Hot off the heels of “the Cloud” is the tech world’s next big buzzword: the Internet of Things. The Internet of Things promises to transform the way we live by connecting sensors, appliances, and other electronics to each other through local networks and the Internet at large. It’s a way for individuals, businesses, and governments to automatically and seamlessly share and collect data on an unprecedented scale. For gaming operators, it’s an opportunity to engage with players through a promising and highly-rewarding channel.
What Is the Internet of Things?
The Internet of Things (IoT) is an ongoing trend where more and more electronic devices – sensors, monitors, cameras, etc. – are connected to each other through local and global networks. Traditionally, we think of the Internet as a network of devices that we interact with on a personal basis, such as laptops, workstations, and mobile devices. The IoT is designed to be an interface for machine-to-machine communications, allowing small embedded electronics to send data to other devices without requiring input from a user.
The IoT isn’t a new concept, but faster Internet connections and the shrinking cost of small, low-power devices has led to a great deal of increased interest in the area. Already we have security units, utility meters, biometric monitors, and remote identification chips that can transmit data to and from remote destinations. Homes and businesses alike use IoT-enabled devices to view security footage from smartphones, lock or unlock buildings via Web browser, and automatically alert fire or police departments in the event of a fire or break-in.
With the increasing popularity and decreasing cost of lightweight connected devices, the IoT is expected to create a global network of automated, self-reporting, and possibly even self-healing systems.
The State of the Online Gaming IndustryLike the Internet of Things, the online gaming industry has seen incredible year-over-year growth with the proliferation of high speed Internet and mobile computing. In the past decade, the worldwide market has nearly tripled from $14 billion in 2005 to $41 billion in 2015. Mobile casinos in particular have seen explosive growth with the increasing popularity of smartphones and tablets. By 2018, annual wagers on mobile devices are expected to exceed $62 billion globally. Free-to-play games, while different from traditional online gaming platforms, are among today’s highest grossing games on Apple’s App Store. These games differ in their use of in-app purchases and virtual currencies to drive player engagement and build revenue.
Game operators already rely on analytics to track player involvement and keep players interested. Loyalty programs have historically managed this by rewarding players and provide incentives for continuing to play, while still allowing the operator to maximize returns. This requires a lot of decision making and data processing: to accomplish this, physical casinos rely heavily on cameras, sensors, and feedback from dealers to provide the data needed to make these decisions. With the IoT and online gaming, much of this process can be automated.
How Will the IoT Impact Online Gaming?The IoT has the potential to revolutionize online gaming in one of two ways: by bridging the physical gap between the platform and the player, and by integrating online platforms with physical casinos.
Bridging the Gap Between Platform and PlayerThe IoT is spearheaded in part by the increased use of mobile devices. Smartphones and tablets contain an array of sensors – cameras, accelerometers, touch and pressure sensors, and even heart rate monitors – that mobile apps can tap into to collect and report data about the user’s experience. We’re seeing a new market appear in fitness bands and smartwatches, which communicate with mobile devices to display notifications, track health and activity, and even manage calls and SMS messages right from the user’s wrist. What does this have to do with online gaming? By tracking and analyzing the right data sets, online gaming platforms can learn over time how customers interact with and respond to online games. Much like how casinos can an analyze player reactions through facial expressions, speech, and nonverbal cues, mobile devices provide a variety of ways to measure player satisfaction during the course of a game. The trick with mobile gaming platforms is that they have to balance data collection with player privacy. When a player walks into a casino, there’s a mutual understanding that the player can be monitored over the course of their stay there. With the IoT, the play area shifts from the casino’s property to the player’s property, and the relationship becomes more nuanced. For instance, mobile apps require explicit acceptance from the user before they can even be installed on the device. Mobile data collection is useful, but it has to be done in a way that respects the user’s privacy, or otherwise makes the agreement perfectly apparent.
Integrating Online Platforms with CasinosThe second way the IoT can impact online gaming is through integration with the physical gaming experience. This applies not only to casinos, but to any game platforms that share a common player tracking system. With casinos today, the operator can only really generate revenue if a player is physically present. To encourage this, marketing departments and customer outreach programs spend much of their time encouraging players to return to the casino through discount and rewards programs. The downside to this approach is that it’s a one-way street: the casino can reach out to the player, but the only way to really measure the success of the outreach is whether or not the player returns. With Internet-ready devices, casinos and game operators have more tools to engage with players. The convenience of having poker or slots in the palm of your hand makes it much easier for players to “return” to the casino without having to make a trip. It also provides a new way for operators to communicate with players, either explicitly through surveys and customer feedback or implicitly through analytics and data collection. Perhaps more importantly, it offers a way for players to continue playing anywhere and at any time. And while players might only be able to squeeze in a game or two here and there, the numbers add up: market research firm Juniper Research estimates that the mobile gaming market will increase from 64 million users in 2013 to 164 million users in 2018, surpassing $100 billion in revenue by 2017. The magic of mobile gaming is that it provides an environment for players that’s comfortable, convenient, and always connected. Game operators can keep players engaged through periodic notifications, loyalty rewards that can be redeemed immediately, and by receiving consistent feedback from players and devices. Expanding the realm of online gaming to wearable devices and other Internet-ready devices gives game operators even more opportunities to keep players engaged.
How Ignite Can HelpThe Internet of Things isn’t like a traditional computer network. There are new security, performance, and usability concerns that aren’t apparent at first. Developing an IoT-ready device or application requires extensive knowledge of secure software development, Internet communications, and user-friendly design. Ignite has years of experience bringing desktop, mobile, and embedded applications from concept to market. Our history in casino management software, online game development, and mobile app development gives us a unique and comprehensive view of the gaming industry. Merging our knowledge of Internet-enabled software development and gaming applications lets us help you:
- Quickly and easily bring Internet-ready online applications to market
- Use readings gathered from Internet-enabled devices to customize and enhance each individual player’s experience
- Gather metrics to perform analytics and review player performance
- Utilize smartphones, tablets, and other mobile devices to interact with players remotely and seamlessly