iGaming never stands still; it can’t afford to. That’s because players are always in pursuit of the new, the innovative and the surprising and games companies are acutely aware of just how fickle their customers can be.
Every November, the leading names in the industry gather for the Summit of iGaming in Malta – or SiGma for short, to discuss developments in the field and outline key trends that are predicted for the short to midterm future. At the 2016 event there were countless hot topics but, broadly speaking, these fell into four broad categories that are sure to play a major role in iGaming going forward.
Mobile is key
There was a time when the majority of gaming was done via a console or on a laptop or PC. But 2016 was the year when it was predicted that the revenues raised by mobile games would first outstrip the more traditional variants. This came as a result of a number of factors. The first was the increasing sophistication of smartphone and tablet technology meaning that ever more complex games can be played on them. Alongside this, there is the now near ubiquitous availability of wireless networks.
These both combine to make mobile play the default method for many – as well as the area that games developers are starting to consider first rather than the afterthought that it used to be.
It’s time to get social
Just as the mobile phone started as primarily a device for communication and has now morphed into a game-playing device, communication between players has also started to become more and more important as well. Naturally, this has been driven by social media and the millennials who see it as an essential lifeline in every single part of their lives.
This social aspect takes many forms from sharing tips and high scores to being an integral part of the play itself. For example, we can expect to see chat features becoming far more common as essential elements of games and ones which even start to generate a language and culture all of their own. To see this in action you only have to look at sites that already have a high level of social interaction built in, like Sun Bingo which now even includes its own glossary for players. Through a range of real-time chat options, leaderboards as well as a vibrant YouTube community, the operator has taken the time to provide players with the social experience many of them seem to want.
VR comes of age
For many years there have been predictions that Virtual Reality has been about to hit the mainstream. Now, at last, it seems that it has become fact rather than fiction. The signs were there when Facebook snapped up the VR tech firm Oculus Rift for a reported $2 billion – Mark Zuckerberg may be many things but one thing he’s not is short-sighted about the future.
So the tech seems to be in place and the developers are engaged in a race to bring to the public the sorts of games that are really going to exploit VR to the full to a waiting world. The result will be games that are more immersive and engaging than ever before and in which the possibilities will be limited only by the developers’ imaginations.
Safety and Security
The increasing number of cyber attacks over recent years is starting to have an effect on every aspect of people’s online lives. So, not surprisingly, it’s also making everyone far more data and security aware. While dealings with organisations with your bank or phone provider might seem more critical than the games you play online that’s not to say that there is no security risk involved.
So games makers will be looking to tighten up security in every area, from the data encryption they use to protect players’ details to the forms of payment they accept. So digital wallets and even Bitcoins may well start to overtake the more traditional credit and debit cards which have proved, in some cases, to be a rather more risky way to pay.
There’s no doubt that these are exciting times for the iGaming industry. With the accelerating pace of development affecting all areas of technology, it would be a brave person who would guess where we will even in a year from now – and looking forward any further ahead than that would call for quite remarkable powers of prediction.