Until recent times, slot machines never involved any skill. They simply call you to spin the reels and let a random number generator (RNG) determine the results.
The slots world hasn’t really changed much in this regard. The vast majority of games still don’t involve any true skill.
In the mid-2010’s, though, certain developers began producing skill-based slot machines. In contrast to traditional slots, these games give you more control over the results.
Skill-based machines seem like a great idea in theory. They combine the excitement of slots with video games. However, they have yet to gain any traction in the casino gambling world.
These games don’t have to remain unpopular forever, though. I’m going to discuss different ways that producers can finally bring skill-based slots into the limelight. First off, though, I’ll cover more on exactly what these games are and how they work.
How Do Skill Based Slot Machines Work?
A skill-based slot machine contains several elements that differ from a regular slot. Here are the key aspects behind these unique games.
Much Like Standard Slot Machines
A distinction exists between a skill-based and regular real money slots. As mentioned before, the former actually provides a degree of control over the game results.
Furthermore, they also feature a great degree of luck. An RNG determines spin results just like with any other slot machine. You won’t notice much of difference between skill-based games and traditional slots until the bonus round kicks in.
Bonus Contains Skill
The method in which bonus rounds are triggered is yet another element that skill slots share with regular games. You normally need to land three scatter symbols anywhere on the reels to trigger the bonus.
Once the feature starts, though, the separation between skill-based games and regular slot machines becomes evident.
Here’s an example on how a skill-based bonus round works:
- Alien spacecrafts advance towards earth.
- You need to maneuver a spaceship around and blast the aliens to earn credits.
- The more accurate you are during the bonus, the more money you stand to win.
This is just one example of how a skill-based feature works. But you can get an idea on how your abilities influence bonus winnings.
Assuming you’re good at the particular game, you stand to earn more money from a slot. On the contrary, you’ll lose out on more funds if you aren’t good at the feature.
Variable Return to Player (RTP)
Many developers give casinos the ability to choose RTP settings for particular slots—especially in the land-based gaming industry.
Skill-based machines differ in this regard. Again, your ability to play a given bonus round affects how much money you win.
A certain slot might offer 90% RTP at the base level. It will provide up to an additional 7% payback based on how well you do in the feature.
The House Still Has the Advantage
Some gamblers get the wrong impression on skill-based slots and think that they can swing the odds in their favor. They may believe that they’ll earn over 100% RTP with enough skill.
Unfortunately, these thoughts aren’t really true. You’ll still be facing a house edge even if you master the bonus round.
Of course, you can significantly improve your chances of winning by conquering the feature. But you still need some luck to circumvent the house advantage.
Skill Based Slots Once Showed Big Promise
Slot machines fill both land-based and online casinos. Therefore, they obviously appeal to the masses more than any other casino game.
But the gaming industry has noticed a trend where younger people don’t play slots much. They instead opt for skill-based games like blackjack and poker.
Not wanting to miss out on future generations of gamblers, developers devised a new strategy: they’ll still continue mass producing traditional slots, but they’ll also roll out skill-based machines to attract millennials and generation Z’ers.
The idea here involves appealing to gamblers who love modern video games. Given that millennials and gen Z’ers have grown up with both console and smartphone gaming, they definitely fall into this crowd.
Of course, slot machine still draw many boomers and generation X’ers. However, developers feel that they need something extra for younger gamblers.
The theory behind launching skill-based slot machines is solid. As you’ll read below, though, it hasn’t panned out too well.
Where Did Casino Slots Developers Go Wrong?
Slots producers were seemingly on the right track when they began working on skill-based machines. The latter provide something that traditional slots don’t.
For some strange reason, though, they rolled out machines that feature arcade themes. For example, IGT released Centipede and Scientific Games released Space Invaders.
Both Centipede and Space Invaders were hot at one time. However, that point was in the early 1980s, when people actually visited arcades.
We’re now three decades past that era. Most millennials and every generation Z’er didn’t grow up on arcade machines.
Young players would theoretically appreciate the skill aspect. Meanwhile, old gamblers would like playing games that they grew up with through the bonus rounds.
But herein lies another problem: developers and casinos have done a bad job of marketing skill-based slots. They often put these machines right next to traditional slots games.
Therefore, gamblers who walk by don’t notice any difference between Space Invaders and Sex and the City—other than the themes. They merely see what appears to be two regular slots.
How Can Developers Right the Ship?
Designing skill based games is challenging and game producers must take a two-pronged approach to skill-based machines if they ever want them to be popular:
- Use themes that specifically interest young players.
- Make 100% sure that everybody knows the relevant machines contain skill.
Maybe developers don’t yet feel comfortable putting Call of Duty, or another difficult first-person shooter, in the bonus round. But they should think along these lines if they want to capture younger gamblers’ attention.
After all, not many millennials are moved by Centipede or Pong. They want games that feature the type of skill and graphics they’re used to with consoles and smartphones.
Regarding the marketing part, casinos could dedicate a small portion of their gaming floors to skill-based gambling. If they labeled the section with a clearly visible sign, then more gamblers would realize that these games are different from regular slots.
Casinos could provide their skill-based games through traditional means too. They could put out a few social media posts on their new floor section.
Of course, promoting and creating a dedicated area for a new type of gaming is risky. Slot machines are proven moneymakers right now.
A casino could end up losing out on lots of revenue if skill-based slots don’t take off. But then again, these games have little chance to succeed if they’re not receiving any push.
Is It Too Late for Skill Based Slot Machines?
Slots with skill first hit casinos in the mid-2010’s. The industry was hoping that these games would take off among millennials and provide some hope.
However, these hopes haven’t come through. Again, most people don’t even realize that a skill-based slot machine is any different from the next game.
Of course, land-based casinos need to do something if their slot machines aren’t drawing young people. Some variation of skill slots might be the answer.
The future doesn’t look bright for skill-based gaming right now. Then again, these types of slot machines are only around five years old.
Casinos rolled them out several years ago in an effort to draw younger players. These initial efforts have proved fruitless, but there’s still time.
Video poker, which is found in abundance alongside slots, didn’t really catch on when it was introduced in the mid-1970s. It took around 5-8 years to truly draw gamblers’ attention.
Developers might want to tweak some of their earlier work with skill-based slots. But they definitely shouldn’t give up on these games just yet.