Digital gaming has been around for decades, but in recent years consumers have switched to playing titles that were once only found in casino halls. Slots, video poker, and classic table games are now recreationally played in the same manner that gamers once squeezed in a session on the PlayStation or Xbox.
Despite the year-on-year decline in games console ownership, millennials have embraced online gaming, fondly reaching for titles that defined their youth through consoles like the NES Classic and Mega Drive Mini. The evolution of mobile devices, permitting on-the-go play, coupled with the blurring of the lines that separate gaming and gambling, have accelerated this trend. Today’s online slots boast graphics and gameplay that take their cues from video games.
As new decade dawn, the gambling industry is entering a phase driven by innovation in payments, identities, and content. Blockchain gaming, aided by decentralized app stores that bypass Apple and Google’s walled gardens, are making the next crop of online games the most accessible yet. The provision of increasingly sophisticated in-game features and bonuses are merely the cherries on top. The millennials of Generation Y will fuel the demand for new forms of digital gaming as they exit adolescence, but Generation Z – born in the mid-to-late 90s – are likely to be the new kingmakers in an industry expected to be valued at over $94 billion by 2024.
What can we learn from millennial gamers?
The online gaming proclivities of millennials suggest the effect they will have on digital gaming trends in 2020 and beyond. One study, published in 2017, sought to contrast the behavior of millennials with that of the Silent Generation, Baby Boomers and Gen Xers. Interestingly, the researchers found that
millennials spent the least amount of time on gambling and exhibited the lowest scores on the number of days for slot gambling, trip length and trip frequency among all generations. However, their average table gaming volume per play day was greater than those of other generations.
Having grown up with video games, social media, and smartphones, millennials prefer games that require skill as well as luck. Although table games such as poker, blackjack, roulette and baccarat never really go out of style, online gaming developers have incorporated elements of classic arcade and video games (including music, animations and deeper storylines) into their virtual casino offerings in an attempt to woo millennials, with elements of skill involved. Millennial gamers also have a predilection for their gambling to have a social component, since many of them grew up playing multiplayer video games.
A frequent target of digital gambling operations is the group of millennials interested in gaming as a means to satisfy their urge to wager money on the financial markets. The logic being that since online casino gaming is more entertaining and exciting than playing the financial markets, gaming can provide a similar thrill to betting on the stock exchange or trading cryptocurrency.
The rise of blockchain gaming apps
As the first generation that grew up on video games, millennials have been exposed to tech from a young age. They took naturally to smartphones with aplomb, and have been among the first adopters of digital innovations like cryptocurrency. Blockchain-based gaming is becoming increasingly popular, aided by the resistance of decentralized applications (dApps) to censorship attempts. Gambling remains a target of regulators and app store moderators across the globe, but dApps are much harder to shut down.
Microsoft recently entered a partnership with blockchain gaming project Enjin, whereupon crypto-collectible rewards will be paid to participants who make a meaningful impact in the tech community. More generally, online gaming platforms have started to integrate blockchain technology into their operations to ensure transparency and enhance user experience.
DApp stores feature a preponderance of card and trading games leveraging non-fungible tokens (NFTs), as well as casino-style games that offer significant windfalls, disbursed in cryptocurrency. Gambling dApps dominate, outnumbering every other dApp store category in terms of active users, transactions, and volume.
Lloyd Purser, Managing Director of CasinoFair, knows better than most how popular blockchain games can be – particularly among millennials. 85% of all of our wagering activities is millennials or younger, and we’re probably almost split 50/50 from the age of 27 down, up to 37. We know that millennials and younger millennials specifically, there’s elements of the blockchain which resonate really well with them: provable fairness, speed of instant winnings, not giving the casino custody of your money.
And there’s lots of other things that they do that traditional players don’t seem to do so much – they’re social, they chat within communities. They like leaderboards and they like competitions. They’re competitive as well, they compete against each other.
The gaming experiences of Gen Zers, the first digital natives
Generation Z was raised just as the technological age was kicking into high gear: the internet, slick video games, social media, streaming services, smartphones – all of these technologies were already well past beta stages. Needless to say, their constant connectivity has engendered a completely different approach to gaming and gambling. Their daily lives are lived through their smartphones – gaming included – in a way that does not leave them feeling like they are on their devices more than one should be.
Gen Zers demands responsive, easy-to-use interfaces and minimal friction. Many are also wary of traditional banking institutions and prefer transacting via alternative payment methods such as e-wallets or cryptocurrency. Members of Generation Z will become a key online gaming demographic in the decade ahead.
The industry has responded to the mores of this incoming generation by shifting its focus towards highly stylized immersive mobile games, live dealers, and interactive experiences rather than the traditional click-to-spin style slot games. Transparency is also a major focus, with many platforms exploring blockchain technology to implement provably fair gaming. This is achieved with cryptographic algorithms that predetermine randomness and remove the possibility for manipulation.
Five games that define the state of play today
For aspiring players, curious as to what the current crop of games has to offer, the following titles provide a good cross-sample.
- Piggy Bank shows just how cutesy and immersive online slots have become.
- Wink shows why crypto-powered casino dApps have become so popular.
- Blackjack Multihand Pro shows the evolution of this casino classic.
- EOS Dynasty shows how dApps are combining casino and video gaming characteristics to great effect.
- Sic Bo shows how Asian games have transcended the region and gone global.
It will be interesting to see how the influence of Generation Z and the growth of blockchain technology will affect the online gaming industry in the years to come. Will, the best online titles of today satisfy a new breed of post-millennial gamers or will the industry have to return to the drawing board and come up with something more radical?
While blockchain-based gaming may seem like a new invention, it’s actually as old as Bitcoin itself. Hi-lo betting game Satoshi Dice was one of the first portals where bitcoin could be spent, and Satoshi himself hid the remnants of a poker client in his first Bitcoin code release. Given the growth of the crypto gaming sector, delivered by globally-accessible dApps, expect more online casinos to build on blockchain platforms as developers seek to keep players coming back for more.