WMS Survey Shows Shifts in Gambler Preferences, Part 4: Online Casual Gaming and Social Media

The 2010 WMS Active Gambler Profile™ provides an in-depth view of the trends and preferences of today’s active gamblers. Through this report, we learn more about the five forces that are reshaping consumer behavior and the gaming industry in North America. These mega-forces are the economy, changing demography, technology, social media, and values and lifestyles.

As we’ve seen, the evolution of technology continues to be a major force reshaping contemporary life and leisure time. The impact of technology is being accelerated by two factors: access to the Internet and mobility.

Consider these stats: In 1996, just slightly more than one in 10 (11 percent) households in America had Internet access at home. Fully seven in 10 (70 percent) of U.S. and Canadian households do today. The other major driver in the evolution of Internet usage is mobility. One statistic takes even seasoned telecom analysts by surprise: There are three times more wireless subscribers worldwide than landline customers!
This suggests, the next horizon line for the impact of the Internet on life and leisure time will be through mobile access and usage.

WMS remains driven to lead the industry into the future by leveraging technological innovations to create new and exciting gaming experiences. For this reason, this month’s column examines a force that is closely tied to evolving technology: the remarkable transformation of media consumption—including the dramatic growth of online casual gaming and social media—and its impact on casino operators and the gaming industry.

Trend Watch 4: Online Casual Gaming
Active gamblers’ attitude toward technology has undergone considerable change. Access to the Internet and greater mobility has led these tech-savvy early adopters to view technology favorably, as an enabler in their lives. Compared to 2008, active gamblers are less intimidated by technology, less confused by it and less overwhelmed by the amount of information made available through technology, the 2010 WMS Active Gambler Profile reveals.

Players’ growing sense of comfort with technology is further evident in the significant shift of media consumption and entertainment preferences, from offline to online and an ever-expanding mobile network. When combined with an affinity for gaming, the outcome is no surprise: Active gamblers are playing games online for fun and for money, and they are playing with increasing frequency, the 2010 study shows.
In the casual gaming space, word puzzle, trivia and strategy games are the most popular among active gamblers who are playing these games alone or against others they may or may not know personally. WMS’ 2010 study reveals Pogo.com is the most visited casual gaming site, garnering more than three times the visitation of Yahoo!® and MSN® Games. Nearly half of active gamblers report playing Bejeweled®, while four in 10 have played Solitaire.

On average, active gamblers are online more than three hours daily, and a quarter of them play casual games almost every day. The majority (56 percent) engage in the evening, with the rest playing the same amount in the afternoon, late night and morning (16 percent, 17 percent and 13 percent, respectively).

Active gamblers also tend to enjoy gaming consoles, such as Xbox 360®, Nintendo® Wii® and Playstation® 3. Ownership of these consoles is predominantly among the younger generation, but it isn’t exclusive to this generation by any means. The video game industry is booming and tends to be ahead of the curve in its application of technology, art, sound and graphics, appealing to all age groups.

Trend Watch 4: Social Media
The growth of the Internet also has ushered in a proliferation of connectedness in the online space through social media networks. In fact, it is difficult to read or watch news reports today without the ubiquitous mention of Facebook® and Twitter®. Until now, however, the question has remained: To what extent are active gamblers engaging?

The answer may surprise you. Among active gamblers who have Internet access at home, more than half have a personal page or profile posted on Facebook (56 percent) while fewer are on MySpace® (18 percent), Twitter (13 percent), YouTube® (11 percent) and LinkedIn® (also 11 percent).

Facebook’s amazing multigenerational appeal as a social medium and networking site is evidenced in this year’s study. As expected, participation is greatest among younger players. Millennials and Xers are far more likely to have a Facebook page (85 percent and 69 percent, respectively). However, roughly half of Boomers (52 percent) and more than one third of Matures (38 percent) have profiles as well.

Equally noteworthy is the frequency with which active gamblers are visiting social media sites. Three-quarters of this online community (75 percent) visit Facebook on a frequent basis. What’s more, approximately one in six active gamblers who have profiles on MySpace, Twitter or YouTube go to these sites often (“every few days,” “once a day” or “multiple times a day”).

Considering this phenomenal growth, it is important to understand how effective these sites are as social outlet and advertising medium. Among active gamblers who have a personal page or profile posted on a social media site, two in 10 (20 percent) indicate they have responded to an advertisement (e.g., banner or pop-up promotion) or promotional message received via a social media site. Again, younger gamblers are more likely to have responded to an advertisement on a social media site than their older counterparts, with Xers reporting the highest incidence (28 percent) among all generational groups.

As an entertainment channel, online casual gaming is having a major impact on leisure pursuits and contemporary life. Active gamblers are spending more time online, playing casual games and gambling. Clearly, tracking these trends over time will be increasingly important in the coming years. During the last few years, traffic on such sites as Pogo.com and Yahoo!, AOL® and MSN games has increased dramatically. Trivia, puzzle, and word games enjoy great popularity, and players often create social relationships by joining chat rooms with other gamers.

Surely the trends toward online and video gaming are leaving their marks on player entertainment preferences, opening new opportunities for our industry. WMS has been actively developing solutions to leverage these trends. During the next few years, plans are underway to expand applications, further bridging the gap between online play and the casino. Additionally, for video gaming enthusiasts, WMS is committed to Player Driven Innovation™, utilizing new graphics, 3-D technologies and immersive sensory experiences, such as Adaptive Gaming®, to entertain players in a similar manner to that of their home gaming consoles and computers.

Social media represents another megatrend influencing consumers’ communication and interaction. In one sense, social media serves as an instrument of communication, representing a shift in the way people read and share information and content. Also, the interconnectedness of social media also speaks to time efficiencies. For example, a picture is shared much faster on Facebook than through individual e-mail communications.

Active gamblers are highly engaged with social media. Although younger gamblers have the highest level of involvement, many older gamblers are also spending notable amounts of time on social networking sites. Today, these sites are not yet being leveraged aggressively throughout the gaming industry. Many marketers share the opinion that a properly constructed and implemented social media strategy is one of the most important functions gaming marketers can employ during the next few years.

Finally, we have also learned that consumers place more trust in the feedback they receive from the people they know rather than those they don’t—even product experts. With the proliferation of technology, mindshare is becoming increasingly limited, which makes it both challenging yet critical to secure targeted player interactions. WMS embraces and leverages this evolution with plans to expand channels of communication through social media, thus enabling operators to increase touch points with their players.

For additional thought-provoking insights from the 2010 WMS Active Gambler Profile, visit our website, www.wmsactivegamblerprofile.com. This study is designed to help the industry maintain its competitive edge in a rapidly changing world. Check out the final column in next month’s issue of CEM, where we will examine the remarkable forces of social values and lifestyles and the ways they are impacting the casino floor. Only by understanding players’ evolving habits and preferences can we continue to deliver extraordinary gaming experiences. Are you prepared?