New skills for millenials

Casinos appear to be struggling to appeal to the next generation of gambler, with slots in particular looking tired to the younger audience. So could skill-based games be the answer, or will the savvy millennial gamer quickly see the odds are still stacked in favor of the house?

Although far from mainstream, some big names have recently announced they are taking a bet on skill-based products to draw in the younger demographic.

Australia’s Crown Resorts and Chill Gaming – a 50/50 joint venture between Crown and New Gaming Pty Ltd, owned by Wymac Gaming Solutions – plans to deploy a suite of skill-based electronic games after showcasing prototypes at gaming shows.

While GameCo, a self-styled video games casino, recently displayed its proprietary video gaming gambling machines (VGMs) at the Australasian Gaming Expo (AGE) in Sydney. The New York-based company is also hopeful that Macau will approve its machines before the end of the year.

CEO Blaine Graboyes says: “We’re seeing a very similar underlying business focus from casinos worldwide; the search for new, innovative products that attract new audiences and generate incremental revenue. We have strong demand from operators in Macau and other regulated gambling jurisdictions across Asia, while our participation at AGE was our first chance to expose Australian operators to our products and I am pleased to say that the response was very encouraging.”

GameCo, which has VGMs installed at the Tropicana and Borgata casinos in Atlantic City, describes itself as a “data-driven startup”.

It regularly gathers and analyses user feedback and performance metrics from casinos to assess how its games are performing. For example, its games typically allow bets of between US$2 and $20 per play, though average bet size is around $4. Meanwhile, the games are generally 45-60 seconds in length per play, while users tend to play each machine for an average of 15 minutes.

Users also often flit between games, which is why a carousel of gaming options, such as a ‘pod’ of three or four VGMs, helps keep them interested, according to the firm’s research.

GameCo has been granted a patent on its proprietary system for controlling return to player using similar math to traditional skill-based games like poker. The company’s games portfolio includes the likes of Danger Arena, a first-person shooter in which participants have to eliminate advancing enemies, basketball game Nothin’ but Net, and Pharaoh’s Secret Temple whereby players match gems to collect rare treasures within a time limit.

“We are seeing a strong correlation between players who enjoy traditional casino games as well as new video game gambling offerings,” says Graboyes. “Gamers come in all ages, from Millennials to Generation X [baby boomers].”

Different genres appeal to different players, however. For instance, around 60 percent of Danger Arena players are male and under 40. Meanwhile, the majority of those that play Pharaoh’s Secret Temple and Poseidon’s Deep Sea Saga (a bubble shooter game) are females over 40.

Social experience

Established in 2010, Gamblit Gaming has developed a number of multiplayer tabletop games that replicate an online social gaming experience on the casino floor. Its first games – Gamblit Poker and Cannonbeard’s Treasure – have been installed at casinos across the US and cruise ships operating in the Atlantic and Pacific. With these games, there is a joint combined wager against the house, anywhere from a total of $8 (four players each with a $2 bet) up to $20 (four players each with a $5 bet).

The outcome of the wager is the pot that the players then compete for. “We think that the allure of these specific games is that people get to play together,” says Marcus Yoder, VP of business development for regulated markets at Gamblit Gaming. “One person – the winner – comes away from each hand with an outcome greater than what they wagered in that hand.

Furthermore, the male-female divide is pretty close. “We’ve seen that along the gender line, both games come up fairly equally in terms of male and female players, with Gamblit Poker skewing only slightly more male, and Cannonbeard’s Treasure skewing only slightly more female,” says Yoder.

However, there is a major challenge for game designers. They need to ensure that titles aren’t too intimidating for non-gamers who may feel they lack the gaming aptitude to succeed and stand a chance of actually winning money.

On the flipside, there has to be enough difficulty so that more accomplished gamers don’t win too much too easily. It’s a fine balancing act. “Yes, we have taken into account the potential for some players to feel like they could never be skilled enough to win at skill-based games,” says Yoder.

 “First off, most games that you will see in the near future from Gamblit and other suppliers will continue to have an element of chance in the wagering outcome. Some jurisdictions will still mandate that.