Like asteroids in the classic video game, any concerns about the attraction of arcade-style slots are being exploded during a trial run in two Nevada casinos.
“The major component is: Are (players) having a good time on the game?” says Michael Darley, CEO of Next Gaming, which in September started trials of Asteroids and three other arcade-game titles at Binion’s in Downtown Las Vegas and the Cannery in North Las Vegas.
“Yes, they are,” he answers, citing high time-of-device measurements as well as comments from casino staff and players.
“Their time of entertainment value based on the time they’re on the machine is significant. That’s the way we designed the game, and that’s the feedback we’re getting.”
Next Gaming, a privately held company with offices next door to the Cannery, is known for its skill-based online and slot games.
Its Las Vegas trials are part of the New Innovation Beta process, a 2016 measure by the Nevada Gaming Commission to allow players to try out new games more quickly, but the commission still must ensure the games meet all regulatory requirements.
Regulators in California, Oklahoma, and New Mexico have certified the games, and the company plans to announce those placements soon.
In addition to the four titles involved in the Las Vegas trials, Next Gaming has these either in development as slot games or under agreement to be developed:
- Missile Command, Tempest, and Centipede, from Atari
- Bust-A-Move Adventure, Space Invaders, and Bubble Bobble, from Taito
For the Nevada trials, Next Gaming placed Asteroids, Bust-A-Move, Arkanoid, and ZForce at both Binion’s and the Cannery. Asteroids is from Atari; Bust-A-Move and Arkanoid are from Taito; and ZForce is a Next Gaming creation. Six machines are at each casino.
Even though overall casino traffic is down because of the coronavirus pandemic and social distancing requirements, the trial sites put the machines before different types of audiences. The Cannery is a locals casino, while Binion’s Downtown location has a more transient crowd.
Darley says the games’ location within a casino also could give clues about how the games are best positioned. Both Binion’s and Cannery have a Next Games bank near the front door. Cannery also has one between the bingo room and sportsbook.
One player raved about being able to play Bust-A-Move while watching games on the sportsbook televisions, Darley says.
“When people started talking about skill-based gaming, one of the goals was to acquire new customers,” he says. If skill-based slots attract someone whose primary game is sports-betting, live poker, or bingo, “I’ve gained a customer… a bigger share of wallet.”
Darley says the trials thus far have not found any need for changes in how the games are played, but he is monitoring how easily customers understand the games.
“Our games are more intuitive than a lot of other skill-based games,” he says. “We want to make sure that when the guest sits down that we’re communicating effectively.”
“You really have to be patient and evaluate how it’s going,” he adds. “Are you hitting the right triggers for the casino? Are you hitting the right triggers for the guests?”
Although a player’s skill at blasting asteroids or bubbles can contribute to larger wins, the machines use a random number generator to ensure a casino’s long-term return.
He also notes that Next Gaming’s placements in California, Oklahoma, and New Mexico will provide opportunity for feedback from different markets.
Because of the pandemic and social distancing requirements, most casinos are cautious about putting new games on the floor, he says.
“The early adopters, the ones that have seen our machines and are excited about them, do it,” he adds. “I think that our population of machines will open up considerably once we’re in four separate jurisdictions.”
Darley says a few player comments keep resurfacing from the trials, including “Boy, aren’t these games fun” and “I didn’t know I could gamble on the games I played for so long in the arcade.”
Another, he says, sticks out: “They love the game. This is completely different from any other gaming experience on the casino floor that they’ve enjoyed up to this point.”