The Future is Now

The 21st century casino is evolving, and so is the 21st century player. Almost with each passing day, young adults are coming of age in many jurisdictions throughout the United States and around the world. These are technologically savvy adult gamers who have grown up with Internet technology, multitasking video games, and fully interactive and skill-based gaming environments. This is the emerging and growing market. These are not the kind of players who find entertainment in children’s games and old movie themes. Neither do they like games that are slow or, in many cases, passive.

The most important factors for these gamers are twofold. First, they want speed. Speed, speed and more speed. To these gamers, everything is too slow, and I couldn’t agree with them more. Current on-screen speed controls for available video games are still infuriatingly slow and basically functionless. This also applies to other features, such as sound.

Second, they want interactivity and skill-based challenges. These are gamers who can play anywhere from eight to 40 games at the same time on their computer screens. Manufacturers of the next generation of video interactive and skill-based games should most definitely take this into account and provide widescreen gaming environments that permit these multitasking gamers to be able to do what they already know how to do—play more than one game at the same time.

Several manufacturers of slots have taken this evolutionary concept in mind, especially in server-based products and designs, including libraries of games, excellent widescreen monitors and certainly the potential for multitasking and multi-gaming environments for their server-based products. This also includes the potential for skill-based environments, in particular for those that are not only new but also part of current and recent pop culture. Hopefully, the gaming libraries will keep pace and the suite of features available on these new gaming environments will also include other features, such as video-based introductions in how to play in these environments, how to play the games and other interactive features that the player can choose to either use or not use.

Of course, this new generation of gamers is not yet the overwhelming economic force in the casino industry. The general demographic of the slot player still has not changed very much. The players who have most of the disposable income still continue to be between 50 and 75 years old. And most of the slot players continue to be women, although many men are also drawn to these games, particularly those that offer financial rewards and other “manly” challenges. But even older players have come to accept technological innovations and a certain level of interaction in gaming environments, such as bonus features that require them to touch the screen. Even if these are only pseudo-interactive and basically passive environments, at least they provide a semblance of interactivity, if not truly interactive in the correct sense of the word.

Generally, these older gamers enjoy games and themes that are familiar to them. This is what can be best described as the “arcade generation,” and gaming innovations along these lines are those that will capture their interest the fastest. Women are more interested in passive games that offer entertainment, while men are mostly interested in gambling games that offer good rewards and less extraneous distraction—or “useless garbage,” as they tend to call it. Both genders across most age groups also like stepper products because it seems to them that these games are the most similar to slot machines as they used to be. While everybody is interested in video gaming innovations, the old “pull the handle and see what happens” spinning reel machines still offer the kind of excitement that players look for—and come to expect—from any casino they visit. “Too bad that there are no coins falling out” is the comment that we hear most often from stepper slot players older than 38 years.

Those under 38 usually don’t care much, and those who are younger yet sometimes don’t even realize that slot machines used to have coins. In most cases, however, the popularity of spinning reels continues, because that is what people think of when they think of casinos and slot machines.

In general, players across all demographics are willing to embrace new technology, new innovations, interactivity and, especially among the new age gamers, skill-based concepts. But, at the same time, they still want to preserve the traditional feel and look of slot machines in casinos, so that they can experience at least some of the thrills that are now part of the great old casino lore. In fact, that is something that most players really miss. Even the casino in Ocean’s 13 used coins and paid off in coins, as well did the airport progressive machines in the final scene, although there are not many casinos left in the United States that still do so.

At least some of these features should perhaps be offered on the new generation of slot machines, especially if the machines are built and designed like very old games. This would be a great addition to the design and game library of any manufacturer, and I think it would be an instant hit on a casino floor anywhere. Perhaps the concept of “something old, something new” is in reality the best direction for slot manufacturers under the current—and future—gaming and economic conditions and environments.

Overall, the current trends among players appears to be a demand for fewer gimmicks, more adult themes, bigger bang for the buck, recognition that slots are gambling machines and not entertainment consoles, and a definite sense of nostalgia—looking to recapture some of the great excitement of the old-style casinos. This, therefore, leaves great room for innovation. In my opinion, such gaming innovations should take two forms: first, a total gaming experience, and second, a trip down memory lane. That’s the best slot mix for the present and the future. And it’s also a great selling point—one that casinos can’t refuse. Any manufacturer that does these two things will sell many more units, secure longer-lasting products on the floor, spend less in making the products and realize longer and longer lasting revenues.

And finally, don’t forget that the emerging gamer is used to skill-based gaming and multi-gaming environments. These young adults are the future of casino gaming, and they are here now, not years from now. Don’t wait for the future, because if you do, it will pass you by.

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