Skill-Based Social Games are the Future – and the Present
Picture yourself at a casino, playing whatever game you like – slots, blackjack, poker, what have you. If it’s a card game, picture the dealer distributing the cards. If it’s the slots, picture the screen right there in front of you. Excellent. Now take your headset off.
That’s what I’ve been working on for the last decade. I grew up on videogames, and like a lot of kids, I didn’t want to stop playing just because I turned 20. So I got a job in the videogame industry. They taught me how games work and how people work and how to put those two things together. I even got to spend a couple of years in Tokyo working for the big guys. Pretty sweet. I’m also one of the guys that’s killing bricks-and-mortar casinos.
Check the VR
I don’t mean killing as in making a whole lot of money off them. I mean killing as in destroying their business. That headset I was talking about was the Oculus Rift, although it could be any VR headset. And the game you were playing was, of course, a videogame. This is the way most people will be going to the casino very soon. Many already are, at least with their smartphones.
They won’t necessarily be playing for real money, either. So-called “social games” like Zynga Poker are taking over the landscape, and one of their former execs, Jesse Janosov, has a company called Blue Crystal Labs that’s bringing out a new skill-based game called Simon Slots. It’s like Simon – you have to watch the wheel spin and remember which parts light up, then tap the right buttons in the right order. If you do well, you can buy “virtual goods” with your winnings, but you can’t cash them out. In other words, it isn’t gambling per se.
It’s not that people in the 18-34 demographic don’t want to gamble. They just don’t want to go to casinos, and they don’t want to push buttons with no social feedback. Plus, companies like Zynga don’t want to deal with anti-gambling legislation when there’s a mountain of money to be made. Actually, they are talking about opening a live casino, and Janosov says he hopes to convert Simon Slots to a real-money game down the road. But that’s another kettle of fish.
One of my jobs is to make sure you end up playing Simon Slots on your Oculus Rift when the headset finally comes out next year. Well, from a nuts-and-bolts perspective, I’ve already put my two cents into that project. Other people are on it now, but I’m still here to tell you, this is the future of all casino gaming. It’s the Star Trek future that everyone wants, with a portable holodeck you can take anywhere. In the meantime, people will keep using their smartphones to do all the things they used to do in real life, like go to the casino.