Over the past few years a new gaming trend has been accelerating at breakneck speed—one which will change the slot machine industry for players and manufacturers at a fundamental level. Video gamers are rushing forward to embrace playing tournaments for money, but it is likely to not stop there. From competing in massive international tournaments with very recognizable sponsors, to gaining a celebrity status following in the US, gamers have found their way to the world’s stage and spotlight, by going head to head for millions of dollars.
Figures for 2015’s combined e-sport prize pools are at $8, 289,111 and rising. The highest paid player is China’s Zinghao Chen, earning $1,222,832.42 overall. At 16 years old, Sweden’s Ludwig Wahlberg has already earned $385,757.48.
The phenomenon is attracting spectators from around the world as well. In fact, the computer game League of Legends has booked the Staples Center in Los Angeles for their 2015 Championship Tournament in October and ESPN2 recently aired a collegiate tournament for the game Heroes of the Storm. These two titles have a cult following so there are players who have practiced for years developing their skills.
It is not surprising that “e-sports” or “electronic sports” are the new coin phrases (though there is a bit of controversy brewing on the classification) as the tournaments are highly competitive, even to the point of being physically exhausting.
Amazon recently paid $970 million to obtain Twitch, a streaming service for gamers and Chicago’s Robert Morris University is awarding over $500,000 in athletic scholarship money to gamers beginning this fall (in recognition of competitive students who don’t want to participate in live sports).
Just last year the State Department began granting Visas to expert gamers under the same conditions as those granted to professional athletes.
The trend towards accepting video games as a sport is acclimating players for future casino action. The leap from a casino floor full of slot machines to a casino floor full of interactive video games is relatively short and a very logical step, especially when the gaming industry is already setting its sights on the millennial generation.
Millennials want more action and have shorter attention spans than current slot and video poker machines can satisfy. With this is mind, Nevada legislators approved Senate Bill 9 unanimously. The Senate voted 20-0 on April 14, while the Assembly voted 41-0 on May 15. The bill allows machine manufacturers to include competitive video game aspects, ultimately rewarding players with variable payback percentages based on skill.
The bill was backed by the Association of Gaming Equipment Manufacturers (AGEM) and smiled upon by the Gaming Control Board. Governor Brian Sandoval’s platform includes keeping Nevada on the cutting edge of gaming technology. He is expected to sign the bill as soon as it crosses his desk. The bill gives the Nevada Gaming Commission the task of developing the language for the new rules and regulations associated with more complex games.
The bill is good news for all those involved with gaming in general. AGEM Executive Director Marcus Prater said, “I believe we will look back on the passage of SB9 [Senate Bill 9] as a monumental moment for the gaming industry and its overall evolution…The slot floor will not transform overnight, but this will allow our industry to capitalize on radical new gaming concepts and technologies and give AGEM members the ability to unleash a new level of creativity for their casino customers.”
Some slot machine companies have already ventured toward this predictable future. For example, Bally Technologies has recently manufactured a game based on Skee-Ball, while Gamblit Gaming offers one inspired by Angry Birds. Neither machine rewards players with bigger payouts for performing well, however this could easily change.
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