriented content in the future?

“There is so much I want to say…. and my team are practically muzzling me to make sure I don’t give too much away. I can tell you that we are making slots multiplayer – and in a way that is genuinely different to any kind of tournament device or to any of the ideas I’ve mentioned above. It is built on what we believe to be a fundamental driver of how people play games and of how the most valuable slots audience like to play as well.

“I can also tell you that we are betting the farm on this one. We may be crazy… but we are certainly ambitious.”

Some industry commentators say that regions such as West Africa skipped the desktop generation and went straight to mobile, resulting in an online landscape ruled by social media. Do you think there’s a bigger appetite for more socially connected products like this in emerging markets? Would G Games explore these sorts of exciting regions in the future?

“Yes, absolutely. Not least because we think liquidity is crucial. But there are some other potential problems as well – not least getting regulators to understand real pioneering innovation, and technical challenges as well if you’re doing multiplayer.”

Many of the most popular games for the younger generation focus on achievements and social status as ways to reward players. Do you think this trend has the potential to impact the real money gaming sector in the future, especially when attempting to attract a younger audience?

“Announcing ‘I love slots’ is less socially acceptable than to say, ‘I love a flutter on the football’, making many of the status achievements in casino awkward. ‘I spent the most’ is not something anyone wants to be top of a leader board for (and yet really that’s what underpins many tournaments). ‘I won the most’ may be exciting, but it’s still not necessarily something you’re proud of – unlike a football bet where a win may show your loyalty to your team or horse racing where a win shows how savvy you are, as well as lucky.

“I think that one of the big challenges for gambling is to make sure that our products connect to emotions that our players can have pride in – meaning that to win is something that enhances your social status. Again… I’m not allowed to say too much about our solution (or attempt at a solution!) to this, but game events you can be proud of and celebrate because they represent something you’ve truly achieved… that’s something we’re working on which is at the heart of our product development.”

Editor’s Note: It’s clear Helen believes that we need to look deeper at these gaming categories as simply being ‘Social games’ and in fact, it’s more beneficial to understand a player’s motivation for engaging in these types of products. At the base level, social status and personal achievement are the main drivers for the new generation of players and these are key factors that must be integrated into product strategies going forward to ensure we, as an industry, can continue to engage future player generations.

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