It’s early evening, you’ve got your bucket of loose change, and you’ve just settled down for an hour at the slot machines; only, instead of being greeted by the traditional decals, the pieces of fruit and money bags, the reels feature pictures of your pets, loved ones, or whatever strange and wonderful things you’ve got saved on your mobile phone.
That kind of personalised slot machine is the idea of one Michigan inventor, who foresees players – “millennials”, or people born after 1982, in particular – uploading their favourite pictures to casino games for a more intimate experience. It follows the news that brands will introduce more skill-based games onto the floor to get younger players on board.
It’s not as bizarre a plan as it might sound – personalisation is the holy grail of decision-makers in every industry, whether that’s email marketing campaigns that refer to the recipient by name or online stores that suggest purchases based on previous activity – but is it the missing piece from slots’ timeless gameplay?
It’s a cynical point but some casinos don’t always put much effort into their slots offering – it’s easier to rent or buy-in machines pre-designed with images from pop culture than to design and code their own. That’s what makes brands like mFortune, an online operator that creates all its games in-house, stand out in the industry.
With exclusive machines like Viking Storm, Buster Ghost, and brand new title, Mammoth Money, a 5-reel, 9-winline slot with a multiplier-boosting minigame, mFortune is a rare innovator in the iGaming niche. The same brand also lets players defer the cost of their games until the end of the month and make a slots deposit by phone bill, a convenient method for those who don’t want to use a debit or credit card.
Personalised slots play to the belief that everything millennials care about is stored on their phone, inclusive of social networks, photos, and contacts. It’s a crude way of putting things but it’s not far from the truth, given that modern people, not just young ones, can do or access anything through their mobiles.
And it’s an interesting idea – lining up five images of the mother-in-law and winning the jackpot might do wonders for family relations – but, on the casino floor, personalised gaming is a privacy minefield that will reduce immersion in the environment and further erode the need for creativity throughout the industry.
The biggest problem with Rosenblatt’s prototype for personalised slots is that it makes too many assumptions, chief among which involves an associated bonus round, which collects numbers from the user’s phone and sends out a text message to get others on board. It’s hard to foresee a scenario in which that won’t prove an annoyance for everyone involved.
Secondly, branding isn’t an issue to be solved. Put another way, personalised machines mean that casinos don’t have to put any effort into designing characters and imagery. It’s a bonus for businesses but it comes at the expense of player engagement; after all, nobody sits down at a blank machine when there’s a woolly mammoth on its neighbour.
The major appeal of slot machines is their pick-up-and-play nature. Personalisation adds a number of additional steps (app download, account sign-in, image selection) between the player and their experience, a journey that defeats the entire purpose of the pick-up-and-play classic game.
Having said all that, personalised slots might eventually find a home online, where players have visible assurances of security (like SSL and TLS – the famous green padlock by a browser’s address bar) and are perhaps more willing to spend time creating their own experience than they might be on a busy casino floor.
Finally, as evidenced by mFortune’s range of games, there’s still no substitute for good artwork on slot machines.