In an article that ran in January 2017 Casino Journal, my colleague Haig Sokouyan discussed the three resources needed to build and run an online social casino: financial backing, talent and targets.
In this issue, I’d like to build upon that topic and address—once the above three criteria have been met—how does one go about designing a site that is distinct, appealing, engaging and functional.
There are four key design considerations for anyone building a social casino:
- Approach the project as an entertainer. The first consideration for designing a social casino is leading with the fundamental understanding that you are creating a piece of entertainment software. This is what divides a social casino platform from a real-money platform; your player base will be visiting your social casino for the sole purpose of finding entertainment, and while your content will do the heavy lifting in this regard, holistically the entire design of the product needs to reflect this sentiment. The goal is to create an emotional connection with your player on all levels. This is achieved with attention and care to the overall visual style of your product.
Visual finesse and consistency are keys to achieving an experience your players will thrive on. Leaning on the strength of a talented art team to create animations and effects that play during moments of accomplishment, such as level ups and big wins, will associate positive emotions with these behaviors and drive your players to continue engaging in your product.
Congruent to this is coupling your visual identify with a strong user experience (UX). Understanding your player’s behaviors through case studies and user testing will allow you to build a product that feels natural to use, getting your player to the areas of the game they want to be as frictionless and seamlessly as possible.
- Attain the right look and feel. When you’re building a B2B social casino product, high quality visuals aren’t enough on their own. Truly understanding your brand is necessary to really engage casinos players off the floor. Think of the social casino as an extension of the land-based casino—this is the virtual property. Spend time on the property and really understand what makes the casino great, then spend time developing style guides and an art theme that will make the players feel like they’re playing where they love to play—the physical casino.
- Understand the metagame. A key strength to building a social casino is that you can take liberties when creating features in the game that encourage desired behaviors. This is the metagame: quests, achievements, levels and other fun activities that reward players for participating in activities that benefit the ultimate KPIs and keep them having fun.
At the core, these features need to focus on supporting the actions the player already wants to do—like spinning and winning—if you stray too far from this or create additional activities and barriers for rewards, the player will likely not engage in the way you want.
- Attain a balance of components. Finally we need to bring all these components together in a way that balances masterfully. Game balance is an art that we’ve honed through our years of experience building games as entertainment. Knowing the right moments to rewards the player, or when to make them work for their reward just a little harder are super important aspects of keeping your players happy. If they feel like they’re working too hard for little reward, then your players will resent you. On the other hand, if you reward them too often or with too much, then you will break your economy.
In the end marrying game balance with the metagame and UX are really what will make a product that is solid, sustainable and successful in all areas.
Designing a social casino is tricky. It’s both an art and a science that is continually evolving as the industry grows and the players become more sophisticated and demanding. But it is also a very exciting time, one that invites and rewards experimentation. As long as you keep these four considerations in mind, be as creative as possible! Your players will thank you for it.