The Games Formula : What Tricks are Used on Slot Machines? (7)

“You know how to get a lot of younger consumers to play? Give them a phone.”

Obviously, the industry that knows this trick well. In 2011, Caesar’s Games acquired Playtika, a developer that creates free and paid games for mobile devices. A year later, IGT acquired DoubleDown, the free casino games app that can be played autonomously on a cell phone or on Facebook. Today, the company offers table games and an abundant portfolio of Slots, including Wheel of Fortune, to players. In 2015, gaming giant Zynga appointed former studio manager Jim Veevart as vice president of DoubleDown. A year before that, Churchill Downs Incorporated, which controls a large chain of casinos in addition to the Kentucky Derby, acquired Big Fish Games, which is also a developer of free-to-play games.

Meanwhile, the technology sector is using the operating principles of Slots for its own purposes. Technology writer Julian Dibbell developed the concept of ludo-capitalism: the term that came to his mind when he watched players panning for gold in World of Warcraft which was their source of income in the real world. Ludo-capitalism was an attempt to explain the increasing gamification of society through technology. Dibbell admits that the parameters of the concept are unclear but, in turn, it may be evidence that capitalism can drive people to game for better or worse. In fact, games are not allegories of our lives; they are our lives. As society moves towards a world driven by information technology, where points are earned in health apps (the subject of Schüll’s latest research) and status is earned on social networks, gamification becomes total and it is hard to say whether the things we do in games can be used outside of them.

Schüll, within the theme of gamification, also identified slotification: we strive to earn more digital coins and then multiply them; we keep pressing the ‘Spin’ button when we know we can’t win much. “This is a game cycle: you open the game, close it, open it, close it, win, lose…. things don’t change,” says Schüll.

Alexis Madrigal, a writer for The Atlantic, used over Schüll’s research to explain the ecstasy provided to users when viewing photos on Facebook: you keep pressing buttons to gain a reward in the form of information.

 

 

Another website that uses the same principles of operation as Slots is Tinder. The mechanics of this dating app mimic the experience of playing Slot Machines: the quick feedback, the rewards in the form of the ‘write a message’ option for a potential partner, etc. Tinder recently launched the premium version that allows the user to cancel the ‘not interested’ option if they click on it by mistake; in other words, it monetizes the mistakes that occur on auto-pace when people are in the ‘zone.

“It’s hard to tell how many times I’ve been approached by people working in Silicon Valley saying something like, ‘Wow, it seems the gaming industry really knows how to keep attention, and this is a problem we all face from time to time’ or else ‘Could you explain to our designers how to improve our app?

Last year, Schüll met Nir Eyal, a tech product entrepreneur who founded and sold two startups that develop ways to insert ads into free games. “He showed me his copy of my book with hundreds of pink stickers marking the pages,” Schüll said.

In his book Hooked: How to Build Products for Habit Formation, which was published in 2014, Eyal outlined his Hook model which is based on basic behavioral principles: a trigger turns into an action – a reward variable – plus a personal investment – and back to the product. In 2014, he invited Schüll to report on habits at Stanford. Schüll presented a report entitled “The Dark Side of Habits” where Slot Machines were at the bottom of the list of habits.

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