Tapping into the next generation of players is a consistent topic of conversation that will have been heard across many expo show floors throughout 2023. However, as fresh developments and tech innovation continue to accelerate across the globe, the challenges with attraction and retaining users soars to new heights.
In a two-part CasinoBeats special, Jorgen Nordlund, Co-Founder of Glitnor Group, Troy Paul, CEO and Founder of SGG, Giorgi Tsutskiridze, Spribe CCO, Katya Machuganova, Product Owner at Silverback Gaming and Alex Ratcliffe, CPO at 1X2 Network, delve into an array of issues regarding one specific demographic.
CasinoBeats: When it comes to attracting and building relationships with Gen Z players, should operators be looking at different mediums such as streaming services and newer messaging platforms like Discord and Telegram in order to make meaningful connections with this younger audience?
Jorgen Nordlund: It’s definitely really important to stay ahead of the game and understand which platforms and technologies are being used by the younger generation if you want to get closer to them, but you also need to be smart about the ones you’re targeting.
For example, you may already have some users on Telegram, but you definitely need to take a deeper dive into the numbers and decide which channels are the most suitable for your product before you base your marketing strategies around them. Streaming services, meanwhile, can be of great value when it comes to pushing your brand and connecting with players, but you always have to ensure you’re collaborating with ambassadors that really fit the beliefs and values of your brand.
Of course, when evaluating any new medium a bit of common sense must also be used – the goal is to try and separate the next potential WhatsApp from the numerous start-ups that don’t actually go anywhere so that you’re not simply wasting resources.
Troy Paul: Cord courting by Gen Z is going to continue. We can see this trend increased by major players like Amazon with their Thursday Night Football broadcasts. Streaming is becoming the new home of sports, and Gen Z is driving this.
As for new social media platforms, Twitch and Kick are seeing continued growth. Streaming and gambling are becoming increasingly connected, with things like live-watch parties becoming a part of the modern sports-betting experience.
We have seen the benefits of this our recently launched legal / licensed sports gambling show, which streams concurrently on Twitch and YouTube, is pulling nearly 30,000 viewers on average per stream.
Messaging apps like Discord are also playing a part in helping operators build a relationship with Gen Z audiences. These platforms can create communities and offer bettors access to one another and to their favourite streamers, influencers, and operators.
Giorgi Tsutskiridze: Absolutely. Gen Zers are highly active on platforms such as Twitch, Discord and Telegram and operators must communicate with them via these channels. As a game developer, we are always looking at ways of bringing social interaction into our games as this is something that this audience expects when deciding whether to engage with an entertainment product or not.
That’s why in Aviator we have a built-in chat which has proved to be pivotal in building a community around the game which in turn has seen more players strap in and take flight – Aviator now has 10 million monthly active players and counting.
Katya Machuganova: Generation Z now accounts for more than 20 per cent of the world’s population and to engage these players operators need to leverage diverse mediums from streaming services such as Twitch, YouTube and Facebook to messaging platforms like Discord and Telegram. This is the only way to connect with this digitally immersed generation in a meaningful way.
But it’s not just the platforms that operators need to consider – messaging must be authentic and aligned with their socially conscious values and preferences. For example, operators could host live gaming events on Twitch or create exclusive Discord communities to establish direct, real connections with Gen Z players.
More broadly, we need to better adapt to trends outside of the gambling space if we are to truly connect with fans and players. For example, more Gen Zers now use TikTok than Instagram in the US.
The industry needs to be aware of these trends and, as it continues to mature, shift focus away from speed to market toward a more nuanced consideration where innovation, product development and distinctiveness in a crowded market take priority.
This is certainly the case when it comes to acquisition and retention, and we should see operators embrace things like gamification and social recognition if they are to really tap into the psyche of Generation Z.
Alex Ratcliffe: Absolutely. New mediums like Twitch and Discord offer a unique opportunity for real-time engagement. They also provide the chance to build community, which is hugely important among the Gen Z demographic.
Operators can offer a more interactive and immersive experience, which aligns well with a generation that values participation and co-creation. These platforms create the chance to build a sense of community and belonging, which is invaluable when it comes to building a relationship with your audience. Foresting this kind of loyalty should be a key priority.
Of course, this doesn’t come without its risks. Operators need to ensure these interactions are genuine. Gen Z players value authenticity; they’re a generation that has grown up on the internet. As such, they are extremely alert at spotting insincerity, which is something operators need to be acutely aware of.
CB: Are Gen Z looking at different types of games than other demographics? Is a more mobile-friendly approach with things like crash games more effective than just traditional slots?
TP: It’s hard to say right now. The demographic’s market is still maturing, and we can’t accurately predict what their key tastes are going to be.
However, we are launching our first legal casino Twitch stream soon, and this will no doubt provide an excellent measuring stick for what is popular among these players and what isn’t. It will be the first of its kind, and it will provide excellent insight into Gen Z’s playing habits and tastes.
GT: This is a demographic that seeks diverse gaming experiences that go beyond traditional slots. Those in this cohort want fast-paced action, innovation and plenty of variety. The experience on mobile must be intuitive and seamless, and they expect high levels of engagement, entertainment and tons of social interaction. Aviator, the world’s number one crash game, delivers on all of these fronts and more.
It has been designed for mobile play, has a seamless UX, delivers rapid gameplay with plenty of betting opportunities and is multiplayer with lots of social interaction. Traditional slots just don’t offer this and that’s why they are not popular with Gen Z. Operators looking to tap into this audience need to stock their lobbies with fresh content, and crash games such as Aviator are the perfect place to start.
KM: At Silverback Gaming, we develop slots for online casinos in North America and we are acutely aware that Generation Z is now the largest generation in American history, accounting for 27 per cent of the US population.
This is a digitally native demographic that is smartphone-reliant so for operators and developers, it’s crucial to provide entertainment experiences and games that align with this. That’s why crash games are now a must-have for online casinos looking to attract this cohort.
However, developers need to find a balance between mobile gaming and traditional slots as their games must appeal to a broad audience. To do this, they could look to combine gamification features and social elements with standard slot formats, so they appeal to purists as well as new player audiences.
The quality of the experience is important, too – this is a generation that has grown up in the digital era and has high expectations of the entertainment options they engage with – so games need to include striking design and animations, big sound and seamless gameplay.
AR: Gen Z’s gaming preferences definitely show a shift away from traditional formats. They are more focused on innovative functionality, with crash games proving to be particularly popular. A mobile-first approach, combined with innovative in-game mechanics, will be essential to attracting a Gen Z audience, and finding ways of pushing these boundaries will be the key to retaining them.
It’s all about finding a balancing act. Providers need to find a way to blend something familiar with something new and exciting. When developers crack this, they will have the key to Gen Z audiences.
JN: To answer this question from the perspective of our flagship B2B business, Swintt, we’re certainly starting to look at ways to attract more Gen Z customers. While we already have a wide and successful range of SwinttPremium slots that cater for the more traditional casino player, we definitely want to step it up when it comes to our cutting-edge SwinttGames too.
Our goal here is to develop more mobile-focused games that combine the innovative gameplay and features that are always found in SwinttGames with appealing graphics and animations that will capture the attention of a younger audience.
The growth in popularity of Crash Games has definitely been an interesting development within the Gen Z demographic, and this is something that we’re also going to be looking into over the coming months as well. Though we can’t really reveal any specific details just yet, we’re definitely hoping to release more games in this direction when we roll out our roadmap for 2024 and beyond.
CB: Gen Z is one of the most socially conscious demographics, with environmental and social issues being important to them; is effective communication of sustainability and ESG initiatives the key to unlocking this demographic?
GT: Gen Zers value purpose-driven brands especially when it comes to sustainability and ESG. As mentioned previously, this is a smart and savvy demographic that is quick to spot companies that are not genuine and honest. For the brand to make clear its stance on ESG, direct, concise communication is required especially when it comes to the sustainability initiatives and the various processes it has in place.
A word of caution – if a brand is inconsistent in its approach and messaging, Gen Zers will spot this, and it can do untold damage to the organisation in terms of how it is perceived by this audience.
KM: The effective communication of sustainability and ESG initiatives is the key to unlocking the potential of this audience. Aligning with their values regarding environmental and social issues will foster stronger connections and resonate with their socially conscious mindset.
For example, studios could create games around eco-friendly themes or inclusive characters (this is said to be the most inclusive and diverse generation) while operators could showcase charitable initiatives. These are just a couple of ideas, but the sky is the limit when it comes to how operators and suppliers can communicate their approach to sustainability, ESG and inclusivity to players.
AR: Perhaps more than any generation that has come before, Gen Z is incredibly socially conscious. They value brands that show a genuine commitment to environmental and social issues.
As I’ve mentioned, authenticity plays a big role in attracting Gen Z audiences, which applies to their communication and ESG efforts. They want to see companies that really care and not just ones that are virtue signalling in a bid to get their attention.
Brands that are transparent with their users and those that show a genuine commitment to change are the ones that are going to succeed with Gen Z audiences.
JN: We absolutely think so, and this is definitely going to be a big focus for the Glitnor Group as a whole going into 2024. We want to be seen in the industry as an ESG-friendly company and aim to be well-known for the fact that we’re always looking into finding sustainable strategies for anything that we do.
We also want to be supportive of charitable initiatives and on top of that, we’re going to try and ensure that we’re helping to support local communities as much as we can and that our business is making a positive impact on society in general.
The fact that all of these things happen to tie in with the interests of Gen Z is great and will undoubtedly help us reach them more effectively in future, but even if they didn’t, we still feel they’re key considerations for any company looking to build a sustainable business.
TP: Not to downplay the importance of these issues, because it is incredibly important that operators continue to focus on them. However, for sports fans and gamblers, having these issues clearly communicated is not going to be a major issue. Whether it’s Gen Z, millennials, or Boomers, everyone wants the same thing – to be able to relax and enjoy the game.