Gambling in Video Games: Going Beyond the Genre Limitations
GAMBLIFICATION. You’re in the middle of a game and pulling yourself together to start a fight with a monster. But before you begin, a spin wheel pops up, inviting you to wager on the outcome of the fight. You’ve lost your bet, but as a sign of consolation you are rewarded with a shield power-up. It will give you a 20-second immunity in the next fight.
If you’re ideating a casual, midcore, or gambling game app, consider going beyond the pure genre limitations. Introduce gamblification in your casual game to add suspense and extra fun to the gameplay. Mix gambling mechanics with the action and skill-based elements of the endless runner, shooter or action-adventure game. This way you'll turn the otherwise familiar game plot into an enticing venture.
Fallout 3, an action role-playing game developed by Bethesda Game Studios (Source: fallout.wikia.com). The player can take a chance with the battle outcome by targeting a specific part of the enemy’s body
Despite tight competition, the gaming industry lures both established game publishers and indie developers. Whether you go for a hybrid gambling video game or a gamblified app, to maximize the gambling mechanics, you need to pay extra attention to certain stages in the game creation process. We’ll zoom in on graphics, game economy, data stability, and analytics.
Create Compelling Art
The Ocean theme of the gamblified Match3 game Match3Volution features aquatic creatures and settings
From the splash screen down to button design, game art performs a multi-fold function: it tells a story, sets the game mood, illustrates the game goals and rules, and helps the player interact with the app. In gambling games, graphics also helps to build trust, that’s why paying attention to minute details is essential. Whether you design a casino chip, a card or a gemstone sparkle, make sure you render the graphics so that it looks rich and clean on small and large screen resolutions. This will help the gameplay run more smoothly without causing lags. We recommend approaching the graphics design as follows:
Research apps similar to what you want to create: this way you’ll get the hang of the niche “best practices” and assess your differentiating points;
Analyze the top-grossing apps and assess the graphics they use;
Discuss the shortlisted app designs with the artist: together you’ll come up with a suitable concept;
Select the theme and use it across all graphics levels — from key characters to UI controls: this will help create the sense of flow and immersion;
Adapt the graphics quality to minimize the resulting app size: if your target audience is youngsters who download games on the go, the app size will make a difference. Make sure the image looks good on the target device: phone, tablet or tabletop.
The Main Lobby screen of the mobile game Lucky Swipe! To keep the app size to a minimum, zGames used special image optimization techniques
Graphics in gambling games is a powerful means of projecting credibility and fostering engagement. To create compelling game graphics, pay attention to details, make art unique, stick to the theme, and make images lightweight.
Balance Game Economy
The game economy builds on the player’s ability to buy or earn valuable stuff and spend resources to progress in the game. This could be a bonus, a reward, an extra power or a special activity. The probability matrix of the player wins — game mathematics — ensures the game economy is in optimal balance. Calculate the matrix so that the player remains confident by distributing wins fairly. Make sure you do not give too much or too little in-game currency to the player so that they feel motivated to win more stuff.
Q. You start a game with a positive balance of $100,000. In the long run, if you bet $10,000 each game, you lose about 5% of the initial fortune, which is $500 (10,000*5/100=500). With $100,000 at hand, you’ll be able to play 200 games (100,000/500=200). A typical game lasts 30 seconds. How soon will you have to make another money deposit?
A. You’ll have about 100 minutes to play 200 games (200*30/60=100). If you play 10 minutes a day, you may spread your fortune over 10 days of gaming (6,000/600=10). Or you may go for a one-day 1.5 h splash-out. At this point, it’s time to pony up some cash.
To prevent multi-day gaming without cash inflow, use incentives: introduce a limited time offer or set the daily free play bonus to a span slightly below the player expectation. To create a healthy game economy, combine the ‘fair play’ math with a well-thought monetization strategy.
Make Client Server Communication Stable
In gambling games, to prevent player dropout and data loss during betting and profile updates, the client-server connection must be stable. When we developed Lucky Swipe!, a Unity-powered casual mobile game that converges a match3 puzzle with betting mechanics, we employed special methods to secure the app’s reliability:
We split the game logic between the client and the server. This allows checking the connection to the server at the beginning and at the end of the game. The player doesn’t need the Internet connection during the game;
We designed the app’s architecture so that it stores the encrypted game session locally on the user's mobile device. This will keep sensitive data secure: the deposit, bonuses, level, game progress, etc. It will also help recover the game right from the drop-off.
If you plan to leverage gambling mechanics in your online game, make sure your app allows recovering sessions at the connection drop. This will keep future players protected against possible money losses and negative feedback.
Tap Game Analytics
Analytics tools can measure the game’s performance in two ways — gather stats on how the app operates and track the players’ activity in real time. With regards to the app operation, you can monitor if the client server connection is stable, how many times the users have installed and launched the app, how fast the app responds to the user actions, if the app crashed, what devices the players use to play the game, and if any errors have occurred during the game. For these kinds of tasks, we prefer to use the New Relic digital intelligence platform.
New Relic screen shows the number of the Lucky Swipe! game crashes during the soft launch. Staying below the 2% line is a great benchmark to target.
With regards to the player activity, we track players’ progress, levels reached, completed games, allocated bonuses, etc. This data appears on the dashboard with a few second latency at maximum. For these tasks, we employ Amplitude, a web and mobile analytics platform.
A generic screen with an Amplitude dashboard showing user stats: on-boarding, new daily users, allocation by country, and retention (Source: Amplitude.com). This kind of stats is confidential, so we’re unable to share the real app data.
Stats on the app’s technical performance and user activity are especially critical when you release the game to the markets with an audience similar to your target market. This is known as a Soft Launch. The data helps identify technical bottlenecks and weak spots in the gameplay and tune it along the way. It also provides meaningful insight into what makes the players tick when they play your game.
To create an addictive casual or gambling game, mix gambling mechanics with more sophisticated game genres and make sure you address the following aspects along the way:
The app’s graphics pleases the eye and is lightweight;
The game retains a healthy game economy — the player’s buy/earn ratio is coordinated with how much they spend;
The game supports uninterrupted data flow through a stable client-server connection;
The app is tweaked and tuned based on technical performance and player activity data.