Gamification: regulation presents a challenge not a hurdle

Gaining inspiration from outside of the industry, viewing increasing regulation as an opportunity and not a hurdle, and augmenting gameplay with loyalty layers, each formed a central focus to a Safe Affiliate Programs sponsored gamification panel on day one of the CasinoBeats Summit.

Taking place as part of the Soft2Bet sponsored ‘Slots 2021′ track at the hybrid event, Philippe Joos, head of product and innovation at Napoleon Sports & Casino, tackled the evolving regulatory landscape, and looked at how much freedom operators have to diversify in regulated markets, particularly when looking at what were billed as “heavy handed” regions.

Citing Belgium, Sweden and the UK as examples, he commented: “The industry trend is that everything gets more regulated and more strict. Now, we often see regulation as a hurdle, but actually we should see it more as an opportunity.

“As an example with bonuses, in every country now it’s like bonuses will be limited, the amount of bonuses will be limited, so this is a big challenge, but actually it’s also a huge opportunity because the playing field will be leveled. 

“Bigger operators normally have more money that they can spend on higher bonuses, now if bonuses get restricted everyone is forced to rethink every mechanism and this will give an opportunity to everyone, bigger operators and smaller operators. 

“Even the small operators can, if they tackle the problem in the right way, gain a competitive advantage over a bigger operator if they are faster or smarter in tackling regulation. 

“So, I believe with gamification, in a stricter industry it gives us more opportunities. Also, it doesn’t only need to be monetary rewards through gamification, it can also be non-monetary, so there’s is a huge opportunity.”

Joos was joined on the panel by Stefania Mincu, CPO at Ellmount Group; Alexis Wicén, co-founder, at Unibo; Chris Scicluna Farrugia, chief product officer at Ichiban Ventures; and Mark Grech, head of gaming and business development at Gamelounge Group.

On moderating duty was Russell Mifsud, director and head of gaming at KPMG Malta, who set the scene by talking of restrictions that have kind of come about as a result of tightened regulation, and which is forcing operators to be more creative in everything that they do. 

“I think that players in general are seeking that thrill of beating the system”

Stefania Mincu, CPO at Ellmount Group.

“If we take a step back and we look and igaming and the land-based side of things, the core aspect of igaming is of course that you don’t have the luxury of having the land-based doors and a person there who you can wine and dine and provide an experience,” Mifsud elaborated.

“In igaming you have got to be able to attract and retain the attention and engagement of your players from the go, and gamification and mechanics can often be used to leverage that. 

“A key aspect, which we particularly see in the US at this moment in time, is a convergence of sphere of industries, we are looking at igaming, esports, video games, sports in general, and media. Where these industries are coming together and creating a new superpower if you like, a new profile of industry operators.”

Looking at the example of Penn National Gaming and its Bartsool entity, created and bolstered through M&A transactions, he added: “This is in indication that the game is changing and this is why we need to be looking outside what we have looked at in the past, as regulation within Europe continues to evolve, and the industry focuses more on retention, gamification becomes more and more of a strategic tool.”

As a new generation of player demands a richer gaming experience and expects more immersive gameplay and glossy CRM interfaces, entertainment has arguably become central focus, as opposed to winning, argued Mifsud. 

After quizzing Mincu on the importance of gamification in delivering perceived value to the player, the Ellmount CPO spoke of a need of progressing as the industry does in a smooth and subjective way, and not treating loyalty measures based on a generational gap.

“I think that players in general are seeking that thrill of beating the system, of feeling that they are the special one that triggered that feature and that they are the chosen one, let’s say,” she noted.

“So, I see gamification as a tool of helping us to create a hub to increase and prolong that feeling of feeling special. And I don’t think that it is only the younger generation, I think it’s the world overall, if we look around us at the system and apps we are using everything is happening now, its instant and we want it yesterday. So, its the entire world that wants things delivered instantly and as smooth as possible.” 

“A gamification layer should always augment the experience and not take over”

Chris Scicluna Farrugia, chief product officer at Ichiban Ventures.

Wicén subsequently picked up the conversation, noting that: “I think all people would like to get entertained more and I do believe that not a lot of people play casino or sports betting to actually win, they play to be entertained.

“I believe that gamification should be entered into to be a subreason for players to play for the main reasons, it should never take over the gameplay itself but rather be an additional level of entertainment.”

Before adding: “I think a lot of players play because they love the games, they love the casino or they love the sports betting, but I do think that there’s always a gamification angle that you can put on top of that too make it more engaging for every player. 

“A gamification angle shouldn’t overtake the game itself, because then you should just make a game with that gamification and add some more gamification on top of that game rather than building a new game. 

“Don’t do too much, but always drive the customer and motivate them to play a little bit more for some extra reason other than just the game itself.” 

Points that Farrugia echoed in issuing a reiteration on the varying thrills and mechanics by saying that they “cannot overtake the reason why people come to play the product, the product market for this is that they want to play slots, that’s why they are coming, so a gamification layer should always augment the experience and not take over”.

The CasinoBeats Summit 2021 conference and exhibition on July 14-15 takes place in an innovative integrated live and digital format. A select audience of senior executives will attend in person at the InterContinental in St Julian’s, Malta, while a global audience of industry professionals will participate in the event online. 

The conference agenda focuses on the next generation of slots and products, key established and emerging markets around the world, leadership in igaming, and marketing and affiliation. The programme also includes the inaugural Game Developer Awards ceremony. 

Register for a free online pass for the event at the CasinoBeats Summit website.

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