We make it a point to stay on top of video gaming trends at Product Development Technologies (PDT), as these technology and cultural influences tend to quickly resonate across many markets.
The casino gaming world is no exception. And like every other industry, the smart minds here are asking “How do we remain relevant to our next generation of customers?”
PDT has been thinking about these gaming trends, and how they might influence the industry as it evolves to engage the next generation of gamer. Based on observations we made at industry gatherings such as the E3 Electronic Entertainment Expo and the recent Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas, there are four video trends that bear watching and may help determine what Millennials (people born between 1980 and 2000) want from the casino gaming experience going forward.
Millennials by the numbers
• 33: the age of the oldest Millennials in 2013
• There are about 79 million Millennials in the U.S., versus 48 million Gen Xers.
• 43 percent of Millennials don’t watch even an hour of television each day, because they prefer to play social games on the Internet or on a mobile device.
• 56 percent of Millennials think technology helps people use their time more efficiently.
• 80 percent of Millennials sleep with phones next to their beds.
• 24 percent of Millennials say that “technology use” is what most makes their generation unique, the top answer.
• 63 percent of Millennials want to be the first to share news and information.
• 44 percent are willing to promote products or services through social media in exchange for rewards.
• 65 percent of Millennials say losing their phone or computer would have a greater negative impact on their daily routine than losing their car.
• Half say they travel for leisure with friends—20 points higher than older generations.
• More than 75 percent have their mobile devices while in store as a trusted personal shopping assistant and 73 percent are already transacting directly on their mobile devices.
• 46 percent say they’ve had vigorous exercise in the past 24 hours.
• They are 14 percent more likely to consider whether a store is fun to shop at when assessing their shopping experience.
• 43 percent of 18-24 year-olds say that texting is just as meaningful as an actual conversation with someone over the phone.
ENGAGEMENT, CHOICE, CREATIVE CONTROL
Today’s video games lean heavily toward a more immersive entertainment experience where the player interacts with the story of the game, much like scenes from a movie—engaging in the backstory of characters and situations, making conscious choices about how to move forward.
Rather than finding their bliss in the monotony of pulling a lever and banking on chance, future casino patrons are far more likely to look for games which make the content more engaging. For instance, traditional slots might be replaced by consoles that incorporate mini-games and narratives driven by the outcome of the spinning wheels, and provide rewards in the form of continued plot lines that keep players sitting on the edge of their seats (and, coincidentally, encourage continued game play...)
Examples of this trend in the video gaming world include the Kingdom Hearts collaboration between Square Enix and Disney Interactive Studios. The main character, Sora, interacts with characters from Disney, Final Fantasy and The World Ends With You while searching for his friends. Meanwhile, in Naughty Dog’s Uncharted Series for PS3, Nathan Drake, an adventurous, modern treasure hunter works to unearth historical mysteries.
SOCIAL, SOCIAL, SOCIAL
|Words With Friends|
As technology makes this increasingly possible, the next generation of gamers will want to feed their need to connect even while gambling. Options to share their triumph with friends via Facebook and other social media are low-hanging fruit, but active social gaming—the ability to play a game with another person somewhere else in the same casino, for example—may also hold a great deal of promise.
Ramped up to the next level, true “social gaming” requires real-time interaction to progress in a game. This is by no means a new phenomenon (think old school pen-and-paper Dungeons and Dragons, which required groups of players to work together to bypass trials), but with today’s wireless connectivity the possibilities for creatively engaging today’s gamers are almost limitless.
In the video gaming realm, this type of wireless connectivity is present in Words with Friends, a wildly popular multiplayer game played by millions on Facebook through iPhone and Android devices. Nintendo’s Mario Party features a multiplayer mode that allows up to eight local or remote people to compete in a shared board game.
SECOND SCREEN TECHNOLOGY
Innovations enabled by “second-screen” technology abound. Gaming on mobile devices has already become the norm, and innovative ways of using a small display on game controllers to extend features and functionality (i.e. the Wii U and Nvidia Shield) have unlocked new potential on proven platforms.
Imagine virtual digital dice on a mobile phone that can be shaken and “thrown” at a craps table, or a phone which serves as a virtual wallet to store “chips” (including those the casino loads as bonuses to reward continued play).
Examples of this trend in the non-casino world include the Second Screen Live showing of Disney’s The Little Mermaid. An iPad with Disney’s app created for the screening augments the viewer’s experience with sing-a-longs, games and trivia. The Nvidia Shield—a portable gaming consol—allows streaming of games on a PC and will also support Nvidia’s cloud gaming service, GRID, in the future.
VIRTUAL CURRENCY AND PYSICAL POWER UPS
While cash, as they say, is king, trends in video gaming show that players can be equally motivated by virtual currency. Rather than winning a small amount of money, digital poker consoles might reward players with upgraded on-screen chips, or the ability to personalize an avatar that they can carry from game-to-game.
“Power ups” are a relatively new concept in the gaming world, but have taken the industry by storm. Console titles like Skylanders and Disney Infinity are built around physical, collectible figures which (when placed on a special interface) allow those characters to appear in-game with unique powers and the ability to unlock new modes of play. What if casinos offered regular customers a series of similar collectibles that could be placed on a slot machine to open up similar potential? These could become as much a way to keep players engaged as their hoped-for (and infrequent) jackpots.
These are just a few examples of video gaming trends that could influence casino gaming machines now and in the future. How successful such integrations would be in driving younger clientele to casino floors and websites remains to be seen. One thing is certain however: casino gaming will evolve. And casino game developers are well positioned to benefit from the way gaming outside their walls has grown into a $66 billion business—one that’s central to the lives of so many potential new players.
Product Development Technologies is an Illinois-based product design and development consultant and partner of Telefonix, who owns Airistar, a long time supplier of air purifying systems for the casino industry. They can be reached at www.pdt.com.
Sources: ComScore, Forbes, Pew Social Trends, Millennial Generation Research Review, Zipcar, PGAV Destinations Study 2011, Millennialmarketing.com, Huffington Post.