When it comes to the biggest entertainment in the world, you'd be forgiven for thinking that the film and music industries are the top dogs. That certainly used to be the case. The last few years, however, have seen the video game industry continue its relentless boom. It's already overtaken the global revenues of both music and film and is projected to be worth around $180 billion by 2021.
That's all well and good you might be thinking, but what's that got to do with online casinos? Quite a lot as it turns out. If you're a regular punter at online casinos, you might have already noticed some of the effects – gamification of slots and casino games.
Simply put, gamification of a casino or casino game means that there is an overarching narrative attached to your gaming experience. That might be anything from helping an adventurer uncover hidden gold, rescuing a princess, or exploring the reaches of space. You've probably already experienced this in some online slots or casinos to some degree, but with the huge success of both the online gaming and video gaming industries, the lines between the two are starting to blur.
This melding of the casino and gaming industries has been on the horizon for some time. The introduction of loot boxes in major gaming franchises such as FIFA, for example, is a hotly debated topic – many regulators consider it to be a form of gambling. These loot boxes often contain digital goods, such as weapons, players, or boosts, which can give gamers a direct advantage during play.
The contents are often randomised of course and given how popular the 'freemium' model has become, loot boxes are now present in a huge number of titles. While generally these digital goods are essentially just time savers for players, they do cost money and it's also arguable that some can be converted into real-world value through esports matches, trading accounts and so on.
On the flip side, online casino games are now in a highly competitive market place and while innovative game design is important, the addition of narrative, characters and immersion is increasingly important when it comes to standing out. Even older titles have dipped into this idea – Gonzo's Quest is one example. It has a backstory and character to help set a mood and this is something that now gets much more attention in online slots and casinos.
Given how both industries (not to mention others – the recent Black Mirror film Bandersnatch also crosses the lines between film and game) are slowly merging ideas, we're likely to see much more gamification of casinos in the future. Once you add VR into the mix, then we could well be taking virtual trips through themed adventure casinos before too long.
If the idea of wandering through a virtual wild west saloon to play slots while chasing down bad guys as you win spins puts you off though, fear not. No matter how advanced or wrapped in narrative online casinos get, the simple, classic experience isn't likely to go anywhere either.
Whatever happens, it'll certainly be interesting to see how far gamification goes, especially given the recent loot box controversy in the video gaming world. We could even see major developers of slots and video games coming together to produce titles designed to appeal to both audiences, although this would need to be done responsibly.
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