More than twenty years have passed since the term “millennial” was first coined, and while casino operators and gaming manufacturers have kept a close eye on the market, many have yet to nail down a successful product for this “connected” generation.
One of the biggest misconceptions is that millennials won’t spend on real money games.
“People think millennials don’t spend,” says Robert Fong, CEO of Royal Wins. “It's true to an extent, but they're judging them on a different yardstick. You’ll find that they do spend a lot of money, but they are used to the freemium model of casual games – spending small amounts each time, but often.”
In fact, millennials are more than aware of these types of games, says Vin Narayanan, CEO of Vinistic Gaming.
“You need to understand that gambling, and betting on sports are all very normal things for millennials,” said Narayanan. “But to get them to spend the money, you need to know who they are and what attracts them”, he adds.
“It needs to have multiple points of interest,” adds Keith McDonnell, CEO of KMiGaming. “The short attention span is for sure a reality, driven by the fact that there are so many competing points of interests tapping into the millennial consciousness.”
“Designing an interface that has multiple points of interest competing for attention whether it be gameplay, bonusing, social interaction or something else, is critical to satisfying this way of thinking,” he says.
Myles Blasonato, Royal Wins’ creative director says the key is going after the millennial that grew up with video games - the child of the mobile games revolution.
This mobile-savvy customer that Myles is referring to comes from an 800-million strong, hyperconnected, skill-based casual gamer market. It trumps the lowly 49 million online casino players of the world today.
The casual gamer market is attracted by “easy-to-learn; hard-to-master” mechanics, blended in with elements of skill & competition, social connectivity, and above all, a memorable gaming experience.
“It really needs to be as simple as dragging or tapping with your finger to throw a bird to knock down a bunch of blocks [when it comes to game design],” says Blasonato.
“We don't want a player spending an undue amount of time learning how to play the game. We want them to get right into it and have fun, but still have a challenge curve, adds Blaine Graboyes.
Graboyes is the CEO of GameCo, a skill-based VGM manufacturer, which, amongst its many other games, developed a skill-based title called ‘Nothin’ but Net’ in early 2017. The game is a simple basketball game where players get 12 shots on basket and use one button to catch and then shoot the ball.
The social experience needs to be taken into account as well. Contrary to popular belief, gamers in particular have a high propensity for socialization.
“There is a stereotype that young people and gamers aren’t interested in interacting with their friends and peers. But just because young people grew up with technology doesn’t make them less social,” says Graboyes.
The game that will attract today’s millennial needs to be skill-based, and it is for this reason that it also needs to be social.
“Social without skill just doesn’t make any sense” explains Valery Bollier, CEO and co-founder of Oulala Games, a football-focused DFS operator.
“What’s the point of achieving the highest score if you can’t share it with the world?”
This is where a leaderboard can be an extremely useful tool, says Narayanan.
“Back in the day, playing Donkey Kong, you would put your name in when you got a high score and it would be recognized by a very small circle of friends... These days [with social media], the circle is much wider.”
“Players, especially millennials want the idea that they are part of the bigger picture.” he said.
One example would be a slot tournament, which could be split into several rounds. At the end of each round, a leaderboard will rank the top players - giving others something to aspire to, and to make players feel they were contributing to a bigger picture.
“You need to replicate the casual gaming experience in real money gambling,” says Narayanan.
What does this mean for the future of casino game design?
Bollier says it would be nothing less than a complete reinvention.
“They need to go back to what the customer needs,” says Bollier. “I think the main issue of our sector is that we’re trying to impose what we want for the customer, and not what the customer actually wants.”
“We need to recognize there is a customer revolution. Customers are expecting things that are completely different from their parents and grandparents. We need to fully reinvent ourselves.”
McDonnell on the other hand, warns against the overreaction which comes from generalizing a market.
“We need to be aware of these new mindsets, but at the same time, there are more subtle innovations that can be delivered within long established games that will appeal to the millennials. This is not about revolution, this is about evolving with the generations and technology.
McDonnell says casino games will become more engaging and more immersive in the future.
“When I look at the demographics of traditional online gaming companies, the millennials are coming through. It’s a complete untruth to suggest they are not. They are betting on traditional sports betting, playing in casinos and other traditional product verticals.
This does not mean operators can afford to ignore the new products that are coming through, nor the developments from social media and technology generally. But operators are resilient and know their customers better than third party product suppliers and they will decide what and how to integrate and whether that’s a better option than building internally.
When asked about what casinos will look like in the future, Bollier says he thinks skill-based games will reign. “There will still be some luck games, but they will be made to look like skill games, and they will offer you an amazing experience”, he says.
McDonnell on the other hand, says he still expects live dealer, table games and slots to remain popular, at least over the next five to ten years.
Both agree however, that the industry will benefit from innovation and knowledge from the casual games space.
“We need to hire people coming in from the video gaming industry, we need to really put the money on the table to create games that are visually amazing,” says Bollier.
“From here, we really only have two options”, he explains. “The first is that we react to the movements and start to offer products the market wants, or we don’t.”
“It'll be us, or it'll be someone else.”
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