Enemy of invention: the elephant in the room

| By contenteditor
The industry has weathered the pandemic relatively well but complacency is the enemy of invention and there are a number of compelling reasons why this mindset is highly risky for the sector at this time, writes Alex Thomson

Alex Thomson is RVP Emea, Quantum Metric. Alex joined Quantum Metric in 2021 and is responsible for driving the company’s EMEA go-to-market strategy. Alex has worked for a number of high-growth VC-backed software companies, with a focus on enterprise SaaS solutions. Alex also had leadership roles while at LOGICnow, a leading RMM SaaS solution that was acquired by Solarwinds.

The Germans are known for having a word or phrase for every situation. It’s an impressive language that can predict so much of human nature, but there is one I’ve recently come to like in particular, ‘schlimmes gewöhnen’. A direct translation is, ‘get used to bad things’ and I believe it sums up one of the main challenges facing the gaming industry at the moment. It’s the industry elephant in the room. Any guesses what?

Here are some clues. Gaming’s ahead of the curve on digital. It’s working hard to improve player protection measures and companies are constantly looking to see how they can beat their competition. Gaming companies have shown how agile they can be over the past year, switching entire sports revenues to provide players with…something, and to allow them to continue business. On the whole, the industry should be patting itself on the back for having weathered the pandemic storm so relatively well.  

It’s none of these issues, but it is related to them all, and it’s something that’s been happening for so long that we have become completely used to it. We expect it, as if there’s no other option.  It’s the issue of sameness.

People don’t like to talk about sameness in gaming. Some might argue that sameness just doesn’t exist, but in terms of the user experience, it’s a problem. If it weren’t, why is so much marketing spend focused on ‘the best offer’ – £100,000 won every minute, 100 free spins, top 10 placements and so on? Best offer does not necessarily equate to best experience. It’s a clear sign that a digital product only differentiates itself by expanding the potential winnings for the player.

Alternatively, whilst others may understand that sameness exists, they may see it as a problem. Where’s the need to differentiate? The industry genuinely is doing well, the digital side of gaming is booming like never before and the UK leads the way globally. For now.

If there’s one thing that history should teach us, it’s that complacency is dangerous and inevitably it leads to stagnation. And that almost always leads to someone else coming up with something better.

The past 30 years of technology is littered with established known examples; the Blackberry, Sony’s Minidisc, MySpace, petrol-powered cars. The list goes on. 

It’s also worth noting that US companies have a history of making many of these technologies obsolete.  The sharpest minds and companies in the US have listened to consumers, and reacted to what they wanted, even before consumers knew they wanted it. And now the US is starting to move into online gaming and gambling, there could well be problems ahead. To maintain long-term success, a business needs to be prepared to disrupt themselves, the gaming industry is no different and if you don’t, someone else will come along and disrupt it for you.

If that wasn’t risky enough, gaming companies need look no further than the dark spectre of regulation, hanging over the entire industry like the sword of Damocles. Future regulation in the UK is likely to be used as the basis of regulation worldwide, and its very nature is likely to be antithetical to ‘best offer’-type marketing. Or perhaps, it’s clearer to say that ‘best offer’ marketing is directly at odds with player protection and the golden chalice of player personalisation. At best, new regulations will water down best offer approaches. At worst, it’ll ban them altogether, and then where will the marketing spend go?

So gaming industry – here’s your chance. Sameness is a problem, and while it’s not too late to do something about it yet, it will be at some point in the near future. It’s not an easy thing either, but as Theodore Roosevelt said, “Nothing in the world is worth having or worth doing unless it means effort, pain, difficulty.” 

It involves cultural technical change, and it’s difficult to know where to start on such a big process. I’d suggest looking towards the player themselves. Player experience is at the heart of any digital service. If you have a better player experience than the next company, you’ll naturally win through. Beyond this, there’s also a need to foster a culture of experimentation and innovation. Trying something different has to start somewhere. It doesn’t have to be big, and it doesn’t have to be permanent, but it’s a start and with proper A/B testing and feedback channels can be the first step down the path to both innovation and differentiation. 

This doesn’t mean a better chance of winning a bigger prize. It means a digital journey with fewer friction points, faster (or even proactive) fixes, more intuitive interfaces, and a more personalised experience. This doesn’t just keep existing customers, it actively creates a level of brand loyalty that hasn’t existed since gaming first went online, it’ll drive up NPS scores, it’ll help provide increased player protection and it might even help win over people who are currently not-gamblers.  Oh – and it’ll provide differentiation from the competition and stop others from getting there first.  That’s a fairly big checklist of advantages.

The only question now is, who’s going to be first into this brave new world?

Find out more in our upcoming event, LEAP into Gaming, examining the key aspects of gaming that can help with the player experience; player-centricity, innovation and experimentation and player protection.

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