For fans of Game-Wisdom, you know how I feel about gambling and the attempts to bridge games and gambling together. When I heard the news about the development of video game casino machines, I had to take a closer look. They are being tested right now pretty close to me in Atlantic City, but is this a brave new future or a short trip?
Video Game Gambling Machines are being developed by the company GameCo. They're the first to patent the design and technology. The idea is to build something targeted at millennials, aka: The 30 to 40 year olds who aren't interested in traditional gambling.
The problem with slots is that while they're perfect for the elderly, younger people aren't interested in them. Thanks to the rise of mobile gaming and accessibility, there are more people playing games these days. What GameCo is trying to do is create a system and technology allowing for people to play actual games as a form of gambling. With their first game now being tested in Atlantic City, we can see what they have in mind.
To watch it in action, you can check out the video linked below:
Danger Arena was built by GameCo to be used as their Video Game Gambling Machine (or VGM). You have 45 seconds to kill at least six robots on a randomly picked map. Six robots will pay out money, while 10 gives you the most value.
The concept is that people are betting on how well their FPS skills are at the game. Maps are in essence the house against them. The ease of getting the kills is dependent on which map you get when you play. The video talked about developing their algorithm for choosing the maps and making sure that this abides by the laws on gambling.
While there is just one game now, GameCo is betting (no pun intended) on this taking off. On their site, they have plans on developing actual video game casinos built with games they've designed, and possibly converted normal games.
With the roll-out just started around here, we don't have any real data on how well it’s doing. My despisement of gambling notwithstanding, the idea is a brilliant one. We have seen attempts in the past to combine gambling/spending real money and playing games. From the first look, this definitely has potential to be a money maker. With that said, I do have some concerns.
Skill vs. the House:
Gambling is always built on fighting the house. This could be the algorithm in slot machines to the dealing of cards. As the famous saying goes, "The house always wins." What GameCo is proposing and testing is a system that factors in the player's skill into the equation.
The first warning sign that pops up is a simple one: Just how much is skill really the factor? Arcade machines have always been advertised as allowing skill to win, but they were heavily tilted against the player.
The term "Metrics Driven Gameplay" has been used to define games built around a focus on getting money instead of gameplay.
Both arcade and social games have been designed around specific metrics related to how much time someone is playing, how long until they should spend more money and so on.
With a VGM, I can't see this being designed around favoring the player instead of the house; no matter how much they say it’s skill-driven. The reason is very simple: Why would a casino want a machine that can have easy payouts?
Anyone who has played a FPS can tell you of the number of ways a game can be tweaked to be made harder against the player. With the use of analytics, it would be very easy to study and "adjust" the mechanics and difficulty to favor the house.
With that said, this does raise the question of having competitive games built into VGMs. We've seen full games that have allowed for players to gamble on who wins in the past and none of them have stuck. However, with a system like what GameCo has in mind, could this lead to the video game equivalent of playing Poker?
I don't have the answer to that one, but there is one other point I want to bring up.
As mentioned, the next step would be to create actual video game casinos using original games and modified licensed ones.
One of the best things that happened to the video game industry was moving away from metrics-driven design. By focusing on quality and the user experience, it allowed for the home market to overtake the arcade industry.
If the idea of video game casinos catches on, you can bet that publishers will want in on the profit.
Given the laws that go into gambling, I can see this affecting games that are released both in a retail and casino form.
When the rise of e-sports happened a few years ago, many developers focused on making their games "e-sports worthy," and I can just imagine "casino ready" being another avenue.
A few weeks ago, there was the discussion about gambling when it came to digital items, CS:GO skins, etc, and how any form of gambling can attract a criminal element. Again, I can be a cynic, but I don't want to see gambling having a bigger role in game development.
We can of course talk about the ethical concerns, but I'm sure you've all heard the arguments by now. The idea behind VGMs is a good one, but it's not something I want to see get fleshed out.
There are already debates about the use of gaming mechanics in the F2P and mobile markets. The creation of video game casinos seems like a further step away from the artistic side of the business. With all that said, what do you think about this?
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