Community gaming is reaching new levels thanks in part to the development of skill-based machine technology and the ongoing desire by casino operators to attract newer and younger players.

The liberalization of some regulations regarding machine play mechanics has freed up game designers to become truly inventive when it comes to group play, whether it is on slots or cutting-edge electronic table formats. Some even believe the industry is now experiencing the true birth of community gaming.

“When it comes to gaming products that encourage shared experiences, our industry is in the midst of discovering its potential,” said Steve Walther, senior director, marketing and product management at Konami Gaming. “In the past we’ve had successful variations with multiple slots brought together through a shared bonus progressive experience or tournament experience, but I think the market is looking to take these concepts further, where the primary gaming experience is centered on shared interactions among players. When we talk to our customers, they’re looking for unique new product types that will help generate energy and excitement, and community gaming is a definite consideration.”

And as with any product undergoing radical technological innovation, the appearance and capabilities of the final iteration are still very much up in the air. 

“Operators and electronic game manufacturers (EGMs) are still trying to figure out what the best games are to fit this style, how many gaming positions is too many (bigger is not always better), and can new types of games not typically found on the casino floor fit into this concept of community gaming,” said Marcus Yoder, vice president at Gamblit Gaming. “I think the fact that all of the major slot EGM providers have some form of community game offering indicates that there is demand to keep this style of gaming going for at least the next four to five years.”

One thing that has become apparent to Gamblit executives during the community game development process is that these concepts appeal not only to Millennials, but generations slightly older and younger as well. According to Yoder, an exit survey of 5,000 people who had just played a casino-based Gamblit game found the average age of the player to be 37, almost 20 years younger than the average slot customer. The survey also found that 67 percent of the people playing Gamblit games were between the ages of 21 and 39.

One of the reasons community games appear to skew towards younger audiences may have to do with the online social games experience of these players. “With the expansion of online game play through a variety of sources has come a greater awareness of the benefit of social interaction in gaming environments,” said Walther.  “These online gaming concepts have allowed players to have an established familiarity and competency for a variety of popular game types that could be applied to for-wager environments. Some of these familiar mechanics can be leveraged to help advance the success of community gaming, perhaps even some skilled-based mechanics.”

For casino operators who are optimistically looking to deliver a differentiated experience to their patrons, several gaming suppliers are offering various community style game options.  Below you will see what two of them specifically are contributing:

KONAMI GAMING

With an incredible legacy in arcade and video game entertainment from its parent company in Japan, Konami has a depth of development resources to help pioneer best-in-class community slot games unlike anything ever brought to market before.

For years community slots have held a specialized niche within the core business at Konami and now it is expanding its community-style lineup to more new game types. “As the casino gaming division of KONAMI HOLDINGS CORPORATION in Japan, we come from a steep tradition of innovative entertainment and decades-long proven popularity,” said Walther. “We have tremendous mechanical, software and hardware engineering resources available through our parent company, with vast video game and arcade entertainment legacies spanning everything from Metal Gear Solid to Dance Dance Revolution. Our leading R&D team here in the U.S. maintains close collaboration with top developers and engineers in Japan to leverage that longstanding infrastructure and innovation for the gambling space and bring that technology to the casino properties around the world.”

Konami has several new community-style games, all featuring never-before-seen entertainment technology for players to enjoy. Launching now at select locations, Fortune Cup mechanical horse racing game undoubtedly helps achieve the shared community excitement that players enjoy and operators look to create. In Fortune Cup, 10 individual player stations feature a robust, real-time digital betting interface, each surrounding an all-mechanical horse racing track. Mechanical horses have the flexibility to move side-to-side and change direction on the course; and their actions are mirrored through LCD displays with pristine digital animation of the game event as it occurs.

“Since 2013, our massive Titan 360 machine and its 3-ton, 10-foot tall frame has been a huge attraction at casinos across the U.S,” said Walther. The Titan 360 machine features a large-scale center bonusing unit that rotates to different players for the chance at cash prizes and progressive jackpots. “We hear from players and properties around the country about the attention it attracts and the crowds that gather around each time someone is given the chance to deploy the center bonus ring,” he added. “There’s really nothing else like it. We determined early on that it would be a limited release to a few select properties. Now Konami is working to expand its multi-station games to more properties and players with a variety of new community-style developments.”

In the spirit of our widely popular Titan 360 community gaming release, Konami’s new Crystal Cyclone connects individual video slot stations around a high-energy physical ball-drop bonus ring. Players can collectively or individually enter one of several different bonus games; all involving brightly-colored balls that race around a lighted roulette-style track. Crystal Cyclone uniquely leverages proven elements from Titan 360, with even greater community engagement opportunities and a slightly smaller size to reach more properties around the globe.

In terms of skill-based products, Konami’s new Beat Square combines video game and arcade entertainment with original for-wager mathematics to give casino guests an entirely unique gaming experience they can play with friends. Beat Square challenges players to tap lighted dashboard buttons in a game of rhythmic coordination. Based on technology developed through iconic Konami creations like Dance Dance Revolution, Beat Square is the casino industry’s first musical rhythmic dexterity skill game.

Crystal Cyclone and Beat Square will be at the Konami booth during G2E 2017 for guests to experience first-hand.

GAMBLIT GAMING

As a leading innovator of real money and skill gaming, Gamblit Gaming develops and publishes a wide variety of games that bring a casual, arcade sense of fun and skill into the casino market.  Gamblit Gaming also works closely with game developers to gamblify and publish their hit games into new markets, tapping into the exciting atmosphere of land-based casinos, activating a broader audience and new revenue stream.  Gamblit Gaming provides all of the technology, gambling expertise, operations, account management, security, gambling licenses, regulations and compliance elements needed.  The company also helps casino operators deliver a compelling entertainment experience to not only attract new players, but retain existing users.

Gamblit is also bullish on the community gaming marketplace.   “I think one indicator of how important community gaming is to our business is that the first games we deployed were exactly that,” said Yoder. “Gamblit Poker and Cannonbeard’s Treasure are versions of communal gaming, where there is a joint wager against the house to determine the pot, then a fast paced exciting game to see who wins that pot.  These games are for two to four players to compete against each other.  Next in the line-up are Bingo Trance and Spot It.  We have another game called Brew Caps League where there is a communal wager against the house.” 

“The growth of these games will come through our and operator efforts to introduce the games to as many potential players as possible via our social media campaigns, on-site events and our Ambassador program,” Yoder added.

Integrating wagering components with interactive video games where skill matters is the most innovative aspect of what Gamblit Gaming does. These games are interactive, fun and extremely easy to pick-up and play, according to Yoder. “At G2E we’ll be displaying several new multiplayer games, each with different play mechanics and new ways of having fun with your friends,” he said. “We are showing over 20 games at G2E, including a variety of massive hit single player games we’ve gamblified like Cut The Rope and Jetpack Joyride—those two alone represent over 1.5 billion downloads—as well as new multiplayer games. We’re also showing the world debut of a popular TV franchise as a multiplayer game, as well as an iconic arcade game that we’ve made into an exclusive casino experience.”