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GameCo, the self-described inventor of video game gambling, has received its license from the New Jersey Division of Gaming Enforcement (DGE). Per a press release issued Wednesday, it’s looking to strike a deal to bring its novel products to the state in partnership with NJ online casinos and sportsbooks.
The company has unsuccessfully attempted once before to launch its Video Game Gambling Machines (VGM) in the Garden State. Now, however, it can offer a greater range of titles, as well as online games and a full-service betting solution for esports.
“GameCo pioneered the Video Game Gambling category in New Jersey,” said Blaine Graboyes, the company’s co-founder and CEO. “We plan to do the same with esports betting and skill-based iGaming, satisfying a massive demand from Gen X and Millennial players.”
It’s a simple fact that the casino-going crowd skews older overall, and that younger players tend to spend less on property. For years, casinos and gaming machine manufacturers have been trying to solve that riddle.
One popular theory is that growing up with video games acclimated those born after 1970 to more interactive forms of entertainment, and GameCo’s products represent an attempt to address that. Unfortunately, its first entry into the New Jersey market was a bit of a flop.
Its debut title, Danger Arena, allowed players to navigate a warehouse-like environment from a first-person perspective while attempting to shoot robots. Rounds lasted under a minute, and players received a cash prize if they succeeded in blasting a designated number of robots within the time limit.
Caesars Casino took a gamble on the title, rolling out a few Danger Arena machines at each of its three Atlantic City casinos. The experiment, which began in October 2016, lasted just eight months before it pulled the plug. Caesars didn’t fault the game itself but rather the difficulty of drawing attention to the machines, which are hard to distinguish from traditional slots.
Digital versions of the games might do better in that regard. Given that all slot machines are built to attract attention, it’s hard to see what more a skill-based gaming product can do within a casino environment. The gaming floor is moreover crowded to begin with, and casinos aren’t quick to give a new product category its own space.
Gambling apps have more flexibility. There are far more options for temporarily promoting one product than another. If the games do well, the operator can also give them prominent placement or use filtering and search functions to make them easy to find.
Equally important, the audience for online gambling already skews younger and has a higher proportion of men than brick-and-mortar gambling. That means it overlaps more heavily with the audience for video games, which figures to help with the popularity of GameCo’s skill titles. It also ties in with the company’s plans for esports betting in NJ.
How the market will respond to GameCo’s iGaming products is a complete mystery, as they’re still untested. Its physical machines currently operate in casinos in Nevada, Oklahoma, California, and Mississippi, but this is the first time it has received regulatory approval to offer its games online.
Betting on esports isn’t quite as novel a concept as video game gambling, but GameCo is the first US-facing supplier to focus on it exclusively.
The DGE has already given one-time permission for betting on an esports tournament, last year’s League of Legends World Championship. That went off without a hitch, but evidently did not produce enough activity to create a rush for more such betting. Having an off-the-shelf solution for esports betting, however, could reduce the friction for traditional sportsbooks.
A number of international sportsbooks offer esports betting, and GameCo expects the trend to catch on in the US. By its estimate, the segment will generate some $17 billion in wagers by the end of 2020. Prize money for esports competitions has been growing at an annual pace of over 40% in recent years.
GameCo will try to push the envelope further with Multiplayer Arena, a system for offering competitive esports-style gaming within a casino environment. This is separate from its VGMs, as it allows direct player-to-player competition.
Crucially, the company also has a deal in place with Japanese game developer Bandai Namco to offer a casino version of its award-winning fighting game Soul Calibur 2.