Published with the permission of Gambling Insider.
Mobile optimisation is hardly a new trend; it’s been at the forefront of the industry’s development since the smartphone became an indispensable part of everyday life and HTML5 consigned Flash to the graveyard. For years, suppliers and operators have been focused on delivering products with multi-device functionality, offering gaming experiences that are as seamless on mobile or tablets as they are on desktop. But as player volumes and spend on mobile now massively outstrip that on any other channel, a mobile-first approach is no longer a celebrated strategy, but a necessity.
The statistics are hard to ignore. Across the past 5 years, our proprietary games in each vertical have experienced spikes in mobile players, with each sector showing a stark shift towards more convenient and on-the-go entertainment practices. Optimising the experience for portrait mode and landscape, and tailoring both right and left-handed use, are now just basic prerequisites for a product to gain traction in today’s saturated market. To really succeed, every aspect of the gaming experience should be fine-tuned to the demands of mobile players from faster-loading, lighter assets and the user interface, fitting effortlessly into devices.
There is no better example of the progress made through mobile than online poker. In the first half of the last decade, the vertical’s slowness to adapt to the mobile revolution triggered a prolonged period of declining revenues. Over the last few years, however, it’s made an impressive comeback. The development of products optimised for mobile play, combined with the creation of more accessible game formats, has breathed new life into the sector. A recent project by our poker team finally broke through one of the last remaining vertical-wide challenges that had been holding poker back for years. They succeeded in enabling play through the mobile browser. Since poker platforms are generally quite heavy, they have only been accessible through native apps for mobile – until now. This new framework technology offers customers the chance to play poker directly through mobile browsers as well as the standard downloadable app, on both iOS and Android, significantly expanding the accessibility of the vertical, which brought about a rekindling of love for poker amongst many.
Additionally, most of the top-ranking slots today are built with mechanics that leverage smartphone features too, creating a gameplay that lends itself perfectly to the device; a recent example of this is Snake Arena, which owes a portion of its success to the classic 90s mobile game, Snake, that inspired it. Today, symbols, reels and backgrounds are tested for clarity on mobile screens at the earliest stages of production, with attention given to every minor detail to ensure mobile-users get the experience intended. Mobile UI and UX principles are taken into account throughout, focus is given to the players’ journey and behaviour, with finger-friendly tap targets, minimal ‘clutter’ and self-evident navigation.
Similar gains are now being made in bingo, and the race is on among suppliers to set the new blueprint for success in mobile. Games are becoming more interactive and easier to follow with better mobile UI and new features designed to improve the usability and ramp up the excitement. Features such as the racetrack functionality, which gives users oversight on other players’ performance so they can compare against their own progress, ticket sorting as well as new layouts to suit mobile screens have transformed the way bingo is played and opened the vertical up to players belonging to different demographics. Although mobile revenue in bingo was already steadily increasing, innovations like these have been responsible for accelerating the trajectory – and there’s no sign of it slowing down.
Of course, none of this is to say that enhanced focus on mobile should come at the cost of multi-device functionality. Many players will still prefer to enjoy casino content on their computers or desktop and ignoring this segment of the market is not the objective. Instead, developers need to move away from a blanket multi-channel offering and look at the features that are unique to the device. With the level of technology now available, delivering exceptional play across a range of devices no longer requires much heavy lifting. Designing with mobile gamers front of mind, however, is the best place to start.