By James Smith
The online casino industry is constantly growing and evolving; it has to, since the fast pace of change by market leaders means that bettors expect to see these ‘new and trending’ developments everywhere.
Plus, players are by nature acclimatized to high-tech, exciting gameplay, since that’s a routine feature of most casinos these days. To stand out, therefore, a top online casino really has to be innovative and ground-breaking.
But as gameplay trends develop, so too do the regulations that help to shape them.
This means that not only do those in the online casino sector constantly need to innovate with their product development, but they also must remain alert to the many regulatory changes going into 2020 and beyond. Those lacking a firm grasp of both areas will invariably find themselves left in the wake.
Here are the top 5 key online casino trends of 2020; together, they will drive gaming innovation and shape the future of the industry.
1. Content as a Commodity
Online casino content is created to ensure all players can find the perfect individual game for their tastes. With so many games being published all the time, though, it’s tough to stand out from the rest of the field.
Every month, publishers release the next ‘original’ game from their production lines, boasting new tech and gameplay as an attempt to entice new gamers and convince experienced players to try their product.
But are these new games actually original?
The most successful games are often quite similar to ones the players already know and like. For example, they usually have unique reel arrays and have a theme that engages with the players, but they’re a new spin–literally–on an older concept.
Therefore, it can be assumed that this strategy is based on an “if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it” basis.
Another successful content creation strategy relies on using what businesses know their customers enjoy, i.e. user recommendations, directly obtained via reviews or acquired from–for example–AI-observed user patterns.
This strategy is already used cross-sectorally, with huge brands like Spotify and Netflix becoming leaders in their respective industries.
These are just two ways in which online casinos can create engaging content for their customers, even in such an incredibly competitive market. However, new content does have other hurdles to overcome, the biggest being that it must be presented simply while remaining unique and attractive. Conveying ‘at a glance’ the complexities or intricacies of enhanced or innovative gaming products to an increasingly savvy but impatient marketplace is certainly a challenge.
2. Acquiring and Nurturing Players
Online casinos are tasked with trying to attract new players while still keeping those on board who are satisfied with the historical gaming offering.
The cost of this challenge increases all the time. Thanks to restrictions on advertising and the idea of responsible gaming becoming so key to industry survival, it’s never been harder for an online casino to stay connected to players.
In order to keep an existing player, a casino must know its clients’ playing habits and demographics inside out, enabling them to create ideal playing scenarios based on observed behavior. As such, then, new launches will ‘market themselves’ to an audience already ripe to pick up new games.
This shift to providing a personalized service has impacted many sectors, and online gaming is just one of them. For example, according to this review on OnlineCasinoGems, Bovada–one of the biggest casino brands in the US–has totally shifted its efforts toward producing a tailored experience for its clientele.
By analyzing data from analytics tools and understanding customers’ needs, casinos like Bovada are able to produce much more effective strategies to acquire and nurture players, keeping them engaged with the brand.
3. Understanding Mobile Gaming
The majority of online gaming occurs on mobile devices. As more online gaming businesses adopt mobile play, the number of people playing on their smartphones or tablets will only increase.
As such, it is vital to create an excellent, stable, consistent gaming experience capable of delivering flawless mobile gameplay to millions of users.
Above all, systems have to be credible and trustworthy; any slight imperfection that ‘ruins’ a game for players is going to dent a casino’s brand, not least due to the nature and scale of possible losses incurred–alongside an increased atmosphere of gameplay live chat where an online casino’s users can interconnect with each other like never before.
Thus, creating and upholding almost-perfect mobile gameplay is one challenge other industries rarely face.
Even small aspects of mobile usage are magnified when betting and gaming are involved. The ‘portrait vs. landscape’ debate has raged for years, and even this crosses into online casinos. But one thing is for certain: those that curate the most engaging mobile experience are the most successful, and in this market, the UX really matters.
For example, according to this review of the casino, Slots of Vegas actually runs better on mobile than on a desktop or laptop, and this is an aspect always under scrutiny. If the biggest casino brands don’t have needle-sharp mobile gameplay, they won’t hold their rankings. It’s that simple.
Mobile gaming is certainly a trend that is going to be shaping the online casino industry in 2020 and beyond.
4. Regulation, Regulation, Regulation
This is of vital importance for anyone involved in online gaming. Players now expect certain standards to be met by their providers. If they’re not met, they can easily find another provider to meet it.
Worse still for the online casinos, the whole world’s gameplay is available to customers now; notwithstanding restrictive licensing laws and differences from market to market, bettors can access play in global locations they could only dream about a decade ago. So, if something makes gameplay difficult at one casino, they know they can simply seek out another.
As an example, one new regulation coming into play in 2020 is that players in the UK will no longer be able to use their credit cards to fund their online casino accounts; this is one example that could see UK bettors trying to seek gameplay at other casinos overseas, although blocks in place on credit cards from the UK may still interfere–but this kind of change is at least a major lever inciting online casinos’ bettors to look around at the possibilities.
As such–and as this change in the regulatory environment is only one of dozens–regulators are developing an especially keen eye. The licensing bodies of each country will ensure that those in the industry are held firmly accountable should they fail to meet their ever-evolving policies.
This should not come as a surprise.
In fact, changes in regulations are very much expected. Regulators are integral to the online gaming industry, so staying ahead is paramount to anyone looking to achieve success in this field.
5. Artificial Intelligence and the Use of Data
Data sits at the heart of decision-making processes. From executives steering the company’s direction to employees on the deck, all business processes should now be made using incisive data, providing players with a personalized experience and fueling the growth of better-attuned new product development.
Now, thanks to the development of artificial intelligence (AI) and machine-learning techniques, data can now be processed faster than ever before, and all in real-time. High 5 Casino Games, for example, is such a company that even uses machine-learning techniques within the programming of its games.
There are plenty of ways that this can enhance an online gaming company’s offering, such as creating a recommendation engine capable of suggesting similar games, or techniques to spot unusual behavior.
This also enables those in the online gaming industry to better control gamers and simultaneously better satisfy those evolving gaming standards and regulations.
It doesn’t stop there.
AI, machine learning and data will all play a part at the software level. The days of having a traditional dashboard will be replaced by a responsive, informative interface. Should there be any holes, technology won’t just tell the casino where they are, but it will also indicate how to patch them.
Further, employees will be able to spend more of their time on making decisions that matter and that impact the business, as opposed to executing mundane, everyday tasks–many of which will simply be eradicated by AI.
The online gaming industry is always changing, becoming sharper, more regulated, more innovative, more responsive–and it’s natural that more is also expected by players.
Online gaming trends are fueled by advancements in technology and innovation, helping those in the industry to improve products and services in search of the ultimate customer experience.
Yet, behind it all, who is really in charge?
Does the innovation of casinos drive consumers, or do consumer demands drive casino innovation? We think the consumer is firmly in the driving seat of the casino of the future, the online casino that’s already being developed now in 2020. Advancements in every area of technology mean that–just as in every other area–bettors’ expectations have never been higher.
Where casinos fail to meet these expectations, there’s always another that will–and that is where the gaming community of 2020 and beyond will be found.