This month’s feature story takes a look at networked gaming as it applies to the players. This highly relevant perspective is sometimes not our first consideration as we wind down the road to server-based bliss, but it should be.
The gentlemen of the front cover are my next door neighbors. They have farmed in the Red River Valley since the 1890s when their great-grandparents emigrated from Norway, as did mine, in hopes of finding prosperity. Well, that they did.
Today, the Obergs farm more than 25,000 acres at several dozen farm sites that span the length of the North Dakota-Minnesota border. If you’re not familiar with farming, you might not understand that to be a successful farmer in today’s world you have to understand credit markets, futures markets, advanced GPS technologies, geology, chemical processes, agricultural genetics and heavy equipment mechanics. Farmers of today are sophisticated risk takers. They are gamblers at heart.
From early spring to late fall they work diligently to do their part in filling America’s breadbasket. Come November, when the crops have been harvested, it’s time to play. The offseason is occupied by many trips to Las Vegas and other destinations for well-deserved gaming vacations. So what does networked gaming mean to the Obergs?
While I can’t tell you that, it’s a question worth pondering. The Obergs are but one example of those players who will be face-to-display with networked gaming in the not too distant future.
Whether your players are general contractors, real estate brokers, software engineers, bankers, factory workers, educators or in one of the hundreds of other unique professions or businesses, they all have one thing in common: We’ll build it, and they will decide if they like it. They will vote with their dollars and the outcome is theirs and theirs alone to decide.
The real question is what is the gaming industry doing to shape the development of tomorrow’s game of chance offerings? Are we building something the engineers all really, really like, but the end user might not? How will the investment in networked gaming affect the cost of gaming operations? Will the investment costs be offset by savings in labor or marketing efficiencies? Will gaming revenues grow significantly enough to pay for the networked gaming infrastructure? Will the differences be apparent to players? How will it affect customer service? And what about player experience? Will the outcome of networked gaming be akin to ATMs in the banking industry or the Internet in the news business? Or will it go the way of the 8-track tape and Beta Max cassettes?
I have seen little evidence of serious studies being done to determine networked gaming’s impact on players. Perhaps I’m wrong, but if they exist I’d like to see them. The focus seems to be on networked gaming’s impact on slot management and IT. That’s just half the homework. Now it’s time to explore a little further and turn the focus to the player.
This process would undoubtedly educate the player, and assuming networked gaming offerings were attractive to the players, a demand would be established. The slot manufacturers do a great job promoting slot games to players. Hardly a slot manager exists that hasn’t been asked to bring in a specific game title by his or her patrons. We should be marketing the convenience and freedom of choice networked gaming will offer to the players—not just to the VP of slot operations.
And for the VP of slots—have you been explaining networked gaming to your players to find out their reaction? If not, it’s time you meet the Obergs!