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Rise of online real money gaming; and how it can grow with its offline counterpart?

For long, the real money gaming industry had carried the persona of bright and shiny casinos, roulettes, long rows of slot machines, high stake poker tables, etc. However, in the world where internet has penetrated into each and every aspect of our lives, gaming is no exception. Online gaming has gained tremendous eyeballs over the past few years. In its latest avatar, online gaming has added another subset that involves real money. While it has been existent worldwide for quite some time now, countries such as the U.S. had banned it in the past. Nonetheless, with the Government’s recent move to legalize complete or partial internet gaming involving real money we might witness the coming of age of the online gaming and an exponential upsurge in the number of loyalists in the gaming world.

Research experts value the online gaming industry—regulated and involving real money—to be somewhere between $30-40 billion, as of 2012. Yet, the actual market size is difficult to predict given the nature of business, hence it could well be five to ten times the current estimation.

The rise of casual online real money gamers is pertinent due to increasing number of customers wanting to indulge; this is augmented by the mushrooming of mobile devices such as tablets and smartphones. Certain other drivers that have resulted in increased online gaming activity among this segment of gaming aficionados are: ease of access and instant gratification at the convenience of our fingertips; amplified reach among casual and serious gamers on account of burgeoning innovative games; and an unparalleled social and fun experience for the customers.

The online real money gaming industry is at the cusp of a large scale disruption, but it can certainly co-exist and complement its offline counterparts in increasing engagement and profitability. Here I have tried to capture different ways in which this can be realized by leveraging cross-industry learning too.

 

Understanding adoption patterns among customers and industry leaders

Online services need to accept and adapt to a change and rewrite existing operating models and practices in order to thrive and gain competitive advantage over others. Much like other industries that have ridden the internet wave— unsettling existing business model—casinos that are getting into the online space, and their customers, can be bucketed under different categories in the adoption curve: innovators, early adopters, majority and laggards.

Few companies in the technology and manufacturing space were able to capitalize on this phenomenon while leveraging the online space. Using pre-built models they were able to understand the demand dynamics of a product and user acceptance levels of the products & services. Gaming companies too can capitalize on this understanding of the customer and sail the internet wave by answering key questions such as: “what”, “when” and “how” to cater to a diverse set of audience”?

 

Creating a unique and cohesive customer experience

Banking and retail companies have a definite edge over their counterparts in other industries by way of operating with an integrated approach to unify customer experience. In that respect, traditional casinos can stand to benefit more over pure internet gaming companies by providing a richer customer experience offline. For instance: a trip to a preferred destination or special / exclusive invite to an event.

Loyalty and reward schemes are not new to engage and in fact delight a customer. However, it’s a challenge for pure online companies as it could mean additional costs and may entail striking new partnerships. Traditional casinos who are trying to foray into online gaming can leverage their existing customer network— many of who might already be a part of some reward program – and try to bridge the offline reward programs with the online one.  

Product innovation

Adoption of online gaming is only half the battle won — the gaming product itself should transform, while giving users a unique experience. Case in point is music industry where iTunes store manage user experience as opposed to music labels simply being sold online.

Further, companies poised to develop breakthrough online game need to understand certain ground rules, such as,

  • Product innovation: Game designers and manufacturers need to gauge if a game has the potential to go viral, keeping in mind the entire gamut of gamers, including serious gamers or casual / social gamers. Companies can also look at complementing it with accessories such as 3 D glasses, as developed by Oculus Rift, to enhance and enrich experience for serious gamers.
  • Such games will require a continuous evolution and refresh in order to keep pace with latest trends in the real world.

 

Conclusion

The online gaming, as we know, is poised to become the vanguard of a revolution, as the space — both from a service provider and service seeker perspective — is increasingly getting crowded. A lot of best practices can be learned and improved upon from other industries and can be used to create unique and personalized experience(s) for the gamers. It also leaves a lot of scope to ideate and innovate via cross-industry learning and cross pollination of thoughts, galvanizing the growth.  This, backed by technological breakthroughs, such as bid data and analytics can help scale the success of such online gaming platforms and define a new means for gauging (and enhancing) customer experience.

Special thanks to Anuj Krishna, Gopi Vikranth and Ritwik Raj for their inputs.

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