Gaming is unique among all forms of entertainment for many reasons – one of the most important of which being its still-developing nature. As an industry, gaming is one heavily reliant on the technology of the time, with its current shape remaining in a state of evolutionary flux.
Far from the early days of arcade cabinets, gaming today has taken over in the form of the console and PC platforms, but the growth and change within those platforms still fundamentally shift with each passing year.
Gambling within video games is hardly a new development, with the implementation of these games dating back at least as far as the NES. Early entries like Casino Kid were basic in their interpretation of casino life, as they had to be given the technological limitations of the time, but they still offered remarkably accurate representations of the games themselves.
The inclusion and success of casino games within traditional video games owes no short amount of thanks to the relative simplistic systems by which they operate. The fun in these games isn’t derived from overly complex or ostentatious gameplay and graphics, after all, but rather a strong base appeal of easy to learn but difficult to master strategies.
This made them perfect for more basic systems, which was a truth well understood by the actual casino industry and industry followers. This led to a quick adaption into the online sphere as soon as mass internet became viable, with online casinos following suit with later developments into smartphone and tablet systems.
Of course, gambling as games and minigames in video games still exist, though the increasing complexity of these games largely placed the emphasis on aspects other than the gambling games themselves. Fallout New Vegas used gambling as a minigame, as did Red Dead Redemption 2, and even Poker Night put a greater emphasis on humour and communication than straight strategy.
Part of this is due to the increasing cost of AAA development, where the static price of base games is often seen as not able to fully recuperate the ballooning costs of production. Releasing a mainstream AAA straight gambling video game in this manner is no longer viable, and many other genres have been forced to expand and adapt to overcome these increasing costs. This in itself has been credited with laying the path for alternative profit-gathering methods, which we know as monetisation.
This has taken various forms over the years, as developers and publishers have attempted to find the balance between what creates value for the consumer and helps the game, versus what is not worth the effort and hurts the game. One of the most notorious early versions of this came in the form of the Elder Scrolls IV: Oblivion horse armour, which is credited as one of the early examples that opened the floodgates.
Often regarded as terrible implementation, the attitude towards this form of monetisation has softened considerably over the years, at least when it is added in a way which players think is fair. In general terms, if a player is able to gain cosmetic items through a reasonable amount of playtime then this is not an issue.
The other side of monetisation, which has far fewer defenders, comes from implementation that offers direct advantages to players willing to cough up an additional fee. The currently most down-voted Reddit post in history came from EA defending this practice in Star Wars Battlefront 2, in one of the occasions where fan backlash actually provoked a change in course.
The most common way in which these monetisation practices are currently taking place comes from the inclusion of loot boxes. These act as slot machines in everything but name, which has so far allowed them to get away with avoiding strict gambling regulations designed to protect customers. That said, there are now countries addressing this issue, and slowly closing the loopholes that allow these systems to exist unregulated.
Since these are already gambling, in effect, then shouldn’t other traditional and honest gambling games be available on these marketplaces already?
Is real money gambling games allowed on Steam? As of recently, this answer is yes, of a sort. Using credits directly tradable for real cash, there are newer games that approach the gaming/gambling disconnect honestly, and in a way that is properly investigated and regulated.
For many users of online games, this is the exact development they have been looking for. The problem for many has nothing to do with gambling, after all, but the unregulated gambling which loot box culture represents. If this is what it takes to put an end to some of the less-well-received monetisation schemes then we’re all for it, and we hope this type of strict application of the consumer-protection law only becomes more common in the gaming world going forward.