Mobile Gaming

AUTHOR PROFILE:- CHARLES COHEN is the CEO and co-founder of Probability Games Corporation. After attending Oxford University he worked as a political advisor and speech writer before founding his first company, a web design business.

In 1998 he conceived “Beenz” as a new currency for the internet; raised over $ 80m in investment and employed 300 people in 12 countries; the company was sold in 2001. In 2002 Charles ’ book on big- company ethics, corporate Vices, was published. He is a fellow of the Royal Society of Arts. Married with two children, lives in London.

I can’t tell you how many “industry ” conferences for mobile gaming I’ve been to in the past year where the talk is all phone, phones, and phone. Actually, I can. I’ve been to four, after which I stopped accepting the invitations. It was too depressing.
      Go to a conference on internet gaming, and the talk isn’t all PC’s, PC’s, PC’s. It’s CRM, Yield Management, Loyalty, Incentives, cash management. It’s proper, and it’s grown up. It’s about the back office. Because that’s where the money is.
      Mobile gaming is at an odd stage. Here, but not here. Most people in the industry have had a passing whiff of it but they ’re not sure what it smell of. Some of the pioneers got burnt. They retreated to the comfort of the Web after buying in poor technology and not appreciating the differences between the expectations and needs of the mobile gamer and his internet counterpart.

  Even mobile networks kept their distance, concerned about how toxic an association with gambling could be to their brands. Not a good sign. At the conferences, which are like group therapy sessions, tales of misery abound of network configuration problems, impossible (or missing) payment systems, regulatory nightmares, nervous consumers, appalling economics, and hundreds and hundreds of incompatible, badly behaved, irregular mobile phones.
      None of these problems are really important, because none are insurmountable. We’ve got over most of them. I’£ let you into a little secret, for free. The answer to the handset problem is to stop looking for shortcuts and start looking for people. Then make sure you get every new phone, give it to those people, and get them to test every game you have, on every network, all the time. It’s expensive, sow and impossible to avoid. Anyone who says they can just hasn’t tried hard enough.

      The real challenge for mobile gaming as it makes its way into the gaming mainstream is not going to be any of these things. It’s going to be in the back office: where the money is. All those other problems can be solved with the appliance of money and effort. The latter requires something quite scarce: skills, knowledge and poker experience. In mobile, none of these exist yet.
      It would be nice if, at this basic operational level, mobile and internet gaming customers were sufficiently alike in their needs, behavior and expectations. Then all those bright sparks who manage the CRM, high roller and loyalty programmes for the onlyn casinos could simply adjust their focus to the smallest screen and turn all the lights on, just like that. But the customers, and the environment, aren’t that alike. So they can’t .
      As we have discovered, the all-important task of maximizing yield from mobile gamers shares some of the same principles as on-line, but almost none of the tools. A whole new script needs to be written around the three universal rules of iGaming customer management:

  • Rule 1:   Measure everything. That means even stuff you don’t think you would ever want to count, because some day you will. At first, we couldn’t see the point in keeping tabs on the retail price of a mobile at the time it was used. Now it’s a key data point:   people who spend chip cash on their mobiles are more likely to have the funds for regular gaming. This kind of data is just not regular gaming. This kind of data is just not available to internet gaming companies.
  • Rule 2:   Never guess. We made an early assumption that, once a person had stopped playing for 90 days. They were irrecoverable. Many, we thought, will have changed their phones or their numbers and not bothered to transfer the service. Big mistake. With a little work, and the right combination of technical support and a financial incentive, we have been able to re-activate thousands of these ‘lost ’ players, often more than 6 months after their last play. the reasons people stop playing and the ways to get them back, are all new to mobile and have to be learnt.
  • Rule 3:   Test always. My inbox is a herb garden of marketing ideas from online casinos trying to squeeze more cash out of me. Good for them. New ideas are tested and those that work are rolled out. But mobile is viciously constrained. Text messages are 160 characters long; you have to send at the right time of day to avoid waking your customers up; you can’t cold call people- they find it intrusive. Worse still, it costs money to send SMS, whether it gets read or not. After a few cold baths with bulk promotions to our whole base, we now work only with micro-segments. A campaign to 500 people is not unusual. In mobile, the test very often IS the campaign.

Follow these rules and you can still go wrong, but not by far. The questions is, which companies will take the medicine?  Early signs are not good for the established iGaming operators, who don’t really take mobile seriously enough to give their m-customers the same love and care as they do online games. But then that’s their problem, and everyone else’s opportunity.

The Great European Migration

By Brent Pickles, Vice President of industry leading online payment company Gateway Payment Solutions. Gateway offers the stability and security of a major financial institution with the flexibility and confidentiality of a service driven company with offices all over the world, including North America, the Caribbean and throughout Europe.

Our industry is changing almost daily. Every time we turn around there are new rules or a new threat of legislation that affects not just the gaming site owners, but also the support service companies. On the other hand, sometimes new rules and legislation can bring new opportunities too and it’s a comfort to note that even with all of this change and flux, the industry is still growing at a very healthy rate.

      Take a look at the European jurisdiction, for example. Internet gaming companies that were traditionally located in North America and the Caribbean have begun to move to Europe. This migration has been happening over the last 18 months and is a clearly identifiable industry trend. There are a number of reasons for this, including the maturing of the industry as a whole, but the migration seems to have been most influenced by the fact that legislation has become more ‘gaming friendly ’ in Europe in recent years. This makes European more attractive to the North American and the Caribbean based companies because of licensing in a jurisdictions that can further their corporate goals which lends legitimacy to the corporation and clears the way for a possible IPO/ stock floatation. Importantly, it also gives them greater access to the European marked and they can greatly expand their player base.
      Many of Gateway’s clients have migrated this way and have come to us for payment solutions that are favored by their new European customers. In torn this has led to a shift in our own corporate focus as we refine our product line. For a long time, debit cards such as Switch were the most popular payment methods in the UK and in much of Europe, and there was a gradual shift towards credit cards. But, as happened in the United States, the European banking networks are beginning to block payments to gaming sites. The result is that customers are moving to our direct money transfer solutions.

      As an industry leader, we offer the best solutions for North America and Central America. But because Europe is such a diverse market by its very nature, we are constantly updating and adapting our solutions with the help of the myriad of financial institutions across all of the European countries news. In fact, at the moment, these research and development teams are by far the busiest in the corporation.

      Europe represents new opportunities for everyone in the online gaming industry, from the gaming companies themselves to the support solutions companies like Gateway. Our world has changed, and it is unquestionably for the better.