The casino industry has undergone seismic changes during the early part of the 21st century to become one of the biggest boom sectors around.
The arrival of the internet saw a radical shift in the way that people interacted with the world around them, forcing casino operators to rethink their business models.
Many new gambling companies also jumped on the bandwagon, sparking a massive rise in the number of online casino sites on the world wide web.
Fast forward to today and the industry is riding the crest of a wave, with annual global revenue topping $65 billion in 2020.
Analysts are forecasting the figures will continue to grow over the coming years, and smashing through the $100bn mark is no longer a distant dream.
A challenging new landscape
In what has become a hugely competitive marketplace, casino operators must work hard to attract new customers and retain existing ones.
The earliest incarnations of online casinos were fairly basic affairs, offering players the opportunity to play just a handful of different table games and slots.
Modern sites now have hundreds of different variants of games such as poker, blackjack, roulette, keno, blackjack and more.
It is a similar story for slots, with the best sites providing players with a vast array of games to suit every budget level.
With online casinos open all day, every day, operators can ill-afford not to have an expansive range of games available on their sites.
One of the biggest challenges they face is keeping players engaged, particularly when there is so much competition to contend with.
Using gamification for player engagement
As we alluded to earlier, limitations in technological capabilities meant that the earliest online casinos only featured a basic range of games.
The gameplay element of the sites was generally unsophisticated, while poor internet connectivity also restricted what the casinos could offer.
The latest online casinos are a very different place, bringing in ingredients from the gaming industry to significantly ramp up the overall experience.
For instance, the earliest online slot machines were simply about winning money – just spin the reels and hope that matching symbols land on the payline.
However, modern slots are all about the journey from the initial spin into the bonus levels and then hopefully on to scooping a bumper jackpot.
Advancements in technology have transformed the way slots are designed, allowing developers to create multi-level games that increase engagement.
Many modern casino games take their cue from video games, thus meaning that it can sometimes be difficult to see the line between gambling and gaming.
The term ‘gamification’ was coined to describe this factor, which is essentially the incorporation of reward aspects into game software.
For slot games this may manifest itself as bonus games, levelling up and visual rewards, all of which help to keep a player engaged with their chosen casino game.
Gamification taps into the human desire to be competitive, cajoling players into continuing to play a game in the hope of bagging a massive jackpot.
Casino games must provide players with an immersive gameplay experience – Image via Pexels
Enhancing a player’s gameplay experience
While winning real money at an online casino is the ultimate dream, for many players that factor alone is not enough to keep them entertained.
The journey that takes them to the big payout is often just as important, and this is where the best game developers now focus their efforts.
Modern casino games give players the opportunity to become part of the plot, forcing them to make decisions that directly affect the overall outcome.
In some respects, the ethos of gamification has its roots in entertainment by providing players with an experience that keeps them engaged for hours on end.
Live casino games are another way that online operators have sought to significantly improve the gameplay offering on their sites in recent times.
While the digital versions of games such as blackjack and roulette are exciting, they lack the human interaction of their land-based counterparts.
Live games replicate the experience of visiting brick-and-mortar casino venues, thus taking an online player’s experience to a whole new level.
Increasing engagement through advertising & marketing
Building an immersive online casino site is only part of the battle for operators – once they have launched it, they have to start shouting about it.
Advertising and marketing play a key role in helping casino brands to keep their customers – old and new – fully engaged with their sites.
Consumers increasingly need to feel ‘wanted’ when deciding where to spend their hard-earned cash, and online casinos have to work hard to deliver this.
Building up a community on social media is amongst the ways that online casinos increase the engagement of players.
From quizzes with prizes to bonuses such as free spins or matched deposits, advertising and marketing campaigns are an integral part of any online casino’s mode of operation.
VIP clubs are another popular tool that operators have used to keep players engaged by giving them the sense that their business is valued.
Some operators go the extra mile by hosting special in-person events such as Christmas parties or trips to Europe, allowing people to meet up with other VIP players.
Prize draw giveaways of designer goods, trips to concerts and gadgets are other ways that online casino operators boost engagement on their sites.
Online casinos & engagement – The final word
How to keep players engaged is undoubtedly the biggest consideration for any gambling firm thinking about opening an online casino.
Gamification is part-and-parcel of the modern landscape, providing players with an immersive gameplay experience every time they visit the site.
Innovations such as live casinos also play a key role in keeping players engaged, while the importance of bonuses and promotions should not be underestimated.
Bringing these core elements together significantly boosts an online casino’s chances of attracting new players and retaining their existing clients.