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Gambling personas and motivators for casino game design

August 5 Sandra Wong

Prior to social games and free2play, there hasn’t been much need to ‘reinvent’ the wheel in casinos games as most feel that the most popular casino games are good as is as they are tried and true.

Slots are slots, blackjack is blackjack, poker is poker… and with this kind of mentality, it’s no wonder casino games have seen such little innovation in the last few decades compared to other game genres. But with the rise of social games and technology, the landscape for casino innovation has changed. Technology has allowed us to map out in real time the behaviors of gamers & gamblers alike, and this data has shown trends, like in any other industry, we need to keep up as designers and operators.

A big common mistake I see when people launch a new social casino title is thinking they can just ‘socialize’ a casino game but creating a social wrapper around the games and thinking it will just work. I see social casino products that have everything plus the kitchen sink including leaderboards, badging systems, bonusing systems, progressive leveling, farm building, inventory collections blah blah… and still come out to be a rather dry and dull experience. While the general idea may be there, the execution of why & when may not be.

So today, we will focus on particularly gambling personas. We need to understand the difference between the gambler psychology vs. the casual player in order to design features for them that matter.

To design features that will matter to the gambling player, we need to first understand why people gamble. From there we then create features that can possibly change habits and influence behaviors. This should ideally come before any team starts to design game features which many times isn’t the case.

So why do people gamble?

What motivates people to gambleis different from person to person. Rarely it’s one reason, but a combination of multiple reasons. A better question to ask rather than ‘Why do people gamble?’ is ‘What do people get out of gambling?’. These questions virtually result in the same answers, but the latter I find is more helpful in trying to pinpoint motivators.

So what do people get out of gambling?

I believe it is safe to say that the majority of people don’t want to lose. Even those that seem they like losing, such as those degenerate masochists like my father, they don’t like it, but are rather use to it. So for simplicity sake, everyone has the desire to win is our start and concluding that winning is the common motivator for all players. People play games to win something. So let’s explore this ‘something’? I call these individual win motivators ‘winning elements’.

Winning elements are essentially positive results to why one may play/gamble and they include:

  • Entertainment (Having fun)
  • Leisure (Past time, kill boredom)
  • Feel Good (Pride, Confidence)
  • Escapism (Vacation, Zone out)
  • Socialization (Be a part of the excitement)
  • Financial gain (Money, Status)
  • Mastery (Skills, Level up)

So you can see there are many different reasons for why people may gamble, and these reasons can also change depending on other external & internal circumstances and motivators. Now that we know that what motivates one player may not necessarily motivate another, what does industry data about what attracts users:

  • More than 60 percent of those surveyed favored small and frequent payouts over larger, sporadic payouts;
  • 52 percent of the respondents played video poker, while about 24 percent played video blackjack;
  • Only 33 percent like machines with progressive jackpots, but of those who did, an overwhelming 70 percent said their favorite game was Wheel of Fortune;
  • Women are more into functional motives – the social experience, the excitement and the fun – whereas men tend to look more at the financial rewards. They want to make money
  • The most common profile of a real money land-based slot machine enthusiast was a female homeowner, between the ages of 55 and 60, with at least some college education and an annual household income of more than $55,000.
  • The most common profile for a social gamer are women 35-45
  • Only 18.9 percent said having a themed game was important. Among those who liked themed games, 23.8 percent would choose a board game, 60.8 percent would choose a game show theme, and 56.8 percent liked action movie themes (respondents could choose more than one category);
  • The most popular video poker games were “Jacks or Better” (31.8 percent), followed by “Deuces Wild” (21 percent) and “Double Double Bonus” (16.9 percent).

Src: Sandy Chen, International Journal of Contemporary Hospitality Management Research on Slot Machine Profiles. 2013

What are the differences between social casino gamers and real money casino gamblers? Follow me as I will talk about this in my next post as well as the types of real money gamblers vs. social casino players. I also tweet @astrogurl. Thanks for reading! 🙂


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