EDITORIAL: Keep the change
February 13, 2013
The older I get, the more I think I understand and the less I know that I know.
I mean, I’ll be honest, the complexity of many things just overwhelms me sometimes, and I respect the plight of anyone who has to make an intelligent decision about something substantial, and, slot managers, that includes you.
Look at the casino; it’s a place where people take risks, so you’d think on the face of it they’d be open to change. But the casino is also an escape from change, a place of refuge from the outside world and its whole grab bag of change, which is very often unwanted. Do you have players who want nothing, and I mean nothing, to change? Probably more than a few. They want to play the same game, located at the same place, to be greeted by the same person, be served by the same waitress, and eat the same food they like at the same price they’re used to paying. Are they being stubborn, or just human?
Lots of operators complain about the price of new games, and they’ll say the games they have that are five years or older do just as well or better than the new games. Part of that could be simple, pardon the pun, gamesmanship, but part of it is undoubtedly true. Most operators are dealing with a customer base with an average age of around 55, a time of life when attitudes can harden and reality itself certainly does. People might be open to something new, but they want it to be at least somewhat familiar. That’s the power of themed games that can either bring back fond memories or at least carry something already known along with the new. If players can actually understand the game itself, what they’re betting and how much they’re winning and losing, that’s a plus, too.
Some things about the past really were better. Being young was fun. Escaping was easy and fun. Not watching the clock was fun. That’s where the casino comes in, and change isn’t always the enemy. A lot of the technologies that have been introduced to the slot floor, while they may have reduced human interaction, have actually increased the fun, from TITO (hopper fills; does anyone actually miss them?) to kiosks to mobile hosting. That elusive thing that people strive for, the win/win, actually happens sometimes. And the personal technologies that can at times seem intrusive are also proving to be very adept at hooking people of all ages up to the opportunity to have fun.
But slot managers and casino marketers face an extra burden. They have to strive to make losers happy. Your regular players are happiest when winning, but the far more common form of satisfaction is being able to enjoy a property when and how they like to enjoy it for as long as they want to before they lose. The genius of the casino industry is that it has made an enterprise out of that feeling. It’s often said that the business is becoming more marketing-centric because the supply and demand equation makes marketing the most important competitive frontier, and that’s true. Many of you are chasing the same customers with the same games and technologies in the same market, which is filled with players who will shop you to death. But the real field of play is between you and your customer. Getting good at the Right Offer to the Right Player at the Right Time sweepstakes just might get you on the right side of the keep-the-change customer, who will often choose consistency and reliability over the prospect of an object that may or may not be brighter and shinier.