According to the industry trade body, Bacta, there are currently around 500 amusement arcades in the UK. In stark contrast, when you rewind to the 1980s, the industry was booming with over 1,000 arcades in operation.
What has caused this decline?
While there are several factors that can be attributed to the demise of the arcade industry, they all lead to the same answer:
People don’t go to arcades anymore.
And why would they?
It’s never been easier to gamble independently, with the rise of online gambling and the array of differing playing options built into applications. And even for those under 18 years, the fun day out at the seaside arcade has been replaced with phones, tablets and other gaming hardware that are becoming more readily available and cost-efficient.
Enter skills-based gaming, a game of both chance and skill. The next level up from your skill/amusement with prize (SWP/AWP) machines where you can win money instead of battling for leaderboard places and redemption tickets.
The appeal here is immediately obvious, winning cash is a more attractive prospect. And so far, it is a concept that has gained traction outside of the UK, namely in Japan and the USA.
Varied American examples such as Beat Square, developed by Konami, and Seinfeld, developed by SG, show that not only are skills-based gaming machines present, but they are also diverse in the type of game that can be played, creating a unique and immersive experience.
These examples show how skills-based gaming can work successfully inside a casino. However in the UK, the only current examples are all arcade-based with a maximum payout of £50, making them fall under category D machines in line with Gambling Commission legislation. Supernova is a great example, with its range of Skill Ball Machines.
What this shows is the level of crossover and how simple it would be transfer these machines from the arcade to the casino.
Ultimately, the anticipated rise of skills-based gaming will rely on whether it can keep customers coming back for more. A part of this will be enhancing the social element, which is an additional area currently receiving focus in the gambling industry.
Games such as Elemental Dragon and Hot Slot Sevens fit under the community gaming umbrella, a multiplayer experience that allows you to gamble against other people.
Moving skills-based gaming into this area creates a competitive and communal experience like can be achieved with home gaming, but with a more immersive, innovative twist (and the chance to win money, of course).
The wheels of change may be slow as arcade and casino owners will keep on milking the cash cow of slots and fruit machines until the very end. But without embracing the preferred gaming methods of the next generation, the gambling venues of the past will turn into ghost towns.
At Captec, we are due to launch a new portfolio of hardware solutions for the gaming and wagering industry, including computers for skills-based gaming applications.