Generation Z, or the ‘Millennials’, and their successors will be the largest generations ever by population. They will, however, also be the most socially, ethnically and culturally diverse generations with each social grouping (physical or virtual) having its own set of characteristics and traits.
How the gaming industry engages with these generations, which are unlike any before, will define the success stories and cautionary tales of the coming decade. This has become especially acute in the face of the global upheaval caused by the Covid-19 Corona Virus worldwide pandemic.
The challenge posed by emerging generations, and the tensions between the existing and the incoming, is not new.
Generations have historically been defined by a specific period, or tranche, of time marked by significant events such as war, economic boom, natural disaster, technology or peace time which helped drive a paradigm shift in society. These generations were relatively homogenous, with social groups being influenced by events local to them (such as women in work).
Millenials and future generations, however, are increasingly driven by the international influences brought on by globalization, which in turn is driven by technology.
This has resulted in the emerging generations becoming a melting pot of different characteristics and traits that are not bound by geographical location, or any other social, ethnic or cultural guides.
Traditionally each generation is defined by a specific set of unique characteristics, traits and values. This has made it relatively easy for the gaming, and other, industry’s to attract and engage them as customers.
Born after around 1985, Millenials have been around for a while now with many established and working in the gaming industry. A significant number of them will be reading this article.
Why then, does it appear that the industry still struggling to attract and engage them as customers?
The Millennials are a generation who, as consumers, have a broader and more accessible choice of product than ever before. It appears their choices are increasingly driven by values, ethics and principles; with experience, achievement and interaction being of primary concern.
As a group, the choices millennials make are driven by the voices of influencers, advocates, endorsers, and peer reviews. These voices can come from a multitude of channels such as social media influencers on Instagram, endorsers on You Tube or as a result of advertising integrated into general popular culture.
The question then becomes how can the gaming industry become an influencer of millennial behaviour or, indeed, can the gaming industry even be a voice of influence? And then, what does this mean for regulators.
Millennials Driven By Ethics And Values
Perhaps the most important characteristic or trait of the millennials is that their choices are increasingly driven by ethics, values and principles. The evidence of this is manifold and can be seen in examples from the growing backlash against social media hosts for a lack of duty of care, complaints against brands for their treatment and perceived exploitation of workers, and activism around marketing initiatives suggesting bias or discrimination on the basis of gender, sexuality or ethnicity.
This is not good news for an industry which has long had an image problem, not just with the moral, religious and cultural connotations associated with betting and gambling but also with accusations of consciously preying on the young and vulnerable, and fuelling an addiction that purportedly has a higher suicide rate than any other.
Alongside this is an industry with a back catalogue of products, which are still largely based upon traditional gender, racial, and cultural stereotypes. The products also often use overly sexualised imagery and continue to be marketed along gender lines.
I believe these issues are also the biggest challenge to the gaming industry engaging this generation. If the industry wants to engage with the Millenials, I believe, it needs to reassure them that the industry is responsible, shares the same set of values, ethics and principles, and is implementing modern strategies to address their concerns.
How Does Regulation Fit With Millennials
Regulation is increasing its impact on operators and affiliates by asking for greater accountability and providing restrictions on bonus and promotional activity.
Globally regulators are finding they, like the broader industry, are having to become more flexible and adaptable to keep pace with not only the growth and opportunity provided by technology but also with the uniqueness and continuous change presented by the emerging generations.
Regulators and the broader gaming industry are increasingly being led by The Millennials.