SHORTLY after Mark Frissora took over as chief executive of Caesars Entertainment last year, he paced the floors of his American casinos, with their rows and rows of idle slot machines, and grasped the scale of the existential threat that faces his industry. Casino customers are ageing, and younger people have little interest in taking their place. Mr Frissora called on his company to brainstorm a new “casino within a casino” to draw in millennials who grew up playing video and mobile-phone games.
Everywhere you looked at last week’s annual Global Gaming Expo (G2E), there were smiles and laughter. And the blissful mood wasn’t just because the thousands of attendees and nearly 500 exhibitors were in Las Vegas with an array of after-hours “networking” parties to choose from, although that certainly helped. No, the folks at G2E, including yours truly, were in a jovial state all week because it was clearly evident that the gaming industry is in a bona fide state of evolution and growth.
In the coming weeks, an Atlantic City casino is likely to be the first in the nation to host a new kind of slot machine—an arcade-style, first-person shooter game called Danger Arena. Produced by startup slot-maker GameCo, Danger Arena doesn’t look like your typical slot machine. It is housed in what looks more like an arcade console than a slot cabinet. It has an Xbox-style controller.
An arcade-style gambling machine with a video game controller attached to it sat in the corner of a ballroom at Harrah’s convention center in Atlantic City as gaming industry analysts and executives took turns playing GameCo’s first-person action video game.
Picture a slot machine on a casino floor in Las Vegas. Sound effects blaring, lights flashing, graphics dancing across the screen. Maybe it’s “The Hangover” machine, where quotes from the movie pop up with each spin and the reels are filled with the film’s characters alongside images of a hospital bracelet, a satchel and a chicken. Oh, look! Five Mike Tysons in a row!
It’s no secret that slot floors have been looking for something to reinvigorate the market, to bring in younger players and somehow keep them at machines the way the more traditional slot player has been. Blaine Graboyes, GameCo CEO, has something quite different to what we have seen so far up his sleeve.