Not so long ago, gamers and online casino players considered themselves to be two very distinct tribes. By-and-large, the former wouldn’t be seen dead wasting their time on something as rudimentary as a video slot machine and the latter would certainly question the inherent value of collecting points or “XP” when they could instead be accumulating cold, hard cash.
“Why would I waste my time and energy playing something where my skill has no bearing on the overall outcome?” the seasoned video gamer would likely posit, while the online casino enthusiast would counter: “what good is skill and having the ability to influence an outcome if the only rewards are a new high score and a different coloured cloak for your level 9 paladin?”
However, despite these seemingly insurmountable differences in the mind-sets of both groups of fans, these days the development brains behind both video games and online casino games are coming round to the fact that there’s actually plenty of overlap between the two industries.
More and more, we’re seeing online casinos adopt a more “gamified” approach to packaging their promotions and ongoing rewards systems, while video games are also starting to feature elements of gambling – for example MMORPGs like World Of Warcraft certainly aren’t immune to borrowing a trick or two from their gambling counterparts when it comes to boosting player engagement and ensuring continued custom with limited-time offers.
To better understand how these two contrasting worlds have slowly but surely aligned over the past few years, it is necessary to first look at some of the common themes they share. Although the following items are certainly delivered differently in video games and online casino games, there can be little question that the psychology underpinning them is actually unerringly similar – and it is this that is of most interest to those who shape the two industries.
First and foremost, it is an undisputable fact that casino games such as online video slots, like the ones available here HAVE borrowed an awful lot from video games over the years. The truth is that there’s only so much you can do with a few reels and a sprinkling of paylines, so in order to keep players entertained, slot software developers have been forced to look elsewhere for their inspiration.
One of the most common recent additions you’ll see in modern video slots is the inclusion of power-ups. Just like in the old Super Mario games where toadstools would increase your size and stars would render you invulnerable, today’s slot players will find all kinds of special icons on their reels, with everything from stacked wilds to bonus-triggering scatter symbols available.
On top of this, the latter of these two slot “power-ups” will often activate a mini-game that effectively adds a further level of interactivity to proceedings. Even when something as simple as a box-picking feature, these mini-games can create the illusion that players have a greater degree of control over the outcome, even though they have little impact on actual house edge.
The Big Pay-Off
If you’re a serious gamer, you’ll no doubt have spent countless hours slogging your way through vast virtual realms and conquering hordes of foes en route to a final showdown with some form of dastardly end boss. When the dust settles and your CGI nemesis is finally vanquished, what do you have to show for your efforts? Money? No. How about a cut-scene?
While this type of pay-off would initially seem anathema to an online casino player who is only interested in the impact their win will have on their bank balance, if you look a little closer, you will notice that similar techniques are used in both video games and slot machines to validate a player’s success – namely through the use of both visual and auditory rewards as they win.
Of course, modern video games afford developers the opportunity to treat successful players to sophisticated animated sequences and rising orchestral scores, but even video slots like to deliver a “feel-good” hit directly to the brain’s pleasure centre through the use of symbol animations, flashing lights and dramatic sound effects – particularly when a big win is struck.
The Path To Progress
Perhaps the single biggest development in the online casino industry that can be traced back to conventional gaming is the idea of progression or “levelling up”. In its original video game context, the “levelling up” of a character occurs as players earn experience points for defeating enemies or completing other tasks, with each new “level” achieved unlocking additional perks.
When you apply this to online casino gaming, you’ll notice that – actually – things are not all that different these days. Not only do certain slot machines like White Rabbit or Cleopatra include an inbuilt mechanism where players can unlock more lucrative features as they play, but the concept of progression is nearly always used in reward schemes as well.
With some online casinos like us at PartyCasino utilising tiered VIP levels and others awarding loyalty points that can eventually be redeemed for bigger and better rewards, it should be obvious that instilling players with the understanding that if they are willing to put in the necessary time and effort, they will progress to greater things is vital in improving brand loyalty and customer retention.
After considering these three initially surprising similarities, it’s actually not all that difficult to see how online casinos have been learning from video games and vice versa. The only real question, then, is whether the current trend for gamification in the online casino industry is here to stay or merely a passing fad. As is so often the case, the honest answer is “it depends”.
Due to significant advances in smartphone technology and processing power, a better understanding of user data and some reasonably lax controls on paid DLC, the once niche pursuit of gaming has been allowed to expand exponentially through the proliferation of mobile facing titles like Angry Birds, Candy Crush and Clash Of Clans and is now very much in vogue.
As such, online casino moguls who have witnessed the success of these games have been very quick to see if they can apply the same fundamental principles to their own products and convert a new breed on mobile gamer to slot and table games. While that may be proving a successful venture at this current moment in time, the next gaming fad is never far away and VR casinos – which you can read about in our next blog – could soon change the zeitgeist.