In the next part of CasinoBeats’ look into the future of entertainment, our experts’ eyes are cast towards marketing strategies and how best to apply them to game development, along with player demands and the next generation of players.
Joining the debate is Vladimir Malakchi, chief commercial officer at Evoplay, David Little, co-founder at Lightning Box, Darren Stephenson, marketing director at Push Gaming and Simon Hammon, CPO at Relax Gaming.
CasinoBeats: Applying marketing strategies to gaming development to shape player demand and profiles is becoming a widely used approach for many suppliers – how do you look to incorporate insights with your various teams?
Simon Hammon: There are insights that can be taken from multiple sources and directions, but ultimately the key ones will always be the performance metrics we see without our own data compounded with operator and market feedback.
Of course, game design has changed its focus in recent years to cater for market conditions, competition, regulation and marketing strategies. It is clear that game suppliers have needed to adapt heavily to the new landscape when they are launching a product to ensure competitiveness.
Vladimir Malakchi: Having used a large collection of marketing practices and tools that have helped to scale different businesses, I can confidently say that marketing is an integral and indispensable powerhouse of any company that wants to grow and develop.
Of course, there is no single algorithm, method or practice that would suit everyone – everything is dependent on a company’s specific audience and its requests, which also tend to change under the influence of external factors and the very nature of market development itself.
This means that the content and promotion strategy need to be constantly adapted in order to resonate with a specific audience, and its segmentation by location, age, gender and other trends.
At Evoplay, we’re proud to have a strong marketing team that is involved in product creation from the initial stage all the way through to the final stage, where the messaging for each of our game products can be adjusted to suit and target a demographic.
On a quarterly basis, the marketing team supplies our product teams with insights on user analytics, market analytics and market predictions to help us shape our portfolio and adapt it to local markets. The user comes first, then the product – that is how marketing at any company should work in order to go toe-to-toe with competitors in the market.
Darren Stephenson: Cross-department collaboration is essential, as the landscape of marketing has evolved so much in recent years, with more access to players and player communities.
Closer interaction allows studios to gain direct player feedback on existing slots and other game types coming into the market which gives us cross-over access.
On the product side at Push, we’ve also shifted our marketing more from just explaining the mechanics towards selling the narrative and storyline. Having that direct player interaction has of course made that so much easier.
Internally, we have regular meetings with both our commercial teams and Game Product Owners (POs). This gives us an excellent way of tapping into and sharing feedback. Thanks to the digital nature of online gaming, it is even more beneficial for POs to literally see streams in action and being played by audiences – and it’s proven to be invaluable.
David Little: There are many ways to incorporate marketing strategies to a game to entice players and meet their demands and profile. We’ve seen games that provide players with wallpapers or other artefacts to download once they achieve a set status or level. For us, we tend to use inspiration from video games and similar industries.
An example would be one of our latest game Chicken Fox5x Skillstar, which includes a Retro Skillstar bonus where the player has to catch as many eggs as they can to enter their names into the global leaderboard.
This allows players to compete for the top score and bragging rights on who is the best ‘Egg Catcher’ on the planet.
Starting with the basics, what kind of data and analytics can be applied to define player profiles? How can we get a better idea of future demand for styles of gameplay?
VM: First of all, this is the data that game providers can track themselves – game portfolio performance and top game positions can be utilised to track the success of the game. These can be used to track the impact of various marketing activities such as tournaments, collaborations with streamers and promotional offers that casino operators provide.
Based on the data obtained from casino operators, audience segmentation is decided according to the bet sum, the location, and the player profile. Casino metrics such as number of spins per player, session duration, average bet and retention rate are also key when it comes to a detailed audience analysis.
With multiple segmented audiences, we can now develop games that will be most relevant to each of them, which results in much better performance. For example, in Europe and Latin America, there will naturally be different theme preferences. Also, some players may appreciate a long-lasting spin combined with some engaging animations, while others may be purely focused on the result.
DL: The data that interests operators the most is age group, gender, device (mobile/desktop) and bet behaviour. Gathering these details helps them tailor the correct content and promotion to their players. There isn’t a particular field data that can accurately extrapolate a style of gameplay that an individual player favours.
Operators normally gauge game play popularity on the amount of spins placed on a game. I think Twitch streamers and discussions on affiliate forums tend to point the direction of trends for future style of game play.
DS: As a supplier the amount of data we receive is limited, however we are of course in a good position to see differences in player behaviours on a high level so we can see certain trends within the marketplace.
A good upcoming example could be multiplayer, which seems to be appearing on the radar for operators and we’ll keenly follow the data as you can imagine how that could greatly influence the game creation thought process and ultimately the game styles being delivered.
More specifically for us and our games, data has been key to identifying themes and mechanics that players really love. Sometimes we see from the data that maybe a game wasn’t quite on the money but there was something there that has piqued interest.
We saw this with Tiki Tumble, for example, and so re-visited that model for Razor Shark. Previous games give us the data we need to understand key insights, and this enables us to go away and come back with a new twist or mechanic.
SH: It goes without saying that data can illuminate interesting insights. A lot of this data can also be somewhat dependent on what information is offered by the operator. Age, gender and regionality are the obvious ones in terms of defining a player base, but 100s of variables and KPIs make this far more specific.
For a supplier, key metrics to keep an eye on include average session, round value and return rates over a defined period of days. From these stats, you often get a comprehensive list of what games and/or mechanic styles can work for what demographics or playing styles.
Data is undoubtedly important to game design, however, a great game is not solely defined by data design. Some of the most theoretically perfect games have not done well and that is because a game needs to tie in multiple elements to be successful even with a tightly defined target audience.
Talk us through your vision for engaging the next generation of players over the coming years – how will you be looking to market your games and define the exact profile of these new demographics coming into gaming?
VM: Since the main tool of interaction between our company and the player is the product itself, the first thing to aim for (and implement) is a revolutionary concept that can excite and engage – of course, the content comes with that – and we’re focused on products that can capture the attention of outside demographics.
We all know that the traditional casino players from the early 2010s are now being replaced by millennials and gen z, who are infamously harder to attract than just using the product as a flashy way of capturing attention. It is through other means, such as educating the player, providing an easily understandable gaming experience, and of course the kind of tech they expect in all games to be there – and this is how you attract the new generation.
Social, of course, is key to that too – and from recent stats, we can see that more than 80 per cent of marketers use social media on a constant basis to engage their audience.
DS: For us, it’s more important to build on our core values and brand – we want players to get to know us, why we are here, what motivates us and why they can put their trust in us.
By continuing to get closer to players and being a part of their communities, we will be a part of the discussion and we’ll be listening to ensure we understand the requirements of the new demographics coming through.
Marketing and sponsorships directed towards the interest areas of the new generation of players is a good place to start. If you look at esports for example as it continues to grow from strength to strength, I would say the lines between certain product verticals start to blur or even disappear so within communities you may find a wider range of personalities and profiles that enjoy a mixture of content so we will want to be a part of that.
I believe we’ll see plenty of solutions in skill-based games, multiplayer games, tournaments and leaderboards all of which provide a platform to transition players from visiting the casino site, to playing the game – and then becoming a long-term fan.
DL: I don’t expect it to change all that much as the current designs and technologies already align with the current generation of players. But we’ll likely see enhanced graphics and futuristic game play styles where there may be AI intervention. We might even see players putting on their virtual reality headsets sitting at home and walking into a virtual casino to place their bets on a slot game.
Whatever the trend and popularisation at that point for the next generation of players, we’ll need to cater for them as it could potentially be the future of gaming. Thus, it’s important to be reviewing market trends and being one of the early suppliers to provide for the new demographics.
SH: The demographic of casino customers that are the highest value and volume are 30 to 40-year-old males. Naturally, as time goes on, the offering will need to be tailored to the 20 to 30-year-old segment that is coming up and reaching their spending peak. The habits, trends and technologies being used by a younger generation can often vary significantly, so a lot of thought needs to go into how to ensure games will also appeal to a changing player base.
Of course, players are looking increasingly for a high-action, high-entertainment experience and games must now offer the visuals and graphics they expect combined with interesting game flow and mechanics that are a far cry from the original 5×3 set-ups of recent years.