The gaming industry has come a way too far since the days of playing Pong in your friend’s living room. Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality, newly transformed graphics, and a commitment to storytelling have made the games of today more enfolding and interesting than ever before. One of such developments to take the gaming industry to the next level has been the Internet of Things (IoT).
As the Internet of Things, the online gaming industry has seen incredible year-over-year growth with the proliferation of the Internet and mobile computing. In the past decade, the worldwide market has nearly tripled from $14 billion in 2005 to $41 billion in 2015. Mobile casino games, in particular, have seen explosive growth with the increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets.
By 2018, annual wagers on mobile devices were to exceed approximately $62 billion globally. Games that are free-to-play, while different from traditional online gaming platforms are among today’s highest grossing games on Apple’s App Store. These games differ in their use of in-app purchases and virtual currencies to drive player engagement and build revenue.
Game operators are already dependent on analytics to track player involvement and keep players interested. Loyalty programs have historically managed this by rewarding players and provide incentives for continuing to play, while still allowing the operator to maximize returns. This requires a lot of decision making and data processing: to accomplish this, physical casinos rely heavily on cameras, sensors, and feedback from dealers to provide the data needed to make these decisions. With IoT and online gaming, much of this process can be automated.
The IoT has the potential to revolutionize online gaming in one of two ways: by bridging the physical gap between the platform and the player, and by integrating online platforms with physical casinos.
The IoT is spearheaded in part by the increased use of mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets contain an array of sensors – cameras, accelerometers, touch and pressure sensors, and even heart rate monitors – that mobile apps can tap into to collect and report data about the user’s experience. We’re seeing a new market appear in fitness bands and smartwatches, which communicate with mobile devices to display notifications, track health and activity, and even manage calls and SMS messages right from the user’s wrist.
So now the question comes is, how it is related to online gaming? By tracking and inspecting the right data sets, online gaming platforms can learn over time how customers interact with and respond to online games. Much like how casinos can analyze player reactions through facial expressions, speech, and nonverbal cues, mobile devices provide a variety of ways to measure player satisfaction during the course of a game.
The move with mobile gaming platforms is that they have to balance out data collection with player privacy. When a player walks into a casino, there’s a mutual understanding that the player can be monitored over the course of their stay there. With the IoT, the play area shifts from the casino’s property to the player’s property, and the relationship becomes more nuanced. For example, mobile apps require explicit acceptance from the user before they can even be installed on the device. Mobile data collection is useful, but it has to be done in a way that respects the user’s privacy, or otherwise makes the agreement perfectly apparent.
The second way the IoT can impact online gaming is through integration with the physical gaming experience. This is applicable not only to casinos but to any game platforms that share a common player tracking system. With casinos today, the operator can only really generate revenue if a player is physically present. To encourage this, marketing departments and customer outreach programs spend much of their time encouraging players to return to the casino through discount and rewards programs. The downside to this approach is that it’s a one-way street: the casino can reach out to the player, but the only way to really measure the success of the outreach is whether or not the player returns.
With devices that are internet-ready, casinos and game operators have more tools to engage with players. The convenience of having poker or slots in the palm of your hand makes it much easier for players to “return” to the casino without having to make a trip. It also provides a new way for operators to communicate with players, either explicitly through surveys and customer feedback or implicitly through analytics and data collection.
Perhaps more importantly, it offers a way for players to continue playing anywhere and at any time. And while players might only be able to squeeze in a game or two here and there, the numbers add up: market research firm Juniper Research estimates that the mobile gaming market will increase from 64 million users in 2013 to 164 million users in 2018, surpassing $100 billion in revenue by 2017.
The magic of mobile gaming is that it provides an environment for players that are comfortable, convenient, and always connected. Game operators can keep players engrossed through periodic notifications, loyalty rewards that can be redeemed immediately, and by receiving consistent feedback from players and devices. Extending the realm of online gaming to wearable devices and other Internet-ready devices gives game operators even more opportunities to keep players engaged.