Multiplying Social Casino Players

The social casino sector has experienced explosive growth over the last 10 years, and FlowPlay has long been at the forefront of that transformation. When Vegas World got over 1 million players in less than a year more than a decade ago, the company caught lightning in a bottle.

Multiplying Social Casino Players

It’s safe to say that the gaming industry is in the midst of a technology revolution, or perhaps multiple revolutions, with the advancement and expansion of mobile sports betting, dealerless table games, iGaming and more. But what about social casinos? This cutting-edge sector has quietly been making a name for itself over the past ten-plus years, especially with younger players.

For those who may be unfamiliar with social casinos, they are essentially adult versions of Sims, Club Penguin and other online multiplayer games. Users play casino-type games such as slots and table games, but no money is actually wagered or won, unlike regulated online casinos, which involve real players and payouts. Instead, users play for game credits or other prizes, and everything within the game is automated, and not human-operated.

One of the biggest social gaming operators in the market today is Seattle-based FlowPlay, headed by CEO Derrick Morton (below). With over 15 years of experience in the industry, Morton has seen social gaming evolve from its infancy into a real powerhouse, and is even starting to form partnerships with other facets of the industry.

On the Ground Floor

Morton and FlowPlay CTO Doug Pearson founded the company all the way back in 2006—from the beginning, both have always believed in the power of online multiplayer games.

“We just kind of landed on the idea that virtual worlds and virtual currencies were gonna be kind of the way the game industry was headed,” says Morton. “And so this is 2006, so we saw things like Second Life. We saw things like Club Penguin and so that’s why we decided we’d go for it and build a platform to allow for virtual currencies and virtual worlds.”

In 2008, FlowPlay then came onto the scene with ourWorld, a multiplayer game built for teens. The game was successful in its own right, allowing the company to reach profitability by 2010. But eventually, Morton was “struck” by the idea of introducing a casino element to the games—he had previously worked on an innovative project called back in the late ‘90s, a social casino before they were even called by that name.

Given the success of ourWorld, Morton and Pearson knew that their platform had potential, it was just a matter of creating “a virtual Vegas.” Thus, it didn’t take long before Vegas World was born.

The Rise of Vegas World

Launched in October of 2012, Vegas World quickly became FlowPlay’s flagship brand, tallying over a million users in less than a years’ time. Part of the reason for its success, Morton explains, is that the game is structured much differently than its competitors.

“So for everybody but us, if you’re playing on other social casinos, they’re gonna give you some free coins to play with,” he says. “And eventually, because of the odds of the games, you’re gonna lose those coins over time. You’re playing a 93 percent – 94 percent payout game over time. All those coins are gonna go away. And so you’ll, you’ll get more every day you come, but if you play for a while, you’re gonna run out. And so what they do is they will sell you more coins so that you can have more time on machine, more time to play. You can’t win anything with those coins, but you get, at least you can continue to play. You don’t have to go away. And so that’s, that’s the model for, you know, 95 percent of all social casino games: buy some coins so that you continue to play.”

What makes Vegas World different, according to Morton, is that they don’t sell coins or free spins, they sell “the opportunity to increase the odds of the game above a hundred percent.” Essentially, players can purchase various lucky charms that give them a temporary boost, similar to certain spins and games featured on modern slots. One example of these odds boosters is a virtual beer, which can be enjoyed individually or communally if a user is in the vicinity of others, say at a virtual blackjack table.

This then contributes to the social aspect of the platform. ”It becomes this virtuous cycle of, ‘I bought a beer.’ We can play for a while until that beer runs out and then somebody else is gonna buy a beer,” says Morton. “And it, you know, it becomes this social experience of like, ‘Hey, let’s have fun. Let’s increase the odds of the games. And we’ll do this for each other because it’s a multiplayer experience.’”

In early 2015, the company then expanded the platform into the sports betting industry, via the Vegas World Sportsbook. FlowPlay partnered with BetRadar, one of the leading sports betting providers in the world, to supply the lines and data. Morton says that the company is currently working to implement baccarat, which is the final popular game left to be introduced. After that, Vegas World will truly be a comprehensive virtual casino.

Looking Ahead

Now that the company has gained a substantial following, they’ve had to take on some new obligations, such as responsible gaming and harm minimization initiatives. After all, social gaming is still gaming, and can still lead to some less-than-stellar habits.

“We have a program where if you contact us and tell us, ‘Hey, I’d rather not play as much,’ or ‘I’d rather not play your game anymore, can you prevent me from doing so?,’ we do that,” Morton says. “I wouldn’t say frequently, but several times a month, people get the feeling that they’re, they’re just spending too much time in front of their computer, in front of their phone. And so we delete their accounts for them. We also have situations in which a loved one or a spouse will let us know that they’re a little worried about their loved one. And we ask for some verification, if they can prove that they are actually related or in the same household then we will also disable that account.”

The company also restricts the platform to users who are over 18, and if they sense unusual activity that may suggest otherwise, they will “block those accounts as well.”

With a solid player base and robust security systems, the company is now looking ahead to forging new partnerships that will “fill the gap between social casinos and the gambling floor.” Land-based operators are always looking for ways to expand their brand and reward systems beyond the walls of their properties, and Vegas World offers a unique opportunity to do so quickly, on a large scale.

“We’ve just recently launched a project with Hard Rock,” Morton says. “So we have a Hard Rock cruise social casino called Hard Rock World Tour. You’re on a cruise ship and you’re going to Hard Rocks around the world. So, as part of that partnership we will be tied into their rewards program. You’ll be able to earn Hard Rock rewards points while you play the social casino games. And then those will be available to you to redeem at any Hard Rock location.”

Connections such as these likely illustrate the future of gaming, where players can dance between reality and fantasy, all while having the games they love at their fingertips.

“We believe that the best way to keep in touch with the customers who are casino players is to be part of their digital life and let them be part of the brand experience outside the actual casino floor.”