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Gamers and gamblers – a match made in heaven

What is the relationship between gaming and gambling? Does the concept of skilled gaming, allowing gamers to play against their friends but cash winnings, appeal to a latent risk-taking psychology inherent in many gamers?

Jarrod Epps, Blogger

July 3, 2013

3 Min Read

Recent research has found that gamers are more likely to call themselves gamblers than non-gamers. So, are gamers naturally more leant towards risk taking or are they just competitive? If the majority of gamers enjoy competing when there is cash at stake, perhaps the idea of integrated P2P betting in games would augment their gaming experience.

The psychologies between gaming and gambling certainly have crossover. Although, as Peter Gray in this Psychology Today article tells us, the idea that people can get hooked on video games in a similar way to gambling is misleading.

We’re not talking about outright gambling, but the concept of skill-gaming – playing against an opponent for small amounts of cash.. Whether that’s a casino or video game, or a game of one-upmanship between friends where money exchanges hands.

It has been observed that there are cognitive reasons for the enjoyment of games. As cited in this Observer article, one such mental stimulation is the “acquire, test, master” process. You acquire a new skill or tool, try using it and get good at using it.

The same is true for playing a game of poker – commonly a game where money changes hands. You get a set of cards, and test their likelihood of winning by trying them out. Then gradually you learn what to call and what not to call based on your experience. 

Are gamers aware of these similarities?

Interestingly, in a research project we carried out recently, we found that those who answered ‘yes’ to regularly playing mobile and online games, almost three in four (74%) also considered themselves gamblers. In comparison, only one in three (34%) of the total number surveyed admitted to having a regular flutter – showing that gamers are more likely to place bets than non-gamers.

Delving a little deeper into the stats, we found that over half (56%) of gamers said they were more likely to bet against friends than ‘the house’. That is reflective of the figures for the overall population – 55% of people didn’t class themselves as gamblers; but 42% of that number admitted to having a flutter among friends.

It is interesting that gamers preferred social betting to outright gambling, because as we’ve identified, there are inherent similarities in the enjoyment of the two processes. Perhaps it shows the diversifying needs of gamers and reflects the opinion that online and mobile gaming has made it a more social pastime.

Skill gaming: bridging the gap between gaming and gambling

The intrinsic relationship between gaming and gambling represents an opportunity for games developers. Almost 40% of the gamers we surveyed were favourable to the concept of playing for cash winnings against friends. Furthermore, given the correlation between those that enjoy gaming and gambling, this figure sounds pretty conservative.

After all, if gaming is about acquiring a skill, testing it and mastering it, you’re likely to take mastering it a lot more seriously if there is money on the line. Conversely, skilled P2P gaming for cash makes the game more competitive.

Where is the opportunity for developers I hear you ask? Well it’s no secret that the current monetization methods being used to make mobile and online games profitable are far from perfect. Almost half (44%) of the gamers who took our survey said they felt banner ads and freemium models ruined the gaming experience.

So, the alternative of a skill-gaming platform where gamers can play against each other for money doesn’t seem like such a crazy one really does it?

Taking friendly bets against each other is an activity that many gamers are familiar with and fits naturally into a game scenario. Using interfaces such as Cashplay.co, an integrated skill game wagering platform, developers can take a small percentage of the cash changing hands. 

If you’re going to monetise your games, it makes more sense to offer another service that large numbers of your users are likely to enjoy than attempt to use methods large numbers find disruptive.

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