What's better than real money casino games? Every other kind of real money game

By Michael Carney , written on April 15, 2013

From The News Desk

The real-money casino gaming category is getting more crowded by the day. Today, social gaming giant Digital Chocolate launched its SLOTS! Pocket UK game for the iPhone and iPad with its real money play powered through a partnership with Betable. The new title joins similar blackjack, poker, craps, roulette, bingo, and, yes, slots, offerings from category leader Zynga, Gamesys, Mytopia, 3OAK, and numerous others, all announced in the last six months. Amid the sea of sameness, it would seem that non-casino games stand to benefit the most from the addition of real money gaming (RMG).

With consumers increasingly unwilling to pay upfront to download and play mobile and social games, in-app downloads have emerged as the dominant source of monetization in the category. Until recently, in most cases that meant the download of custom avatars, game related items like weapons, or social gifts. But with RMG, developers can ratchet up the gamification and subsequently the amount of money changing hands.

I previously discussed the disparity in value of the average real money gaming player versus traditional social gaming players, writing:

The average social game player is worth approximately $1 per month to a game developer, and $2 over the lifetime of their game play [according to Betable CEO Christopher Griffin]. If Betable’s early results are sustainable, the average real money player will be worth $300 per month and $1,800 over their lifetime.

If developers can create compelling and differentiated ways to incorporate real money play into their games, it represents an opportunity to generate the kind of revenue that hasn’t been available since gaming moved from the world of consoles to mobile and social platforms. The company has been able to convert approximately 2 percent of the social casino game players to real-money gambling when adding the functionality, in addition to attracting new players.

The challenge then, with real money gaming, is that differentiation. There are only so many ways that you can skin and market a slots experience amid a sea of near-identical products. Digital Chocolate’s offering will include “seven differently-themed slot machines, [ranging] from safari to underwater adventure to Wild West, all with their own thrilling sound, characters and storyline” – riveting. The company has attempted to add a bit of intrigue with the addition of spin-based mini-games that offer the chance to level up, multiply winnings, anchor a slot machine single wheel, or take other odds altering actions. But this just screams same shit, different rapper. 

Casino gaming may be the most obvious place to start in the RMG category – it's familiar after all, and easy to implement – but expect the companies that emerge victorious to be the ones that add real money play to other, non-casino experiences like strategy and adventure games. Whether its head to head wagers directly between players, tournaments with real cash prizes, or simply the ability to cash out the myriad of real game virtual currencies already in place, there are no shortage of avenues to add RMG to non-casino games. Don’t be surprised to see Digital Chocolate to incorporate real money play into its popular Galaxy Life, Crazy Penguin, Zombie Lane, Millionaire City, and Army Attack in the near future.

Like other RMG titles, SLOTS! Pocket UK is only available in the UK App Store to begin with. Its real money play is powered by UK-licensed Betable, whose platform handles all compliance, fraud prevention, identity verification, wagering, and gambling results within the app. Digital Chocolate then is only responsible for establishing the odds and gaming dynamics, applying visual branding, and promoting the app within its network. Zynga entered a similar relationship with Betable competitor, when announcing its RMG platform earlier this month, although in that case it's bwin who develops the games, while Zynga simply brands and markets them.

While real money gaming is illegal in the US – with legalization expected soon – China, Turkey, and Holland, it is legal in nearly every other developed country. This means that developers have access to billions of connected consumers, many of which consider offline gambling to be a part of their everyday lives. Moving that activity online and making it accessible on a moment’s notice via their mobile device is the focus of this rapidly growing industry. Hopefully casino games will soon be little more than an afterthought.