At the recent Global Gaming Expo in Las Vegas, Brian Christopher was occasionally recognized by fans of his YouTube channel, BCSlots, which features him playing slots at casinos across the country. That’s what happens when you’re one of the most popular social media influencers in the gaming industry.
But even as Christopher embraces being recognized, it was not why he was at G2E.
“I’m not coming for that,” Christopher said of the attention he drew at Venetian Expo in Las Vegas. “I’m coming to see all the newest games and to reconnect with the manufacturers, but also to meet tons of other partners that we deal with in the industry.”
A business trip, in other words. For Christopher and other influencers, G2E is important to their companies, a vital way to forge new connections.
It wasn’t always that way.
Marco Bianchi, vice president of operations for BC Slots (and Christopher’s partner) said there’s been a transformation in the way influencers have been accepted at the conference.
“I remember my first few times coming, you could not pull out a cell phone,” Bianchi says. “You’d get tackled immediately. That’s definitely changed for most (exhibitors). Some of them are still a little protective about filming — you have to wear a badge that says you’re about to film. Obviously, they want to protect their own stuff and that’s fair. They have products that have not been announced yet and they want to keep it hush-hush, which is respectable. But they have definitely opened their arms to all of us.”
This year’s G2E featured the education session, “Influence is the New Currency: How Player Marketing is Evolving” the first time formally addressing the trend. Christopher and Bianchi participated on that panel.
Other influencers in attendance weren’t on panels but found the G2E trade show floor to be a worthwhile investment of time. Josh Duffy, creator of “Slotaholic” featuring the tagline, “Sip, spin, and win,” enjoyed seeing the newest design elements for slot games.
“I love that we’ve built a rapport with some of these designers and that we can be honest and upfront about what are opinions of what our experiences on the game have been,” Duffy said. “They get that actual one-on-one, face-to-face interaction with influencers.”
At G2E, Duffy expressed his dissatisfaction about the volatility of some of the newer slot games he believes makes it harder to win.
“When you see players coming through, you want to make sure they are having a good experience and want to come back,” Duffy says. “I’m worried the manufacturers are getting too volatile.”
Duffy’s comments are not made in a vacuum – what influencers say and do have a tangible effect. Christopher said game designers watch his videos and pay attention to the comments section to glean what is working and what is not.
“Especially in the live streams when they get immediate comments from them,” Christopher said. “They’ll listen to the feedback, what people are liking, what people are not liking about their games and other people’s games, too.”
Christopher notes that he’s not influential enough to make or break a slot game – “I don’t think any of us are that good,” he said, laughing – but will give games he initially doesn’t like multiple chances. He was initially disillusioned with IGT’s Prosperity Link slot game when it first came out, but learned to like it after breaking through for a winning session or two.
“You can’t judge your experience by one go at it,” Christopher said. “Or even two or three. You have to give it some more play to figure it out.”
There are times when influencers feel like they have seen too many variations of the same game. Kelly Koffler, content creator for the YouTube channels Beyond Blackjack and Slot500Club, says when she first attended G2E two years ago it seemed like the new games were more innovative.
“Then last year, it seemed like there was not as much creativity, let’s just take the same things and mash them up into one game,” Koffler said. “And this year, I’m seeing, let’s just reskin games. They’re reskinning and mashing them up and making them harder. It’s like we’ve already got them hooked on this Buffalo game, let’s just add it to this Lightning game. I’m not calling out anybody, but let’s just make it a whole lot harder (to win).”
While Christopher has established himself as one of the more prominent gaming influencers, Duffy and Koffler are less certain about what they want to do. Duffy owns a retail store, Bourbon Pride, on Bourbon Street in New Orleans. Koffler works in her family’s business, a towing company in Louisiana, when not filming videos.
Koffler doesn’t envision posting videos on her channels forever and wouldn’t mind exploring other options in the gaming industry.
“I look at everything and every booth from a player’s perspective, then also look at it from an industry side,” Koffler said. “ … I’m looking at everything through a responsible gaining angle versus player angle versus the psychology angle — I’m looking at things through so many angles. It’s always just this interesting thing but I always look forward to meeting the people who work for manufacturers at G2E.”