Next Gaming’s CEO Mike Darley sees the potential for attracting eSports participants to play skill-based slot machines in casinos.
The Las Vegas-based designer and distributor of skill-based games will have a booth with their products at the third annual Casino eSports Conference that runs Wednesday and Thursday at the Luxor Las Vegas. They will also participate in an educational session Thursday on skill-based casino games and eSports.
Darley said Next Gaming’s goal in participating in the CEC is to evaluate the potential cross-over interest between eSports and non-traditional skill-based games.
“We know that the younger demographic of players, such as those who are drawn to eSports, are dedicated, playing with friends or in tournaments,” Darley said.
“In a casino setting, they generally do not go to clubs or high-end restaurants and have limited casino play, if any, on the casino floors,” Darley said. “Based on the size of the demographic, and the potential spend of that group, casinos are seeking offerings that fit their personality, and we think skill-based gaming can bridge some of that gap.”
Darley said eSports and skill-based gaming are still in their early stages, and that there’s commonalities to be identified.
“We continue to explore opportunities to motivate that demographic to play in the casinos and to satisfy their behaviors and habits.” Darley said. “It’s important for us to participate in the CEC and gauge the interest of our products to that younger audience.”
Darley noted that the momentum of eSports continues to grow with the Fortnite World Cup having $100 million in prize money. There’s the League of Legends World Championship, The International Call of Duty World League, IEM Katowice, The Overwatch League, HALO World Championship and PUBG Global Championship. Darley even cited a tournament recently hosted at the Rio in Las Vegas by Caesars Entertainment and Next Gaming’s partner Taito. Called Toushinsai, it had been held annually in Japan since 2015.
“With all of the conversation surrounding eSports, and what eSports might bring to the casino, it was time for us to participate in CEC,” Darley said.
Next Gaming’s Taito arcade games, created in a skill-based gambling format, include Arkanoid and Bust-A-Move. For Atari, they include Asteroids, Missile Command and Tempest.
Recently, Next Gaming has signed new agreements to develop Atari’s Centipede and Taito’s Space Invaders and Bubble Bobble which will be developed over the next 8-12 months.
“We firmly believe that the games we have licensed from both Atari and Taito — the games that started the whole video game evolution — are pertinent to the current video game and eSports generations,” Darley said.
Next Gaming’s portfolio of arcade-type games offers something for everyone, from casual play like Bust-A-Move to more intense play with Asteroids. “What you will find when you look at our games is that we have the top echelon of the iconic games in our library,” he said.
Darley said that there are many people within the eSports community who don’t play in casinos because the traditional slot games offered aren’t interesting enough to them. There’s a group of people in that eSports community that would love to come into a casino and have a different gaming experience that appeals to them because it’s interactive and skill-based, he added.
“I do believe the social aspect of those who want to gather can be found within the casino if we offer them a different venue to gamble,” Darley said. “The reason we are participating is we want to know how much and how many. The blending of Next Gaming in the eSports conference is a great opportunity. We’re the only skill-based company that’s chosen to bring our products to the event.”
Darley said the goal for casinos building eSports lounges and venues is to offer a new experience to an important group of players. Adding to that experience with gaming options is important. Skill-based gaming can fill that need and may be the best way to attract eSports players to the casino floor.
“I’m very confident about that,” Darley said. “The eSports crowd isn’t attracted to a slot machine where you push a button or pull a handle. That’s not what they do in their world. Look what they’re doing on their phones. Older generations experience with a slot machine was to sit down, relax and have a cocktail. The way the younger generation relaxes is intensity. They want something happening all of the time. They will not gravitate to what’s currently offered on the casino slot floors, but when you provide them a more interactive and intense experience, with the chance to influence the outcome, that will have some appeal.”
While Next Gaming isn’t involved in eSports tournaments, Darley said the crossover opportunity to attract participants is strong.
“What the industry is attempting to accomplish is to get them to enjoy an alternate experience,” Darley said. “If we can offer them something that gets them into the casino environment and satisfies their playing behaviors, both the participants and the casinos benefit.”