[intlink id=”577″ type=”post”]In part one[/intlink] of this two-part post I was… upset. In this part two I intend to try and say something more productive, even though firing like I did in the first post was necessary. I wish even more people voiced their concerns for the future of the industry (or at least the current companies in it) openly. And loudly.
I ended part one wondering if the online rooms really are just going to sit by the sidelines as the inevitable achievement wave rolls over it. While I had the influence to anything about this scenario, I tried. But failed – without being able to really figure out why.
It’s not until very recently that I’ve come to fully come to terms with the reason. And my newfound insight leads to the same conclusion I drew for a different reason a couple of weeks back.
One reason it isn’t, is lack of knowhow. Most of the major industry players where I know people posses the experience, knowledge and passion for achievements gaming inhouse to make it happen.
Now, introducing achievements, trophies, badges and all that in poker is not entirely intuitive since the game already features a strong reward element in the form of monetary wins. But it is not THAT hard either. At least not if all you want to be is the best in the (current) business at it.
The first reason is because many of major industry players operate in such a complex macro climate that succumbing to the urge to adopt a fully customer centric business approach is too risky. Simply, the focus of companies would be spread too thin, the big decisions would be too many. To successfully stay competitive in the years ahead online poker providers and big brands need to future proof their technology for a potentially massively fragmented market, must avoid crossing too far into the gray areas of the legal landscape at all costs, must commit massive amounts of resources and money too each individual market to justify even going there and they must operationally fight the daily war against angle shooting players, angle-shooting partners and angle shooting competitors courtesy of flawed business models.
Everyone is too afraid to drop any one single ball to even look at the pot of gold at their feet even though they know it is there.
Full Tilt leads the innovation race. But they are certainly not leading the legalization race. A company like bwin is in the opposite corner. Some might claim that Pokerstars are firmly up there in both categories, but if what I hear is anything to go by it comes at the cost of a perhaps not operating all labels as efficiently as .com. And that is putting it nicely. So everyone has their hands full.
The second reason is as follows.
[intlink id=”554″ type=”post”]In this entry about Owning the Playe[/intlink]r, I attempted to describe what I consider to be an ongoing power struggle over player ownership between the online rooms and their partners in the form of affiliates, communities and others. And it is not going to well for some online rooms.
This situation makes any dedicated focus on end-user experience risky because the power over those players that are supposed to love your new thing ultimately may sit with someone else.
So what do the sites do then? They merge horizontally. One online room merges with another online room. To gain liquidity and profit from cross selling and synergies.
Obviously I don’t dispute the logic behind merging product lines that supplement each other. But apart from that, I’m not sure merging horizontally is the way to go.
If someone asked me to go build him or her a poker powerhouse I’d be looking vertically. Along the chain of power. Not across it. I’d make sure I secured a firm grip on all potential stakeholders in my players. I’d buy a rakeback affiliate, a content affiliate, a HUD software maker, a training site, a software supplier, a community and a poker tour. You get the picture.
I’ll let each them all work on being the best in their field while I at the top would have to worry less about juggling all them balls (since I have all bases covered) and struggle to retain ownership over my players. And because I am much more likely to retain power over the player, suddenly investing in them by for example building advanced achievement systems makes sense again.
Doing that sure beats merging a couple of rooms in the hope of building liquidity that might not belong to any of the merged rooms in the first place.
So, should the industry be ashamed of itself? I think a certain amount of leeway has to given due simply to the fact that it has to deal with high-level issues few other industries must. Things change at a pace that would make other businesses flatline overnight and we never really get the time to catch up. So I am somewhat sympathetic towards the lack of advanced in-game achievement mechanics in online poker games offered by top brands. But still…
I for one think the game deserves far more respect than it is shown by some big industry players and the only reason it is not sugaring their bottom line is because of this lack of respect.
There’s tons of money to be made from poker yet.
I’m starting to think the field is wide-open for people on the outside to come grab it.