It’s a striking statistic, but it’s estimated that by 2020 (that’s just four years’ time), a full 50% of the UK workforce will be made up by millennials. While you might not like that specific name (preferring instead, perhaps, Generation Y, or simply ‘young people’?), the fact is, these people make up the future of the gambling market, and as more and more of them come of gambling age, the question on everyone’s lips is what can the industry do to attract their attention.
One trend that seems to be gaining a lot more attention as time goes on is the trend towards social gaming, and the rejection of the stuffy old ways of playing. So if millennial players are dead set on playing against each other, does this sound the death toll for traditional online gaming, with users playing against the house?
So what are millennials after, and why? Well, one simple answer is that they’re after social gaming; this is the most connected generation, and they’re used to connecting with friends and other users to work collaboratively or go head to head. Instead of entering hermetic apps where they play against a computer generated dealer, their tastes are far more geared towards entering ecosystems populated by other players to interact with and compete against. But it’s not just all about the social element, there’s far more at play than just that.
Video games and high quality freemium app games have had a massive impact on the expectations of younger players. There has for the last decade or so been a race to the top in terms of graphics and performance in these types of games, in a way that has yet to be seen in the gambling sector proper. That has led to a much more competitive marketplace centred way more about user demands than in gambling.
Freemium app games bring with them a double peril, not only is the content of a higher quality, but the way users interact with that content has shifted expectations. Being able to use and play games for free, with the optional extras of in-app purchases, has made millennials averse to the dogmatic necessity in mobile and online gambling to deposit and play away their cash.
The Response From The Gambling Industry
There’s clearly no single right answer when it comes to the matter of how to please millennials and there are as many attitudes towards the issue as there are proposed solution. On one end of the scale you have developers who are trying to keep their traditional models relevant by updating them for the current day.
NetEnt, for example, has led the way in recent years towards better graphics and performance, turning their games into near cinematic masterpieces, and filling them with brand new and exciting features. NetEnt has also just announced it will be dipping its toes into the world of virtual reality, but notably its first release will be the near 7 year old Gonzo’s Quest – this isn’t a vision of revolution, merely evolution.
So, what if you wanted to step completely outside the old models, instead of simply bringing the old ones up to date? The online and mobile gambling industry is famous for disregarding developments it considers faddish, but it’s exactly this trait that will be its undoing as millennials begin to account for greater and greater shares of the market.
Virtual reality may well be the way to go, but new ways of playing must be created to make that shift work. And while eSports and monetised video games are gaining some attention in the traditional spheres, established brands will lose out to newcomers if they don’t work to develop these trends themselves.
It seems like the writing is on the wall for the traditional online and mobile casino model. The question that remains is whether the extant industry will rise to the challenge set by millennials, or if newer companies with fresher ideas will usurp their place where players don't have to play simply against the house.