Operator game lobbies are changing with the addition of new and innovative content. From Megaways to XtraWays, developers are creating mechanics, features and formats designed to engage the next generation of player and deliver new and exciting experiences to existing customers. 

At the cutting edge of this push are skill-based arcade games, which combine real-money wagering with gameplay more akin to mobile and video games. They are proving to be hugely popular with a range of player demographics, taking session times and game revenues to new highs. 

In this roundtable, Ben McDonagh, CEO of Green Jade Games, Shalva Bukia, product director at Spribe, and Lloyd Purser, COO of FunFair, take a closer look at skill-based arcade games, the demographics they appeal to and how operators can leverage the full potential they have to offer.

CasinoBeats: What are arcade games in the context of online casino? 

LP: Simply put, arcade games are games that combine entertainment value with real money prizes. They provide a different experience to traditional slots as they resemble games you would have played at an arcade, yet online and for real money winnings. They combine skill and decision making with betting, creating a more engaging gaming experience for the player.

“…the main difference in genres is the vast array of types in arcade compared to slots”

Ben McDonagh, CEO of Green Jade Games.

BM: Arcade games are an extension of gambling entertainment, not a replacement of the existing game options. They fulfil a different need whilst remaining true as a gambling game, with the same volatility, prize range and hit frequency that can be experienced in slots, but with a completely different interactivity and reward sensation. 

SB: Right now, we are seeing the emergence and growing popularity of new games that are different from the traditional casino approach; they have more in common with casual games than with igaming products.

They are easy to spot as they often have more simplistic UI and interactive gameplay. Instead of pressing the button and waiting for the result, with arcade games the player is more engaged and in some cases their actions determine the outcome of the game. 

CB: What are the similarities and differences between arcade games and slots?

BM: Most slots contain the same ingredients in that they have reels, symbols and win lines. They vary in design by configuring reel sets onto honey-comb structures, or clustering symbols and combining that with cascade functions, but conceptually they all operate in a similar way. 

Arcade games can be anything from the shove ha’penny machines played on British sea-side piers to more modern ‘fishing games’ popularised in parlours in Asia. Therefore, the main difference in genres is the vast array of types in arcade compared to slots. 

“Arcade games are a good entry point for new players”

Shalva Bukia, product director, at Spribe.

Both game types return results generated by a RNG and generate revenue for the house by having a margin. Bet frequency, stake size, prize potential etc are all the same, though some arcade games allow for skill being a factor which you cannot find in other slots. 

SB: Let me explain by way of example. In increasingly popular ‘crash curve games’ like Aviator, the player makes a decision when to cash out their winnings. This makes the player an active participant of a game and completely changes their experience when compared to slots. 

LP: I can add to that. In our debut release, ‘AstroBoomers: To The Moon,’ players have to choose how many bets to place, differing amounts, and, importantly, make real time decisions as to when their astronaut should eject from the rocket with their winnings. 

This style is entirely different from a passive experience such as slots. This fundamental difference isn’t just a feature of the games themselves but changes how players interact, experience, and enjoy them. 

CB: What player demographics do they mostly appeal to?

SB: Millennials and gen-Z are the biggest demographic, because these games are similar to ones they played whilst growing up. Arcade games are a good entry point for new players that are not yet experienced in the online casino world. On the other hand, they work equally well for experienced players because of innovative game mechanics and experience.

“This fundamental difference isn’t just a feature of the games themselves but changes how players interact, experience, and enjoy”

Lloyd Purser, COO of FunFair.

LP: They tend to be straightforward to pick up, making them accessible for any player of gambling age. Although we’ve only been live for a few months, we’ve seen our games resonate particularly well with sportsbooks and cross selling sportsbook customers who wouldn’t normally play slots to the same degree.   

CB: What upsides do arcade games present to operators?

BM: There are many including the first mover advantage, increased bet volumes (~50 per cent more bets per session on an arcade game), opportunity to grow their audience through acquisition of players that wouldn’t have previously been interested in sports betting or slots, increased revenues and more loyal players. 

The upsides are phenomenal as arcade gambling is the introductory video gaming type that will meld esports players into a real money, regulated gambling experience, delivering a product type to an audience that enjoy entertainment gambling.

SB: If they want to attract new players to their online casino or engage millennials, arcades are the best way to do it. Also, ‘crash curve games’ like Aviator are a must have right now.

This is because they have a crazy engagement rate and players are coming back again and again to play games like these. This can drastically differentiate an operator from the competition and attract a new base of players.