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Gambling Insider Friday 26 October 2018

Mike Darley



Darley emphasises the need for innovation when developing slots for millennials

Creating and introducing new technology and innovation to any consumer segment is a complicated and daunting task. It presents challenges that demand a strategic focus and a thorough understanding of the cycle of acceptance for the consumer group you are targeting. First and foremost, does your product fill a need to a large enough customer base and is it unique enough in the marketplace to gain traction? With the apparent decline of traditional casino gaming revenue, and specifically slot machine play, an alternate experience needed to be created. Hence, skill-based gaming became a large topic of conversation to satisfy the demands of the US millennial generation, comprising 73 million people aged between 22 and 37, surpassing the Baby Boomer generation of 72 million. It became increasingly apparent millennials did not gravitate to traditional slot machine products. They found them uninteresting and lacking an engagement factor. Additionally, they wanted to have some control of the outcome. Prior to the entry into this identified segment, there needed to be rules established for gaming equipment manufacturers to add a skill-based, arcade-style element to their slot designs. This was first supported in Nevada, as the state understood the need for innovation and advanced technology to bolster declining casino revenue. In May 2015, Senate Bill No.9 was passed, instructing the Nevada Gaming Control Board to adopt technical standards to support this initiative. In February 2016, the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement mirrored Nevada’s standards. In conjunction with these initiatives, Gaming Laboratories International released GLI 11 v.3.0, which incorporated “games of skill” into its technical standards. Now that a need was identified and the regulatory environment was favourable, the design phase followed. What were the critical elements that needed to be part of a new slot machine gaming experience? What behavioral aspects of a younger audience needed to be met? What types of game themes and playing experiences would be appealing?
It seemed logical to create games that offered similar experiences that aligned with the video games that the millennials were playing. It was also logical to acquire intellectual property that may be recognisable to the potential players. With this in mind, a small number of manufacturers chose to enter into this new aspect of slot machine design and become a participant in the changing landscape and evolution of casino entertainment. In anticipation of the new skill-based games being released and attracting a new audience, there was significant media coverage. The expectations were high with the initial placements, and the early adopters were willing to try something new. The games were placed with much enthusiasm and the players came. Unfortunately, the reception to the games was less than anticipated. The first generation of skill-based slots were not the “panacea” to attracting a new player base that many in the gaming community were expecting. Why was that? It really is a simple answer. With all new and innovative products; refinements and improvements are expected. It’s a learning curve that can only be gathered by real-time application. Look at the Apple iPhone. It certainly was not perfection, but it started the learning curve and evolved into what we have now. Design, implement, observe, assess and repeat.

“It became increasingly apparent millennials did not gravitate to traditional slot machine products. They found them uninteresting and lacking an engagement factor”

The brave companies that are still the innovators such as GameCo, Gamblit, Next Gaming, Competition Interactive and Synergy Blue are a small but cohesive group of highly-skilled individuals that are leading the way in the evolution of the common slot experience. It’s just a matter of time, and it may be here that skill-based gaming reaches its potential.
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