A new way to play

Much has been said about trying to bring younger players to slots in a bricks-and-mortar casino, but with so much competition for the leisure pound or dollar, it’s easier said than done. Players in their 40s have been brought up on Super Famicom, PlayStation; younger players on a whole other level of gaming, with PS2 and 3, Xbox and Wii. Players want more from their gaming experience, to the extent of being entertained on a more videogame-like level, to come away with value even if they don’t win. And that’s where Gamify comes in to the equation, with the development of a software platform that works as a separate layer to the game software but is still an integrated part of the player’s experience. Imagine it deployed across a property, combined with player tracking and you have a huge new player loyalty add-on.
Nathan Lands, CEO of Gamify, talked to Casino International about their development.

Casino International: Tell us about Gamify…
Nathan Lands: At Gamify we are building a Gamification Platform specifically for use within the casino industry. What we’re trying to do is bring a lot of the elements you might find in a traditional video game, like having achievements, quests that a player can go on, and applying that to casino games.

CI: So it’s to make it more like a modern gaming experience for the generation of players that have grown up on console or PC gaming?
NL: Correct. We rolled out our Beta version in February, and we have been working on a Gamification Platform for another industry for the last two years, while honing it for the casino industry for most of the last year. We met with a lot of the major players in the industry at G2E in 2012, showing our technology and getting some feedback. There was gigantic interest in simple Gamification features like badges, having things you can unlock as you play… The thing that makes a lot of sense for the casino industry is that you can introduce features to keep a player engaged whether they are winning money or losing money – there are still secrets they can unlock, for example, it’s not just about the jackpot or whatever. They can keep coming back to the game as a result whether it’s bricks and mortar or an online casino, or a connected version of both.
We worked on the Gamification Platform originally, as mentioned, for two years or so, and didn’t find a niche it really filled – like, on a web site, would it get tiring with badges awarded everywhere? Then we looked at using it in enterprise, for employee motivation, for example on a company site. Some companies have used it really well for that. But we were still looking for that niche – it’s for the Gamification of what?
In the meantime we had built a virtual world in HTML 5 which had all sorts of interesting facets – for example, because it worked in the browser and nothing was downloaded, Google could see all the tags and the like we used in the world. A search could generate a link directly into our virtual world – so we took this to some gaming properties as we thought it might excite them. But from there, people were asking us if we could do something to help them add badges, quests, that kind of thing, to their customer’s gaming experience. So we said, “Really? We might have something that interests you…”! Then we looked at the older technology and started working out how we could make that work in the casino environment.

CI: There’s a lot of crossover in the industry at the moment with online and offline convergence. For the online industry, it’s easy to see the value in this because the interface the player would be using is an accepted one for this type of gaming; where has the most enthused feedback come from so far – online or offline gaming?
NL: Mostly we’ve been talking to traditional casino companies and suppliers, rather than online, but we’re working toward that already. There’s a lot of companies in social gaming that are moving into casino gaming as well; we’re located in San Francisco and my business partner and I are both from the videogame industry. In terms of our technology and our platform there may be more benefits for the traditional casino companies as they are potentially likely to have less experience with these kinds of things. We’re basically offering a platform where you can manage badges you can unlock, levels, challenges, and we’re wrapping it up with real-time analytics, where you can monitor users, tweak things and see how the players respond. It’s very exciting technology.

CI: To clarify, you have a platform that adds a layer of interactivity to an existing, designed game. What’s the next step for you? Regulatory approval?
NL: It’s part of the learning curve, because we’re not from the casino industry we’re still learning what we need to do in terms of regulatory approvals et cetera. Would we need to be regulated? I’m not sure, as the companies we are working with would already be seeking regulatory approval. Is this something every casino would use, or a handful, or one casino? We just don’t know yet.

CI: I guess as the product doesn’t exist already, you’re forging your own path…
NL: Right, I’ve been talking to casino executives and holding their hands in a way, walking through the technology and finding out what will work best for them, then figuring out the regulatory side.