Casinos are boring – nobody ever said. Yet for the past couple of decades we’ve been observing a change in the target clientele of such places – people belonging mainly to the baby-boom generation. What is this change? Time plays a major role here – these people are entering retirement age, and their children and grandchildren are no longer as eager to attend casinos, while gambling more and spending more money on games than their parents.
You could say that this is a paradox, if it weren’t for the fact that the rise of the Internet and technology is simply behind this whole “problem”. Why go to a casino if you have it in your pocket? Why play the same old games over and over again when there’s a whole new world of possibilities at your fingertips?
I don’t believe in the demise of casinos – these kinds of places always will adapt. But – commercially – they don’t stand the slightest chance against a gaming market that, as of early 2020, has surpassed the global movie market in revenue, and the North American sports market. Even if we take these two markets combined.
A sizable portion of this gaming market is mobile games – suffice it to say that this market segment was worth $86 billion in 2020, and by 2025 is estimated to be worth $161 billion. What’s next? Looking at the growth rate and the size of the market – it is easy to guess.
I will write more about the mobile gaming market and the esports market in the following sections. Now, the most important thing to know is that the Millennial generation (those who grew up in a world where games conquered the market) and the Zoomer generation (“Generation Z“, people born after the year 2000) entering adulthood cannot imagine a world without games, smartphones and convenient access to the Internet. And – unlike their parents – they consider games to be an integral part of their lives. Esports is normal and a large part of this market and skill-based games – is a convenient way to entertain themselves.
But what are skill-based games? Let’s start with the basics.
In the simplest terms; skill-based games are games where the player’s outcome depends on their skills, both physical and mental. In pure skill games, there is no random element. The best example of such a game is chess – here the player’s victory depends only on his skills, perceiving patterns, the ability of logical and strategic thinking, and even the knowledge of various types of defenses and attacks. Every decision made in the game depends on one of the players (taking into account the mechanics – the rules of the game) and brings consequences.
The opposite of this type of game are games of chance – where the player’s win or loss depends mainly on luck – whether it depends on the mathematical rules of randomness, or predetermined by the creators of the game. If you’ve played the classic version of the popular card game, “War” – you’ll know what I’m talking about. The card you play depends solely on how the cards are stacked up in the earlier shuffle. Your final outcome – win or lose – depends on the smile of fate.
There is also a third category – hybrid games. A good example here would be the classic Poker. It is random what cards you hold in your hand, but it is up to you as a player to decide which cards to use. If you play good cards, you should profit in most cases. I say, “most of the time” because, after all, there can always be a better player. Most games are just hybrid games.
Knowing this distinction, we can answer the question; are skill-based games gambling? Wikipedia gives a definition of this type of games and it sounds like this:
Gambling (also known as betting) is placing something of value ("stakes") on an event with an uncertain outcome with the intention of winning something of value. Gambling therefore requires the presence of three elements: reward (amount bet), risk (chance), and reward. The outcome of a bet is often immediate, such as a single roll of the dice, a spin of the roulette wheel, or a horse crossing the finish line, but there are also longer time frames, allowing bets on the outcome of future sporting events or even an entire sports season.
Money bet, randomness, and prize. Although skill-based games are often based on cash transactions and also you can win something with them, they differ on precisely this one point – they cannot be random. You don’t place a bet, if you are good, better than your rival – you win. Everything depends on your skills. The conclusion is simple – skill-based are not and never will be gambling games.
And one more thing: each of the types of games I mentioned above evokes emotions and satisfaction after winning. But answer one question: in which moment the satisfaction (and, consequently, the desire to repeat the game) is greater – when winning depends only on random factors, or when it is the result of acquired skills?
We already know what skill-based games are and what they are definitely not – it will be very helpful for any gamer to know how varied they are. Skill-based games can be very dynamic and adrenaline-pumping. They can also be calmer, based on strategic thinking, or require concentration and knowledge, such as all kinds of quizzes. Because of these, and other features, we can propose a simple division into six categories:
1 – Arcade Games
If you have good reflexes, can make decisions quickly – this is your type of game. This category will also be familiar to those who remember the golden era of arcades. Thinking of “Pong” or “Space Invaders”? That’s a good clue. Today, Arcade games have evolved and can be found in many forms and variations.
2 – Puzzle Games
In some ways these games are very similar to Arcade – sometimes the player has to make quick decisions, but in the case of Puzzle Games the games focus on planning, complexity of thinking. When the player acts on one of the elements of such a game, it also influences the whole further gameplay of the game.
3 – Word Games
As the name suggests, this type of game is all about word games, and matching the letters correctly. This type of games are designed for those who require intellectual gameplay, develop memory and mental abilities. As a player, you learn new words and how to use them. Just like Puzzle Games, planning skills are also important here, and connecting things together into a logical whole – except that here it is all about words. Is there anything more simple than the language we use every day? Word Games have a low entry threshold, but it takes becoming a true master to master them. If you’ve always enjoyed “Scrabble” and have been a master of this type of game – this world belongs to you.
4 – Trivia Games
If you like gaining knowledge, this is the category for you. In this type of games, you will learn something new and test your knowledge. This may sound boring to some, but nothing could be further from the truth – most games of this type have a time limit. For example, you answer a quiz question with a choice of four answers and limited time to answer the correct one.
5 – Fantasy Sports
To play games from this category, you need to have a sharp mind, be able to memorize, calculate optimal solutions, know the mechanics of the game and make predictions based on the information provided by the game. Sounds complicated? One of the most popular Fantasy Sports games is “Fantasy Premier League”. – a game in which players select their football squads as managers of their teams and field them in competitions.
6 – Card Games
As I pointed out above in the text – card games may or may not rely on luck (like “War”). It all depends on what is scored and how it is scored. For example – a tournament version of BlackJack could judge how quickly you create your own game plan and make moves. Your opponent – at another table – would get the same set of cards, so the odds would be even at the beginning of the game.
The classic versions of skill-based games are familiar to all of us, but the number of game types and combinations continues to grow – just as the overall gaming market is growing. Modern technology and Internet access mean that all these games are at your fingertips – actually, in your pocket, or right next to the screen you’re reading this article, or even – literally – in your hand. Such great variety, market size and easy access are the three pillars of success, few things can compete these days. So it’s no wonder that the market for these kinds of games is gigantic and growing faster and faster.
However, I will talk about that in the next part.
About the Author:
Michał Stonawski (born 1991 in Kraków) – writer, publicist, game designer.
Originator and co-author of the anthology “Map of Shadows”, author of the ebook collection of short stories “Strange Days” (published by Ebookowo 2018). In July 2020, he debuted his first full-fledged paperback book; “Paranormal: True Stories of Hauntings” (published by Znak), which gained bestseller status.
Proudly working with RealityUnit as a game designer.