Loto-Québec and eSports
Loto-Québec’s plan to drive future revenue growth and profits to good causes is to move from a product-centric strategy to a client-centric strategy. Rather than using traditional marketing, the lottery is trying to integrate themselves into the lives of these players by supporting their hobbies. Loto-Québec hopes this strategy will create a mutually beneficial relationship and entrench itself in the burgeoning local communities.
“Because we are operating casino, lottery, VLTs, restaurants and spas, we’ve always tended to see ourselves as really an entertainment industry actor. Our core is not just about gambling. It is about all forms of gaming and play. If we can get closer to those proximity markets that are also in the gaming sphere—by which I mean playing and having fun—then our forms of gaming may get integrated into the market as well,” Nathalie Rajotte, Corporate Director, Strategy, Innovation & Business Intelligence, Loto-Québec, said.
Loto-Québec is fostering a relationship with various communities amongst the eSports and video games ecosystem. eSports is a form of competition where professional gamers play against one another in a video game competition. In 2019, the total Canadian audience for these events grew to over 454 million viewers, a group that is predominately male and under the age of 35.
The lottery was careful not to come across as a company only trying to sell a product. “When we presented ourselves at the very beginning to the gamers’ community, we approached them just saying that we were curious about their journey as we are a lover of gaming of all kinds,” Rajotte said.
The lottery began interviewing various members of the community to understand who they were. “If you want to take a client-centric approach, then you need to understand their world, but at a human level. When we went out there, it wasn’t ‘let’s make them aware we are there.’ It was like ‘How can we contribute to their passion?’”
Loto-Quebec learned about gamers’ language and thinking, particularly how opposed they were to corporate culture. This reinforced the belief that traditional marketing to this audience would not be successful. eSports enthusiasts are passionate about their hobby/profession, and they want to see the same level of passion from the companies they interact with. “If you want to relate to them, you have to talk the same language. And if you’re not really a passionate gamer, well the conversation is not going to be very long, sustainable or durable,” Rajotte said.
The biggest thing that arose from these conversations was the problems the community faced, which provided an opportunity for the lottery to help it. For instance, Quebec eSports players could not participate in some tournaments outside of Quebec due to an erroneous understanding of Quebec’s regulations by those organizations. The biggest tournaments happen everywhere in the world, so this was preventing a lot of future Quebec eSport professionals from turning into international stars.
The lottery helped solve the problem by contacting the Régie des Alcools, des Courses et des Jeux (RACJ) and getting an official interpretation of the regulation confirming there was no valid reason to exclude Quebec esports players. They were successful in their efforts. Loto-Québec also helped support the community in other ways. Twitch is a platform that allows for live streaming eSports and video gaming content. People stream themselves playing. Many “streamers” struggle with attracting larger audiences. Some big streamers, like Ninja, can have millions of viewers, while smaller streamers may have difficulty attracting even a few people. “The Face of the Internet” was an initiative started by Loto-Québec to help local French speaking streamers.
In April 2019, over 60 streamers registered to “The Face” and 12 participants were to enter this competition. Loto-Québec selected the final six and then began to support them by giving them additional publicity and equipment to improve the quality of their stream.“We helped promote local talent and showed them how to improve their Twitch-streaming skills,” Rajotte said. “We made ourselves available to them at all times in order them to support them.”
Loto-Québec also supported local independent (“indie”) video game developers. At Comiccon de Montreal, the lottery sponsors a booth called “Indie Game Zone” where small developers can showcase their games to the public. At the 2019 Comiccon, the lottery supported over 25 companies.
The relationship is still in its early phases. The effects of their efforts aren’t resulting in huge increases to the bottom line, but that’s not the intention. “You cannot push it too fast. It is like a love affair. It needs to develop over time,” Rajotte explained. “They are very generous once they know it is a genuine interest. We have a lot to offer each other.”
The goal eventually will be to encourage eSport players to try the land-based casinos, sports betting (particularly eSports betting) and various online iGames. However, by learning from the video game community, the lottery will also improve their own assets, like their website. “There is a lot of crossover between eSports players and casino poker players. The conversation is a real possibility,” Rajotte ended. “eSports is not a product, it’s an audience, the question is how do we develop our relationship and our offer along with this new crowd!”
“If you want to be client-centric, you need to have some employees who are really willing to get acquainted with the target group and the market you are aiming at. We’ve always said, ‘think outside the box.’ Well, the ‘box’ is our building and we really should get out of it,” Rajotte said.