Playtika: Using Bankroll Psychology to Create The Big Bucks

playtika-using-bankroll-psychologyPlaytika founders Robert Antokol and Uri Shahak are visionaries. In 2010, the pair managed to persuade investors to provide $1m in funding so they could get their social media inventive ball rolling, and it grew into Indiana Jones size proportions.

They understood the psychology of bankroll management. The simple, but highly addictive, habit of nurturing that all human beings seem to have sewn into their DNA, and they have turned it into the most popular sources of social media casino games in the world.

By the time Playtika was enjoying it’s first birthday it had 9m users, with 1.5m of them coming from the 1bn that logged into Facebook on a regular basis. Just one month later and Caesars Entertainment purchased a 51% stake in the company despite it only turning over $100k per month in profit.

And what a deal it turned out to be. It was the first time that one of the big US casino chains had made a move of this nature, and seven months later they would exercise their right to take over the entire company for a reported fee of $108m.

Playtika’s jewel in its crown, now the jewel in Caesars Interactive Entertainment’s crown, was their Slotomania product, and by July 2011 it was booking 1m daily users and 4m monthly users on Facebook alone.

It became a social media monster. In Nov 2011, Slotomania went mobile after launching in the Apple Store for iOS devices; then just before Christmas of that year Japanese Slotomania was launched on Yahoo! Japan; and in February 2012 the game was also available on Android devices. Yahoo Games, and Amazon, would also find room for Slotomania before it was launched on the highly popular Russian social media network Odnoklassniki.

In July 2012, Slotomania became so big that it created its own .com site to run alongside its Facebook offering which by now contained 9m loyal followers. As 2013 approached Slotomania was responsible for 94% of social and mobile revenue in the Caesars interactive segment, then in Dec CIE would acquire Buffalo Studios in a deal worth $47m, and today the two companies largely comprise the sum of the parts of CIE, with Bingo Blitz joining Slotomania as the companies gems.

By the time Mark Pincus was stepping down and Don Mattrick was stepping up over at Zynga, CIE was ruling the $1.2bn market by controlling 18.6% of market share all thanks to the acquisition of the Israeli business formulated in the minds of Robert Antokol and Uri Shahak.

So why is Slotomania so popular?

As I logged on and started spinning the reels I struggled for a long time to get it. If you are unfamiliar with the way Slotomania works let me enlighten you with a nutshell explanation.

When you join the site you are given a series of choices to create free coins for yourself such as recommending the game to your Facebook friends. Then you go to the slot area and you will see that one game is open for you to play and the rest are locked.

If you want to gain access to the other games then you need to earn extra points. The more points you gain the more games you can play, and Playtika have close to a hundred slot machines titles.

Spinning those early free play reels is boring. Suddenly, I find myself wanting to unlock the new games. Not because I like playing slot machines for play money, but because I don’t like the fact that they are not allowing me to look. My sub-conscious tells me that it must be better, and so I keep on spinning.

Soon enough I have recorded enough points to open up more and more games. By this time by bankroll has grown and I start to tend to it like I would do with a bird nursing a broken wing. It’s my little baby and it’s my job to make sure that I protect it, nurture it and watch it grow.

It reminded me of conversations I have had with professional poker players who transitioned from the gaming world. The likes of Bertrand ‘ElkY’ Grospellier and Griffin Benger, who would tell me that in the early days their online poker bankroll was a way of keeping score. When they fixed their eyes on that number they didn’t see cash, they saw points.

This is why so many professional online poker players never cash anything out. They just play and play, because their primary purpose is to nurse and nurture their bankroll. Slotomania uses this knowledge to its advantage.

Suddenly I get it.

The need to have the biggest bankroll in the game is one of the reasons people will pay good money to purchase free play coins. The more coins they have the bigger games they can play in. The risk of big wins and losses increases, as does the adrenaline, as does the cortisol.

There is only a tiny base of paying players though. Just 200,000 customers paid per month pay for credits on Slotomania during the fourth quarter of 2012, and that represented just 1.2% of the average monthly user base for the game.

There are other smart ways to sell their coins and they take advantage of them all. One great way is an affiliation with top entertainment products such as NOW TV and LoveFilm where you can access a free monthly trial in return for Slotomania coins. I assume CIE take a share of the profits when the free trials turn into real money customers.

If Slotomania wants to continue its dominance then I believe the games have to improve. There needs to be more depth, more gameplay and more user control. The bankroll management psyche won’t do all the hard work, when the Xbox and PlayStation lead the charge as the consoles enter the social gaming space in a big way with the launch of their Pre Christmas presents this year, with titles that have more depth, more gameplay and more user control.

Well that’s enough for me. I need just 1,000 credits to unlock Oriental Secrets. I have no idea what those secrets could be, no idea if I will enjoy the game…in fact I have no idea why I am suddenly addicted to this bloody thing, but I guess that’s the whole point now isn’t it?