Gambling has long been one of the biggest industries on the planet, from its inception to the heady days of mid-20th century Las Vegas and now in the modern, online era. Throughout its history, gambling has had to change and adapt in order to remain relevant and appealing to customers.
The last twenty years have seen the rise of the online sector and with it, we have witnessed a period of rapid diversification. The online sector has had to overcome a variety of hurdles, from societal attitudes to critique from the land-based sector.
In this article, we will explore how online casinos have used diversification successfully and effectively to grow from a niche industry to a financial behemoth.
Change is good
There is no doubt that in business, change sells. Consumers are seemingly hardwired to gobble up anything that is shiny and new and that is certainly the case when it comes to gambling.
When games such as poker, roulette, and slots first made their way online there was a stampede of customers looking to cash in on the novelty of it.
Gradually though, as players became accustomed to the idea of gambling online there was a plateau in playing numbers. After a period of reflection, the online gambling industry recognized that the only way to continue growing was to adapt and diversify their facilities – offering customers something new.
The past 10 years of online gambling could be categorized as a period of rapid growth and diversification. This constant yearning by the industry to always stay one step ahead of the curve has delighted players and in turn, grown revenues.
After moving online though, how did the gambling industry continue to diversify and keep offering customers more and more choice?
Early diversification – variety of games
Initially, poker was the main area of focus for online gambling companies which made perfect sense considering the computing software of the time and the relative popularity of the game toward the end of the 1990s.
Long-term growth, however, could not be based on poker alone though. In the early years of the 2000s there was an explosion in the variety of games being offered by online casinos.
Suddenly, players were being offered the chance to play roulette, baccarat, craps, slots and a wide variety of other niche games. Poker wasn’t left behind though, that changed too.
The predominant poker variant of the 1990s was Texas Hold ‘Em and indeed, it is still the most popular variant to this day. However, online gambling companies focused on offering their customers a veritable buffet of poker variants.
They didn’t do this because they though that Omaha poker would be the next big thing, or that Chinese poker would attract millions of players in Asia. Rather, they did this because they knew that choice and new features would tantalise their existing customers and draw in new ones.
Modern diversification – nuanced changes
By the end of the 2000s almost every form of gambling imaginable was available to play online in one form or another. At this point, simply adding new gambling games and poker variants to sites was not an option for an aspiring online casino.
Companies were forced to think outside of the box and look for more nuanced ways to diversify their offerings.
The best example of this nuanced thinking comes in the form of online slot machines. Traditionally slots have always been the most used and most profitable feature of any casino, online or land-based. Gambling companies kept the same features of a slot machine; they just transitioned the game online instead, using the same brightly colored graphics and a range of themed sounds. Most gambling providers decided to offer a huge variety of themed slots to their players, from free versions to real money slots to satisfy everyone’s wants and needs.
Relatively little had changed in the slot machine world from 1970 to 2010 until clever online gambling companies began to seek out commercial partnerships with a wide variety of popular media franchises.
Slots-based and licensed on the biggest movie franchises of the year, the most binge-worthy TV series, and AAA video games began to filter out onto the market slowly. This diversification again strengthened the bond between online gambling companies and their existing customers.
Crucially, though, it allowed online gambling companies to expand beyond their traditional demographics and reach players who would not previously have been interested in gambling in any way, shape, or form.
Whilst this is just one example, it is symbolic of the past ten years of nuanced diversification in the online gambling industry. The next ten years, however, may have a lot less nuance.
Future diversification – technological leaps
There is, of course, a limit on the amount of nuanced changes that any business can make to appeal to new customers. Sooner or later the range of options available runs out and companies have to think ahead of new ways to diversify.
That’s where technology comes in and fortunately for the online gambling industry, its current need for diversification seems to have coincided perfectly with technological developments.
At the time of writing, a number of the biggest names in the online gambling industry are heavily investing in VR & AR technology.
The hope is that soon, online players will be able to navigate their way around a virtual casino, play games and interact with other users and dealers, all from the comfort of their own homes.
If this technology is pulled off successfully, it could well be the biggest advancement in online gambling’s history since its inception. In business terms, though, it is just one more example of how the industry has harnessed diversification to keep revenues growing.