SKILL AND GAMBLING FROM HOME
Next Gaming prepares to launch their exciting skill game titles online
By Karrie L. Zukowski & Mike Darley
With the confusion and anguish caused by the coronavirus pandemic, casinos and their patrons were both left scram- bling to make sense of it all, to stay healthy, and to stay afloat. The uncertainly all but devastated the economy as millions of people hit the unemployment lines and companies struggle to support themselves and their employees.
For gamblers, there has been one constant reprieve: online gambling. Those players lucky enough to live in a region where online gambling is legal have access to many of the games they’ve grown to love. And soon, they’ll have the opportunity to check out some new games they might have missed in traditional casinos: skill games.
Next Gaming, one of the leading developers of skill games for the casino market, has announced that they will shortly be releasing their exciting games for play online. And it couldn’t have come at a better time. Strictly Slots spoke with Next Gaming CEO, Mike Darley, about their upcoming releases, the effect of the pandemic of gaming, and the future of the casino floor.
Strictly Slots: How have you altered your business practices through these challenging times?
Mike Darley: We have had to make reasonable adjustments to our business. We have absolutely maintained our focus on moving ahead with our game creations and potential placement in casinos as they reopen. We have been very successful with obtaining our certifications from BMM. While we have had to make some business adjustments, we’ve maintained our focus to continue to work hard to achieve our goals. Development, certifications and placements have remained our main focus.
What have been your priorities to build initiatives for responding to the casino shutdowns?
You’ve got to look at the casinos and how their business model is changing and see how things will evolve. Generally, all of the casinos had to utilize their cash reserves to maintain their business, consider their employees and try and do their best under dire circumstances. Consequently, the business model for those of us that manufacture and distribute slot machines had to change as well.
I feel, based on my experience at running slot departments, capital availability for machine purchases will be limited. I think that many casinos are going to want to negotiate a daily or a participation fee until there is more clarity with their recovery, which is good for manufacturers in reoccurring revenue. But with the challenge of reopening and not having a full understanding of how long it will take to get back to normalcy, I think they will be very cautious.
For us, the opportunity for the products we offer –interactive skill based games – is spot on for the moment. As players return to the casinos, they may want to seek a new experience which is unique.
I think players of all ages, especially those from the younger generations, which have been statistically less impacted by the coronavirus, may be more inclined to return earlier. If that’s the case, our games will be a significant attraction.
We know that your current portfolio of skill-based games, Bust-A-Move, Asteroids, Arkanoid, Zforce, Missile Command, Tempest and Space Invaders, appeals to a wide demographic. How do you think your games will perform in this changing environment?
I’m even more confident that they will perform well. They appeal to a wide demographic and are a completely new experience. There certainly isn’t any negative to a traditional slot machine, as they appeal to a large audience. But, even before the pandemic I think customers desired some- thing new on the slot floor. And that’s where those providers of skill based games like Gambit, Gameco, Synergy Blue and Next Gaming fill that void. I think it’s even more magnified now with the demographic that’s going to re-enter the casinos.
With the closing of casinos, the iGaming market has shown considerable growth. Do you think this is something that will last? What are your plans if any to enter that market?
People like the games and they like the iGaming experience in a variety of forms. While not everybody in the world has a hand held devise, there are 5.16 billion globally. So, it was very obvious to us that if we could translate our games into an iGaming platform that would be a smart strategy for us in a number of ways. The games we are developing is with CelerX. They have a robust platform so if you went into the casino and played Bust-A-Move, and if you knew that you could play Bust-A-Move at home on a platform for real money, it would probably be very enticing to you and a lot of people. If you played Bust-A-Move on the iGaming platform and knew it was in the casinos, the probability of you going into the casino and looking for Bust-A-Move is high. I call it cross pollination. People will go back and forth from the iGaming platform to the traditional casino.
And regarding it lasting, I think it’s going to last for a couple of reasons. One, people enjoy it. And two, with people being locked down, some of the older generation were forced to become better acclimated to Zoom, Facebook and online experiences because they wanted to talk to their relatives and grandchildren. And that was the only way they could reach out.
I think that once they broke the barrier of “I can’t do it”, then they’ll try an online casino. I believe we’ve gained a whole different audience and many of them will stick with it. The experience of online gaming and our products will stick there too. It’s a growing and robust market with significant revenue opportunities.
If you enter the iGaming market, do you think the casino experience and the iGaming experience for your games will complement each other? How much cross-over, if any, do you anticipate?
Yes, it’s interactive and has the skill based component for real money in both. What we choose to experience at times is different. Our Bust-A- Move game is on a platform called Arcade Win by CelereX and through my research and due diligence with Arcade Win, I really enjoyed the online experience and did it for a level of relaxation. It’s like playing solitaire at home and playing solitaire for real money. It’s a great experience especially now when people are seeking some kind of normalcy. You’re trying to get out of your house, but if you can’t, you want to occupy your time with something enjoyable. This is a stress break that is much needed.
There’s a place for iGaming and there’s a place for social interaction.
Sometimes you want to be left alone and gamble and sometimes you need to get out and be with your friends and listen to the activity around you, enjoy a lively casino environment. Our entry satisfies both sides of the equation. If you want to enjoy Bust-A-Move in a quiet environment or want to enjoy Bust-A-Move in a casino, you can.
Were you already planning an iGaming presence prior to the shut down?
Yes. Anticipating and diversification of our revenue streams are important to us. We were fortunate enough to venture into this and were just opening up in the casinos ready to release our first game.
Which of your games will be available for the online gaming platform?
Bust-A-Move is the first to be released on Arcade Win platform by CelereX, but there will be others. We anticipate this will be out by the end of June. We are working on our first suite of games and have games in development. We are getting ready to release Bust-A-Move, but we have other gaming in development that will follow. Just like a casino portfolio.
How have your games been received so far?
Bust-A-Move has already been certified in Oklahoma, California and New Mexico. Asteroids, Arkanoid and Zforce will follow. We anticipate that shortly we will have opportunities in all jurisdictions. There’s a high demand for our machines and we know this by both G2E and NIGA.
We are going to be very strategic in placement because we want our games in casinos that value their customers, that understand the dynamics of what we are trying to do in the skill based world, and help us with feedback and to manage the games well. So we were very selective in our trial in Nevada, which will come up soon including Binion’s Gambling Hall, one of our company-owned casinos.