’Online gaming’ means different things to different people. For those of us at Casino Life it self-evidently relates to what we do and how we do it: it’s about gambling. But the console-based video game industry is also keen to lay claim to that ‘online gaming’ tag. Everyone wants to be a player, it seems!
As a result there is some mild confusion. It’s not that much of a headache, since the two markets are sufficiently distinct to avoid any overlap. The point is a semantic one at best. But that minor semantic overlap is also usefully illustrative.
It is illustrative because despite the fact that the two markets are so distinct in-and-of themselves, the technologies and the engagement strategies that underpin them are increasingly common to both. This is particularly evident in the visual and immersive qualities that technological developments are enabling.
Both industries rely on the wholly immersive properties of what they put in front of their consumers. Traditionally, different strategies have applied in each case to maximise the sensory user experience. In the console market, fast action, serial dramatic high points, and a conspicuously stimulating auditory accompaniment have been the staples on offer.
Within our own branch of the online gaming industry that level of visual and aural stimulation has, until recently, been relatively muted. That is not to say that what has been brought to market has been primitive or somehow unappealing – that is not the point at issue here. Rather, what has tended to happen is that the dramatic aspect of gaming presentation has played second fiddle to the functionality and the delivery of the game itself. The enormous range of themed slot games across the industry is testament to precisely this line of thinking. However they are decorated, themed and animated, a slot game is a slot game is a slot game. The animation involved is invariably tied to the spinning wheels, and the immersive component rests primarily on the risk-reward aspect of the game itself.
But this familiar formula is now evolving into something more sophisticated and a whole lot more interesting – and this is where the synergy with the other side of the gaming industry comes into play.
Academic theorists talk in terms of different types of interactivity in online settings, breaking the idea down into its verbal, visual, psychological, emotional and manual functions. It’s a complicated picture, but issues of rhythm and serial responses and reactions are a key aspect in building an ongoing immersive experience that draws in the full attention of the user.
Earlier this year 32red launched a slot game with a conspicuous novelty. Themed around the Jurassic Park movie, the game incorporates the high level of dramatic animation that is the staple of the ‘other’ gaming industry. Along with a synchronised sound track that dramatically brings Steven Spielberg’s dinosaurs to life, the game represents a ratcheting up of the visual animation within the slot genre.
A meticulous co-ordination of moving (and roaring) dinosaurs with the game function means that the game incorporates a movie-like dimension. Whilst all this dramatic sound and movement might threaten to disrupt the gaming experience, it is synchronised to complement and enhance it. The animations and their accompanying sound track, become integral components of the gaming experience, announcing wins, bonuses and introducing different characters each with their own distinctive bonus characteristics.
In other words, the distinction between the two sides of ‘online gaming’ has been blurred to the point where it is soon going to be hard to tell which is which.
As part of their highly polished marketing thrust 32Red’s clients have for some time now been invited to ‘play at the online casino of the decade’. That strap line is based on an award made by online casino watchdog and player advocate, Casinomeister, who granted them the title of Best Casino for 6 consecutive years before naming them ‘Casino of the Decade’ in 2010.
Given the high level of sophistication that 32Red and their fellow online providers are building into their offerings, not to mention the ever-more impressive software capability that they have to work with, it seems that no-one is going to be resting on their laurels over the next decade. Instead, anyone failing to appreciate what the other online gaming industry has to offer runs the risk of going the way of the dinosaurs!