Making Gamification Work in RMG
In the gambling sector, we have a huge focus on player acquisition, driven by new technology, franchises and game experiences. There’s a constant and intensifying drive to differentiate games and attract new players. We in the gambling sector are damned good at acquisition and, compared with many other industries, our pace of innovation is breathtaking. However, if we’re getting better at acquiring new players but the number of players isn’t growing at the same rate, shouldn’t we be trying harder at keeping the players we’ve got for longer?
There’s a change in the air, and it’s not the onset of spring. There’s a new term, “gamification,” or the application of the learnings from games, particularly free to play (F2P) mobile games, to gambling. The games industry has been through a mobileled transformation. Back in the day, you could develop and publish your game, and once bought, who cared if the player makes it past level three or level 33? Mobile gaming and the advent of F2P turned that on its head. If you’re in games, you now need to design your game so that players repeatedly pay, and to do that, they have to stay. Efficient acquisition is important, but with such a big investment in each game’s development, the focus is squarely on understanding the player as an individual and interacting with them on their terms, so they receive an experience that’s right for them at that point in the game play.
Why do players leave?
Players leave a game for one of two reasons. Either they are anxious and finding it hard to make progress, or they are bored and in need of greater stimulation. There are obvious parallels to gambling apps, where a player may be suffering a run of losses, or being cleaned-out by a pro in a poker room. These can all be indicators of a player requiring intervention before they decide to move on. In games, developers set “events” or triggers that capture data in order to identify these potential intervention points, and then act in real-time to divert the player from leaving, or reaching the Threshold of Engagement.
Strategies for successful gambling games
The Threshold of Engagement stuff is great, but it doesn’t apply equally throughout the game. In F2P games, roughly half of players who ever pay in a game do so only once, and they have a much lower average transaction value than their counterparts. On average, 18% of players pay twice and 30% pay three
times or more, so the most successful games are those that take a longer view on payment and invest in allowing players to build-up trust in the game, not forcing them to make a commitment decision before they are ready, so they more easily transition into a repeated payment and reward cycle.
In gambling, we have an advantage, as we tend to get players paying earlier, but with free-bet and no-deposit mechanics widely in use, Day 1 retention in gambling often isn’t wildly different from F2P games, so we have a similar requirement to measure and improve the first impression a player receives. Players should see a friendly and easy-tounderstand interface on first launch. Clear signposts are important. Players can be easily confused with multiple pop-ups and textheavy information. Let players experience a pre-defined selection of popular games, and encourage them to try games without the initial need to deposit. It is however important to monitor free bets, because, as with F2P, free bonuses can be farmed to avoid payment.
By setting a high density of events at each step of the on-boarding process and monitoring early real-time gameplay, you can evaluate whether your game’s on-boarding is contributing to players remaining in the game, as it should, or whether there are problem stages that may be confusing players. If the latter, you need to change in-game messaging or signposting, optimised using A/B testing.
Players often react differently. One of the biggest lessons from F2P is that you can’t set your game up for the average player as that player doesn’t exist. In gambling, our game mechanics are fixed, but that doesn’t mean our hands are tied. Simple metrics can determine patterns in playing style, engagement, session length and competency; and enable creation of player segments that can be used as targeting lists for real-time marketing.
Real-time marketing rules
Once player segments are determined, a range of triggers and remedies exist for nurturing them. Losses and wins are obvious triggers, along with changes to depositing patterns. An excellent example is gifting and rewarding players when they win or lose repeatedly, alongside messaging that encourages them to move around the environment, switching them to more challenging or easier games or tables, depending on their segment. The introduction of optional tasks or challenges to maintain momentum and progression, signposted with dynamic in-game notifications, is another great way of building player loyalty.
The investment required to generate a modest improvement in average lifetime expectancy, with players staying seven months rather than six, can have a much greater effect on bottom line than a similar investment in the acquisition arms race, but the two have to be balanced.