As readers of this site will be well aware, esports’ rise has seemed inexorable over the last decade. Indeed, at the start of the 2010s, it was fashionable to call esports “the most popular sport you have never heard of before”. But that sense of esports being something that was almost a gamer’s secret is gone. ESPN has picked up esports, and Twitch is no longer a niche platform. Despite a notable lack of coverage in the print media, esports is very much in the mainstream.
Readers will also be aware that esports betting is also very much on the rise. But it is also a little complacent to say that this rise will continue unabated and unchallenged. Competitive video gaming is part of a global cultural trend, and those trends do not go unnoticed by other industries. And, one sector that most certainly has an eye on what is happening with esports and esports betting is the casino industry.
To illustrate what we mean, we must first take a step back. Online casino has been established for around 25 years now. The delivery of traditional casino games to the devices of players basically been perfect. For example, whether it’s live or virtual games you prefer, choosing the right blackjack online in NZ – or wherever else you are based – is going to be as easy as making a cup of tea. Indeed, with the roll-out of live casino online in the 2010s, there is no difference between playing roulette, poker and blackjack online to what you would find in a real casino.
Casino owners look to woo millennials
And yet, millennial gamers are the demographic that keep casino operators up at night. Those traditional games we mentioned above have remained remarkably popular over the decades. And if you were to stroll through the gaming floors of the big Las Vegas hotels, you’d see plenty of millennials playing roulette and blackjack. However, there is a sense that these games aren’t revered in the same way as they were by previous generations.
All of this is, perhaps a laboured, way of saying that casino operators won’t rest on their laurels. They know that trends change and that casinos, even online casinos, could become digitally disrupted by other forms of, let’s say, gambling entertainment. Esports betting, skin betting and other areas of video gaming – consider, for example, the online casino update for the Grand Theft Auto V game – represent a clear and present danger.
“Skill” video games have launched
So, what have casino games developers been doing? In short, a lot of research and much talk, but very little overt action as yet. There have been releases of casino skill games in some resorts in Las Vegas, including a Pac-Man casino game that hit the headlines. But while playing Pac-Man for cash against your friends is not really going to eat into the same market as those betting on the LoL World Championship or The International.
However, the casino industry has an ace up its sleeve – live gaming. As we mentioned above, live dealer casino, which involves action streamed from a studio in real-time, has allowed players to recreate the true casino experience in their homes. Yet, developers are looking to use this format to deliver different gaming experiences that go beyond the traditional card and table games. We have seen this with the developer, Evolution Gaming, which has released live casino board games, like Monopoly Live, and titles based on tv game shows.
Moreover, casino developers are pouring millions of dollars into development for VR gaming. As per the above, their ambitions go beyond transporting the players into a real casino with the use of VR/AR. That will happen, of course, but the truly exciting endgame looks to be in monetised VR video games. Imagine strapping on a VR headset and playing a first-person shooter video game for cash prizes? That’s really not far away from where some casino industry experts expect the live gaming experience to be over the next decade.
None of this is meant to suggest that the esports and casino industries are in direct competition with each other. But there will be a convergence of those industries – you can guarantee it. That might mean you will have a choice between betting on the professional in a CS:GO tournament or betting on yourself to win a Call of Duty competition hosted by an online casino. But with all the advances coming in VR, it could be something more immersive that could really upend what we consider to be a casino game.