It might come as quite a surprise to fans of today’s online casinos that, quite some time before the first sites started to appear, video games had already been dabbling in the area of recreating the Las Vegas experience.
Since those early days, the video games have changed out of all recognition in terms of complexity, sophistication and playability. The online casino world has also come on in great leaps and bounds with new games, different ways to play and even a live casino experience that can be streamed direct to a player’s PC or mobile device.
The relationship between the two forms of entertainment continues to grow closer than ever and the emergence of cutting-edge technology like virtual and augmented reality is now creating a crossover between the two. But before examining this in a little more detail, it’s useful to take a quick look at the history of video games’ links with casinos.
The early days
While Atari might now be a name best known by fans of retro-gaming, back in the 70s and 80s they were big in the video-game world. But, by the 90s, they had started to be left behind. So they made the bold move of taking on the likes of Nintendo by releasing the first ever hand-held device with an LCD colour screen, Called the Lynx, one of the first games released for it was a casino simulator where roulette, craps, blackjack, slots and video poker could all be played.
Admittedly, nowhere near approaching the sophistication that you can now find with big names today like Virgin Games
, Lynx Casino did give players a fairly good way to practice their skills at the various games while playing for virtual rewards.
A few years later in 1993 Nintendo took the concept of a casino game a little further with Vegas Stakes. Unlike Lynx Casino, this had a storyline in which the objective was to visit Las Vegas with $1,000 and to play a range of casino games in an attempt to boost it up to $10,000,000. The fact that the game gained a cult-following shows how popular it became.
The story element became even more important in Prominence Poker which was launched for Xbox and Playstation in 2016 and which involves facing off gangsters and other hoodlums as well as advancing in increasingly high-stakes games of poker.
The Diamond Casino and Resort
But surely the pinnacle, to date, of the coming together of video games and casinos has come in the fifth version of the Grand Theft Auto franchise from Rockstar Games. For almost six years after its release in 2013 players could drive past the Diamond Casino and Resort to see an “Opening Soon” sign. This continued for so long that most people assumed that it would never actually be open for business. But then, in July 2019, Rockstar made the exciting announcement
that it was all systems go.
Predictably, this caused great excitement in the gaming community, eager to see what they’d been missing out on for so long. Just as you’d expect from the games developers who have become so well-known for their painstaking attention to detail, players certainly weren’t disappointed. Within the plush surroundings of the Diamond Casino and Resort they found themselves able to play roulette, blackjack, three-card poker and a selection of slots games too. There was also a special Lucky Wheel that greeted visitors in the foyer of the casino as well as an area called Inside Track where it was possible to bet on horseraces.
While all the games had been amazingly rendered and were very involving to play, the biggest impact of the casino’s arrival was in the extra dimensions that it added to the game itself. For example, it provided a way for players to acquire more wealth, as well as possessions ranging from new clothes to new cars. As a resort, it also had a number of apartments and penthouses of increasing luxury that could be acquired - if there was enough money in the bank.
It even introduced a number of new missions that players can choose to carry out in order to help the casino’s owner Tao Cheng avoid a hostile takeover from the Duggan family. So more than just adding an extra element to GTA, in many ways the opening of the casino created a whole new mini-game in itself.
The immediate popularity of the casino meant, unsurprisingly, very soon players were looking for hacks and other short-cuts to help them win. Obviously, these are techniques that simply wouldn’t be possible in a real online casino where security is taken very seriously indeed, but plenty of techniques have emerged to tip the odds very much in the players’ favour.
Introducing the element of skill
As mentioned earlier, there has also been considerable crossover between video games and casinos themselves and this is set to increase in the future. At the heart of this is an attempt to attract more millennials both to online casinos and their “bricks and mortar” alternatives
. There’s a general feeling that a generation brought up on video games would respond well if some of the elements of skill needed to do well in these could be incorporated into casino games.
Slots are the obvious games in which this could be introduced, for example by adding bonus rounds in which a task or mission has to be successfully completed. As the current generation of video slots share much of the same technology with video games consoles this shouldn’t present too much of a problem to develop.
As to whether we will see more casino elements appearing in video games, it seems likely that this will be the case. There is already much speculation about whether the Diamond Casino will also be appearing in GTA 6 which is believed to be in development. Other games companies will also surely have witnessed the casino’s popularity and be keen to replicate it for themselves.
But when, and where, that will be, we’ll just have to wait and see.
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