Slot Machine Manufacturers Looking to Skill Games to Attract More Gamblers

  • New skill-based games are slot machines that play like video games
  • The best players have a better chance to win, but casinos will still win in the long run
  • Skill games designed to appeal to millennials aged between 23 and 38 years old
Dark room full of old vintage arcade video games from Sega, Konami, and others.
Slot machine makers will be showcasing a range of skill-based games at the 2019 Global Gaming Expo (G2E) in Las Vegas. [Image: Shutterstock]

Opinions mixed on skill games

Slot machines are a staple of casinos, but some gaming machine manufacturers believe that skill-based games are the wave of the future.

Slots are all luck – press a button, or pull a lever, and see what happens – but skill games allow players to have a say in the result.

With the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) coming to Las Vegas in a couple weeks, slot machine makers are hoping to prove to buyers that their video game-like skill machines will be money makers. Others are skeptical.

Video games could be the ticket

One optimistic company is Next Gaming, whose CEO, Mike Darley, showed off his products to the Las Vegas Review-Journal recently.

Next Gaming makes several licensed skill games based on popular classic arcade games. Such familiar names include Asteroids, Tempest, Arkanoid, and Missile Command.

They play like video games – players try to rack up high scores and clear levels – but they are really slot machines in disguise.

Darley stated that there is no guarantee that someone will win every time, no matter how good they are. However, he did say that skilful players are more likely to win in the long run.

These games are designed so that if you’re really, really good, your chances of winning more frequently are higher.”

John Acres, founder of customer tracking technology company Acres 4.0, isn’t a fan of slot machines cloaked in arcade game wrappers.

“People might feel misled, thinking if they’re really skillful, they’re going to win money,” he told the Review-Journal. “All it means here in Nevada is I will lose more slowly. …(and unlike the arcade games), it costs a heck of a lot more than a quarter.”

Trying to appeal to millennials

Darley believes that the more in control a gambler feels, the more likely they are to play. At least one poll upholds this notion.

Skill game manufacturer Synergy Blue surveyed 1,000 gamblers and 79 percent said they would be more likely to go to casinos if the games were more like video games.

One of the primary goals with skill games is to attract younger gamblers. According to the Nevada Resort Association, 72 percent of millennials (ages 23 to 38) gambled while in Las Vegas in 2017. That’s lower than the average visitor, 74 percent of whom gambled.

Millennials also spent less time gambling. They spent 1.1 hours per day gambling, compared to 1.6 hours for Generation X (39 to 54 year olds) and 2 hours for baby boomers (55 to 73).

“We’ve chosen to target a very broad demographic … (from) baby boomers to the younger millennial,” Darley explained. “The younger generation relaxes by intensity. They like to be in something all the time … so when they play these games, it’s an immersive experience.”

Only time will tell

While skill-based games may sound like a good idea, they have not been very successful for casinos yet. SunTrust Robinson Humphrey analyst Barry Jonas said that the skill games that have found their way into casinos have not gained “traction.”

We’re still waiting to see real momentum.”

Todd Eilers of Eilers & Krejcik Gaming added that skill games have not been revenue generators.

Marcus Prater, executive director of the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers, said that it is too early to draw firm conclusions.

“I said it’d be a five-year rollout before we could make a judgment, and we’re only in year three,” he told the Review-Journal. “I get it, people want to see cool stuff shoot to the moon, but it doesn’t work that way in our business. … I believe it will be a good segment for our business going forward.”