Real money online casino is growing, valued at $10 billion USD in 2012, and estimated to grow to $30 billion by 2015 according to Betable. Yet there’s a lack of innovation that could cap this growth if the online gambling world doesn’t start moving quicker on broader trends in tech, entertainment, and web.
There’s a tremendous opportunity for experienced social/mobile game designers to use their expertise in this new “wild west” of gaming. But how?
There’s a glut of third-party licensed content on real money online casinos – same old, same old. This leads them to compete on the quality of their brand and platform. But why not innovate on content? The wheel doesn’t have to reinvented to provide a compelling experience – look at Slingo.
Simple, easily understood game mechanics that are sticky, allow for bite-sized play sessions, and have deeply ingrained monetization – this is exactly what online casinos need, and what social/mobile game designers are good at.
Designing good UX for your online casino patrons is crucial in maximizing their player LTV (life time value).
Hallmarks of a good mobile UX are intuitive navigation, usage of platform conventions (iOS or Android), and visual hierarchies and screen flows that push the player towards desirable behaviour – repeat play sessions, monetization, and virality.
Hay Day is a great example of a mobile game UX, as it’s tactile, responsive and lively – even simple actions such as planting and harvesting crops are fun.
Some things for good UX in an online casino include frequent timed bonus and promotions, frictionless sharing/gifting, easy reload of funds and VIP rewards.
Interaction models that take advantage of their host device’s features (e.g touch screens, accelerometers) allow for “natural mappings” between user input and game output. This leads to juicy, tactile experiences that are a joy to engage with.
Think about this – how successful would Angry Birds have been if it didn’t have touch controls?
When designing an online casino, think about how user interaction may work? What innovative ways can you add interaction to a real money online casino to enhance a casino play experience?
Typically social gameplay is based around “the brag,” “social squeeze,” and “true social.” The first two are most common, because they’re easier to implement than true social.
The brag is the most common mechanic, where players can brag about what they have achieved (e.g. by sharing to Facebook or Twitter). In a social online casino, an example of a brag may be ‘Just made a Royal Flush!’ or ‘I just hit the Mega slots jackpot in Lucky Lady Slots’.
The social squeeze is an opportunity where the player can benefit from having friends, and then utilize them to get through a section faster than they could otherwise. In CityVille for example, staffing buildings with friends instead of paying premium currency to hire NPCs (non player characters).
True social mechanics are unique features that are deeply baked into the game, going beyond the widely used mechanics detailed above. They offer the potential for the most creative and compelling social gameplay. In turn, they are the most difficult to design and implement.
It’s important to be cognizant of the fact that real money online casino players have their own needs and tastes compared to social casino players – blindly tacking on social game features won’t necessarily engage real money players more, or bring over social casino players to real money.
However with well thought out innovation, there is lots of room for social/mobile game design to be effectively applied to online gambling, benefiting game designers, operators, and players.
Guest Post by — Kevin Oke is Founder and Creative Director at Edit Mode, working on its debut title for PlayStation Mobile, UFO Dad. He is also Lead Designer at Adrian Crook & Associates, a social/mobile game design consultancy.
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