Since the glory days of glitzy Las Vegas, the slot machine has dominated players’ attention in traditional North American casinos and until recently was a staple of European (particularly British and Irish) pubs. And despite the explosion and proliferation of poker sites (not to mention the prohibition and subsequent implosion of said sites in the ‘States) in the online gambling world, the popularity of slot machines remains unshakeable.
In fact, a study released by the University of Nevada Las Vegas (UNLV) Center for Gaming Research based on statistics of gambling revenues in the state from 1984 to 2015 showed that the dips in income from 2008-10 were ultimately just a blip. According to the UNLV researchers, total gambling revenues in Nevada increased a crazy 254% over the 20-plus year period, and slot revenues grew nearly 200% more than those earned via table games. Big money this may be, but the more forward-looking within the industry wisely keep an eye on trends within the great international fascination with slots to get a glimpse into the future.
Massive. Though much revenue generated at online casinos is unregulated and thus untallied, we do know that the mobile gaming market is expected to hit right about $100 billion in 2017, the first year in which mobile gaming revenue will top 50% of all online gaming.
Year 2016 will go down as marking the first efforts by online slot game producers to meet that demand. Microgaming introduced the first-ever slot titles reconfigured for better display on small mobile devices, the big-name Dark Knight Rises and longtime favorite Thunderstruck. Larger software names such as Playtech and Amaya have such games on the drawing boards as of mid-2016 and should be releasing greater numbers of titles after the initial releases of 2017.
Just as in Hollywood, franchise titles are evermore a draw in Las Vegas and US casinos especially. Titles of the 2010s including Friends, the Christian Bale-starring Batman film trilogy and the Jetsons set records on the Strip during the decade. These titles tend to push the envelope in gameplay as well: The Flintstones slot machine released in 2016 is a virtual “best of the slot machine” in the post-internet society, packed as it is with video clips, video game action, 3D displays, progressive awards and more. This may be a rare window during which “bricks-and-mortar” slots outdo their online casino slots counterparts technologically – albeit probably not for long.
Ah, now, that’s the big question, isn’t it? As the Millennials advance into their 20s and 30s, an age range in which a love for traditional slots and table gaming develops, marketers hope to divine the secret formula to woo a generation which takes stuff like MMPORGs and e-sports for granted.
Time will tell if this generation gap is filled, but clearly some change in mentality is required fast. Old tricks like adapting hip TV shows (i.e. Mad Men, Breaking Bad) to slot machine form won’t be enough for a bunch that’s willng to “cut the cord”on television altogether. And while the idea of ponying up money to play games online is hardly a stretch (after all, “freemium” games are nearly a requirement on a Millennial’s cell phone), most are not accustomed either to paying more than a few dollars at a time or getting absolutely nothing for the payment (as is sometimes the case when playing slot machines).
Revolutionary – or at least evolutionary – ideas will have to be implemented to preserve the success slot machines have sustained in both mediums since the 1950s…