Comprehensive Plan for Enhanced PokerStars Experience
PokerStars today unveiled a comprehensive plan to enhance the playing experience and to re-emphasize the fun and social aspects of online poker while attracting and retaining more players to the game. Poker is a fun game that we love and our responsibility is to make sure that every player at PokerStars -- advanced, recreational or new - can enjoy this game as much as we do.
We believe that the combination of a new VIP club program, the release of innovative new games and broad-based consumer marketing campaigns - including new campaigns featuring Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr - will put the poker ecosystem on the right tracks to deliver growth for the years to come.
Investments in research and development will bring new innovations to the game beginning in the first half of 2016 and continuing throughout the year to increase play from existing customers and attract new players.
PokerStars also plans to roll out new policies that will reinforce the fundamental elements of human competition by limiting certain software programs that may provide an unfair advantage to some players.
For more than 95% of our players, the most obvious change will be the introduction of the VIP Steps program and changing our variable FPP currency into a constant value which will be called StarsCoin. This will simplify the reward system and enhance its visibility during play, so that players can follow their progress in real time. VIP status players from BronzeStar to GoldStar will continue to be able to receive up to a similar level of rewards to what they receive now. In some cases, players will receive less; in some cases, players will receive more, but it's very much in the same ballpark.
PokerStars will also revamp the loyalty program to effectively incentivize and reward more players and to encourage competitive play over high volume play. The changes will result in improved rewards for the vast majority of players. Approximately two percent of players - including our highest volume and high stakes players - will have significantly reduced rewards. The reason we are focused on the highest status levels is because these rewards have become so enticing that we have inadvertently altered why some people play and how they play. We are introducing these changes to move towards a more balanced long-term poker economy and to return the game back to one that rewards skill via winning at the tables rather than playing primarily for volume.
A Summary of 2016 Changes
Introduction of VIP Steps
• Simplified rewards mechanism replaces FPPs, Stellar Rebates, and Milestone Rewards with StarsCoin.
• StarsCoin value will be one cent each for all statuses.
Reducing Rewards for High-Volume and High-Stakes Players
• VIP Club rewards will be capped at 30%, impacting mainly high-volume Supernova and SupernovaElite status players.
• PlatinumStar status will have up to a 10% reduction in their overall rewards.
• In recognition of the players who have already-earned SupernovaElite status or will by the end of the year, the benefits cap for players who earn Supernova Elite in 2015 will be 45% in 2016.
• No VPPs for pot-limit and no-limit games with blinds of $5-$10+, 8-game $10-$20+, and other limit games with blinds of $10-$15+. This change is implemented due to high transaction costs and operation costs of monitoring these games.
Click through to the 2016 VIP Changes page.
Third-Party Software Restrictions
Technology liberated poker from the constraints of bricks and mortar and allowed poker fans to discover the game at their own pace in their own home on the internet. While the tactics of the game may have evolved, poker has stayed true to its core - it's fundamentally about human competition, which is something that needs to be protected. The game should be about combining logic and an ability to steel your nerves to make that big call or bluff; it shouldn't be about clicking a button because harvested stats tell you to. For this reason, we are on a path to eliminate many of these technological advantages that are used by a minority of players.
People have differing views on where the line around third-party software in poker should be drawn; it's certainly something that we constantly debate and review. Technology can aid, but it shouldn't take over.
Today, we want to make clear that the line will be drawn to preserve poker as a battle of wits and a test of heart. This will only have a direct effect on a small proportion of players and builds upon our responsibility to provide a level playing field for all players.
The new restrictions on third-party software will extend recent changes to our third-party software policy. Last month, we reduced data mining in Zoom!, restricted the use of heads-up displays, and limited the use of Spin & Go seating scripts.
Our intention is to expand these restrictions through major changes within our own software that we will communicate in more detail through 2016. PokerStars wants to offer fun, fair and competitive games of poker globally. These changes aim to help us achieve that goal.
Product Innovation & Marketing Investments
We are also continuing to invest heavily in marketing that reaches new audiences and re-ignites the interest of lapsed players. Earlier this year we announced the signing of two of the most popular athletes in the world, Cristiano Ronaldo and Neymar Jr. They've already been involved in some of our most successful promotions ever. Soon, they will be part of the biggest global consumer marketing campaign in PokerStars history.
Our investment includes the most significant research and development initiatives in years, some of which will come to market in early 2016, including a standalone PokerStars branded app that we believe will bring a brand new twist to poker. Later in the year we're planning an even more bold take on poker that we believe will be very exciting.
The changes to the PokerStars VIP Club will come into effect from January 1, 2016, and new policies on third-party software will come into effect throughout 2016.
We are confident that these changes will improve the playing experience for all PokerStars players and will drive increased play and more players to the ecosystem.
Eric Hollreiser is Vice President of Corporate Communications for Amaya Inc. and PokerStars.