Convergence of gambling and video gaming roundtable – Kalamba Games

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Andy Sekula, Head of Games at Kalamba

An increasing number of industry titans in recent years have moved into video games and many video game outfits have turned their eye to offering ‘gambling’ elements within games. With these moves and the rise of social/mobile gaming bringing these industries closer to traditional gambling and igaming, what is there to be learned from this growing convergence?

 

Has the global video game boom influenced the design and development of today’s games? Gamification has been a focus for iGaming developers for some time, has this been driven by the rise in video game popularity?

There has been a lot of work invested in video game development over the years in regards to all sorts of progression and collection mechanics, with the ultimate goal being to reward players for specific behaviours. The primary goal for that industry is essentially the same as ours – to entertain and engage – and to that end, we can learn from video games just as we can from other products and services that compete for leisure spend such as movie streaming platforms like Netflix.

While the nature of certain AAA video games is sometimes significantly larger in scope – think Grand Theft Auto, for example – the same principles of attracting, engaging and retaining players remains and is in a sense more difficult for iGaming studios as we have to pack the same amount of involvement into a product that is smaller in scale and by nature is shorter in terms of average playing sessions. Despite this, many slots are now a world apart from what was produced 10 or even five years ago and highlight the creative talent our industry possesses.

 

Licensed games, chosen correctly, can be valuable investments for studios. We have already seen classic video game IPs feature in some slot titles in the past – is this something that can be leveraged further? Must it be something more than just window dressing?

This is quite a tricky thing to do well and there haven’t been too many successful examples of IPs moving from the video gaming world to slot games. Whether this relative lack of success so far is the reason why it hasn’t been leveraged more, I’m not sure.

Done right, I can see some potential in classic universal IPs like PacMan or Donkey Kong but for more modern brands such as the likes of Pokemon, you wouldn’t see it appear in slots until it’s not resonating with a younger audience anymore and when the generations that played the original game are old enough to play video slots, such as with Space Invaders or Street Fighter II.

 

Betting on people playing games (esports) has for some time proven hugely successful. What impact has this had and could have going forward, on traditional gambling as a whole?

Betting on outcomes, as we’ve seen with traditional sports betting, has been around long before esports (or even electricity!) appeared, but now it’s established, esports is an ideal focus for sportsbooks since there’s a lot of both skill and luck (randomness) involved –  so its a perfect vehicle for evolving the betting industry. I think given the different demographic that we see watching and being involved with esports, there’s the prospect of opening up igaming and betting industry offerings. This would mean the emergence of a whole new sector of players/bettors and consequently the potential for new styles of games/experiences to suit. It will be interesting to watch it evolve.

 

A recent study declared that video gamers are up to 4.5 times more likely to participate in betting and igaming. How can this new demographic of potential players be best approached?

To some extent, this could be two things: being literate with technology and already being introduced to the concept of gambling (like gatcha boxes) and competition (leaderboards) that they have already been exposed to and are experienced in. Or maybe it’s more about the preference for electronic entertainment (deemed the ‘spiritual opium’ by Beijing regulators). Either way, it’s another sector of players for us to understand and to do our best to accommodate.

 

Online, social gaming is a place where many gamers meet up, forge friendships and communities – to what extent can this be mirrored within igaming?

Basically, a brick and mortar casino creates an environment where players can gamble in a social setting, which additionally reinforces many emotions. This can be, to some extent, recreated within the live casino vertical, where people chat and bet on the outcomes of the casino games and their variations in real-time. We can also see some efforts being made in order to make slot games more of a social experience, where people can not only watch and chat with the streamer but can also bet with them. There’s great potential for experiences like this to be developed.

 

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