888Poker, the world’s second largest online poker room, has unveiled a new mission to ‘Take Back The Game’ spearheaded by a new TV ad and #Buzzkill social media promotion, but is it enough?
I have to offload my shame.
When I was younger, I took my son to Blockbuster Video so he could rent a video game. It was one of my favourite places to visit; like a zoo but with movies instead of animals.
I remember thinking how cutting edge they were when they began renting video games as well as movies. It allowed you a trial before buying them, and it was perfect for someone who had video game crazed children.
I was standing in line, waiting to rent a game my son had fallen in love with when I saw two £20 notes lying on the floor. I motioned to him to pick them up and put them in his pocket.
Later, as I pulled out of the car park, I saw another young boy, around my son’s age, being scolded by his parents.
“I wonder if it was his money that I picked up?” I thought as I drove off.
I never went back.
I didn’t do the right thing.
Poker can learn a lot from that experience in Blockbusters, and I’m not talking about my lack of honesty.
888Poker Taking Back The Game
888Poker has committed to a long-term strategy dubbed Taking Back The Game. The second largest online poker room this side of my post office believes that online poker is heading down a pole greased with lard, and if they don’t take action, the players are going to be breaking a few bum bones.
The press release states:
“888poker was the first to recognise a desire for change and a growing sense of frustration from players due to the direction in which the industry is developing; uneven matches, slow games and disproportionate VIP bonuses.”
888Poker point to four changes they have made on the site in reaction to a game that demands evolution.
1. A loyalty program aimed at recreational players
2. Non-skill based promotions such as Treasure Quest
3. Faster more convenient games such as BLAST
4. A relationship with the WSOP that will send 250+ to Vegas
All good stuff, but is it enough?
888Poker is making it their mission to create a form of entertainment that the recreational and professional poker players will thrive in equal fervour. And I like that because you don’t hear online poker rooms talking about mission, purpose, meaning, or values – all keystone principles of any great business.
Itai Pazner, Senior Vice President-Head of B2C division at 888Holdings said the new mission is about moving forwards and not backwards. The plans are to shape the future of online poker, so the players have a better experience.
The first move is a 30-second TV ad available in English, German, Portuguese, Spanish and Russian. The ads air on 11 May 2017.
The next play is to launch a social media campaign #Buzzkills where they highlight all aspects of the online poker playing experience that erodes a poker players faith in the product, and then explain how they are going to enact change.
A Brave New World?
Yesterday, I wrote enthusiastically about Alex Dreyfus’s realisation that online poker is a declining market, and to inject more mojo into the business him and his team will be trying to align the game much closer to those video games my son used to covet in Blockbusters.
Dreyfus used the word ‘disruptive innovation.’
I am not sure that Taking Back The Game is the appropriate motto. I love the intention, but the slogan doesn’t feel right. I prefer Creating a New Game because it’s the old game that needs to change, we don’t want to take it back.
If online poker is going to be around for a decade longer, then there has to be more disruptive innovation. Online poker rooms have to stop thinking about everything they know and start with a fresh mind.
Nobody watches TV commercials. Ads are like wasps as you try to soak in a few rays in your backyard. It’s the sole purpose we have a fast-forward button on the remote control, and the skip ad button must be one of the most used buttons on the Internet.
I don’t believe it’s the way companies should speak to their customers unless they have the money to buy a Superbowl commercial.
A brave new world?
Online poker rooms have to become much braver and smarter.
It was only a 30-second commercial ago that Blockbuster had over 90,000 stores, and Viacom bought it for $8.4 billion. They were the first video store to sell video games. They were the bomb. But they refused to understand their customer. They turned down the chance to buy Netflix for $50m ($8.8 billion in 2016 revenue), and today, that spot where I told my son to pick those two £20 notes up is the home to kitchen appliances.
Blockbuster is dead.
I sincerely hope that online poker doesn’t follow, and to do that we need online poker rooms such as 888Poker to ask these vital questions:
What is the one unanswered question that would unlock the most value in the business?
Why does it matter?
Where can I find this information?
What is preventing us from doing this?
I believe the unanswered question is ‘how do our potential customers entertain themselves?’
As Dreyfus pointed out yesterday, the video game industry is a $108 billion industry St. Bernard, and the online poker industry is a $2 billion industry pup.
We don’t know what to expect from the new mission. 888Poker has only offered a teaser of what’s to come. But the new initiatives must follow the answer to that question. The online poker industry needs it to so everyone else follows suit as they most surely will.
Sorry to be such a #Buzzkill.