The game of online poker has been a lucrative place for vendors of the great game, no more so than 888poker. But the brand isn't resting on its laurels as it responds to serious concerns about a decline in the reputation and popularity of online poker.
In answer to noise in the industry, the brand has invested heavily with a new 'Taking Back The Game' viral campaign, led by a slick television advert and #Buzzkill social media concept. 888poker has dealt its hand – is it going to be a game-saver for the poker industry?
The ripples of discontent on the online poker scene have been making poker bosses worried for a while, with a real threat to the industry's reputation and player loyalty. Online gambling spend may remain healthy, but other sectors such as slots and sports betting are like vultures waiting to feast on any disillusioned poker players.
A statement released by 888poker revealed the seriousness of the situation – and the need to ensure the game's reputation and popularity is reaffirmed and taken to new heights:
"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."
Along with the press release, 888poker has unveiled a marketing campaign fronted by the slogan, 'Taking Back The Game' – a large-scale initiative that's expected to be pushed hard for a considerable length of time.
The firm's TV ad hit screens across Europe (England, Germany, Portugal, Spain and Russia) earlier this month – a 60-second clip that's been honed to put the spark back in the player-poker relationship:
Lunching the ad at the start of the summer should coincide with a rise in spirits, enhancing the feel-good factor (albeit in the UK this might be wishful thinking, if the weather doesn't cooperate).
Then things are set to get social with 888's #Buzzkills, a concept that hopes to engage with players and invigorate their love for the table. Perhaps the personal touch is a trump card – 'We've taken our eye off the ball but we're back better than ever'; chivalry isn't dead and neither is online poker?
Of course, while flashy television advertising and social media activities will play an important role in achieving the desired 'SOS' for online poker, 888poker has been quick to respond to the real heart of the issue – making fast, effective changes to its online poker service, to take the game in an upward trajectory. The brand has carried out four upgrades in response to player demand and market research:
The impact of 888poker's campaign will make interesting viewing once the dust settles, but it's highly likely that this is just the start of the game's online evolution. Indeed, Itai Pazner, Senior Vice President-Head of B2C division at 888Holdings, has publicised the need for online poker to evolve or face extinction, with comments to the effect of:
"The challenge is focused on progression and not regression; the idea is to shape the future of online poker to give gamers a better experience."
The bigger question is where will online poker be in five to 10 years' time – and perhaps more specifically, where does it need to be if it's not to become a relic of the early internet age? Online poker may have a flashy allure, but its value compared to video gaming is small-fry; the gaming market is worth a staggering $108 billion, while online poker is a mere $2 billion baby.
While purists will always hold an affinity for retaining the classic elements of poker, there's an argument for changes that align it with more gaming elements. Of course, the traditional skill-based concept of poker and pro tournaments will always remain popular with a percentage of gamers, and that doesn't need to change, but diversification and new concepts could open up a whole new chapter for poker.
For the time being, expect Poker to enter your subconscious this summer as it goes viral across TV and the web. With the sounders out on social media, we're expecting 888poker to be collecting gamer data and becoming increasingly receptive to player-fuelled evolution. Which direction will online poker go? Maybe that's in the hands of the consumer. Head over to 888poker today to help the poker room 'take back the game' before it's too late!