John B. Lin is the Managing Director of PlayStudios Asia. His previous work was with real world casinos, like the Las Vegas Sands. Now he’s looking to integrate social gaming with real-world casino efforts. At Casual Connect Asia 2017, John discussed the APAC social games market.
“One of the founding ideas of PlayStudios is that land-based integrated resorts and social casino games can complement and enhance each other’s player experience in deep and varied ways,” said John. “Land-based integrated resorts are a peak, real-world experience that players plan for months ahead and represent a significant commitment of time and resources. Conversely, social casino games offer a casual, free-to-play, and convenient format for players to access original and favorite games content on the device they use most: their smartphone.”
“We think of social casino providing fun, frequent and convenient gaming experiences that can build loyalty and anticipation among players for their favorite resort experiences. The deep and enriching experiences our players have while enjoying their rewards in turn enhance the players’ daily or weekly social casino gameplay,” he continued. “Our belief that these two experiences are complementary led us to develop our unique myVEGAS rewards platform that now features over 70 resort, dining, and entertainment destinations from Las Vegas to London to Macau to Malaysia, and delivers over 27,000 trips to our partners each month.”
John noted that the various rewards partners are skilled at delivering service and hospitality at a high level, something they want to adapt to the mobile pace. “On the other hand, the level of instrumentation and data available to mobile and social games operators allows us to understand every moment of the player journey; if we are able to leverage this understanding, we can merchandise, promote to, and delight the player at the most relevant points of their play session, their day, or their month. I think this granular and data-driven approach to player behavior could have some transformational applications in the land-based resort world.”
Transitioning From Real to Social
John noted that his professional background deals with development of land-based integrated resorts in Macau, Singapore, Las Vegas, and various markets in the U.S. This mirrors the experience of other PlayStudios members involved with land-based casinos, marketing, operations and other areas, which he claims grants them a unique perspective on players’ expectations and experiences.
“I originally came into the gaming and hospitality business as a strategic growth and development executive with Las Vegas Sands and later with Boyd Gaming, both U.S.-listed casino companies,” said John. “In the early 2000s, there was truly incredible momentum in new jurisdictions opening to Western operators in Macau and Singapore, while at the same time Las Vegas and Atlantic City were each in their own growth and development cycles. After the 2008 financial crisis, development of new resorts ground to a sudden halt and the most interesting opportunities were around distressed M&A; but soon thereafter, the first of two federal online poker bills was introduced in the U.S., through which I was first exposed to the world of online gaming and the established operators in London, Gibraltar, and Tel Aviv.”
“The scale and pace of interactive gaming was eye-opening for me. I was accustomed to resort development cycles measured in years and billions of dollars in cost, and ultimately serving millions of customers annually,” he added. “The idea that interactive games could deliver delight and enjoyment to millions of players daily, and could be developed at a fraction of the time and cost of land-based integrated resorts, was fascinating and inspiring to me. So when social casino started to scale in 2011 and 2012, I really took notice and was lucky enough to eventually connect and join the PlayStudios team.”
Evolution of Social Casino
John noted that social casino started growing around 2010, scaling across platforms of Facebook, iOS, and Google. The next growth phase happened where growing ARPDAUs and consolidation were driven by the entry of real-world slot technology companies into the space.
“At this point, social casino is certainly still a niche cousin of the much larger video games and casino industries, but increasingly recognized as an important and growing dimension of the gaming / casino business. The $4.4 billion acquisition of Playtika in 2016 by Giant Interactive, a Chinese online games company, and the $825 million acquisition of Doubledown Casino in 2017 by DoubleU Games, a Korea-listed social casino company, show that awareness of the value and growth potential of social casino is extending far beyond the traditional slot or games companies.”
Looking to the future, John sees social casino expanding with more global and mainstream entrants into the space. We should expect to see the greater cultivation of emerging markets and faster evolution of game genres and features.
“First, as social casino is increasingly understood as a free, casual, play-for-fun genre similar in experience to other casual games, interest from companies and brands outside the traditional casino industry will continue to grow,” detailed John. “This is underlined by GSN’s success in the space, the Giant-Playtika transaction referenced above, among other indicators.”
“Second, saturation of the app stores and incoming acquisition capital has made discovery and organic growth difficult to the point where only the uniquely innovative games or highly capitalized companies can scale effectively,” he continued. “Emerging markets doesn’t exclusively mean developing countries; to us, it means any markets in which social casino hasn’t yet fully penetrated market shares. To be sure, these markets present challenges in distribution, payments, genre and cultural fit, so we expect local developers and local content to have the advantage, as well as those that make the commitment to establish local partners and teams.
“Finally, the pace of evolution in social casino remains flat-out. Our competitors and colleagues push us to innovate and iterate with each release, and as the rise of Murka and Huuuge has shown, there’s still plenty of room for new approaches to social casino when executed at a high-quality level. Whether it’s adapting the deep progression of RPG games, or introducing the cooperative-competitive gameplay of guilds, the future of the genre belongs to those developers that can evolve at pace with players whose preferences are informed by the near infinite amount of games across other genres.”
David Radd is a staff writer for GameSauce.biz. David loves playing video games about as much as he enjoys writing about them, martial arts and composing his own novels.