Two Way Hard Three | Las Vegas Casino & Design Blog

December 1, 2010

Slot Gaming For The Facebook Generation

Posted by Hunter

You just lined up three diamonds.

Along with the traditional bells and whistles, the machine illuminates a small LCD and offers to snap your photo via the built in camera. If you accept, it will be posted to your Facebook account along with a message letting all your friends know just how lucky you are (with or without jackpot totals, based on your preference). The machine will have access to all of your social networking profiles, via your slot club account - you linked them via the club Web site.

As far as I know, no slot manufacturer has announced this sort of integration but I have to believe it's coming someday. It only seems natural as younger players, reared on video games and smart-phones, start to enter the eager marketing cross-hairs of the casino industry.

What Other Innovations Will We See?

I'd also expect more video type games that involve multiple coordinated players and network based achievements. Again, taking a cue from video games, these players are used to playing against their friends on networks like Xbox Live where they are able to achieve levels based on amount of play and skill. These achievements could move with you from machine to machine and maybe even casino to casino - imagine a sort of meta slot club for certain games that recognized your play no matter who owned the machine you were playing on. I think that some manufacturers have already talked about this sort of thing arriving soon.

Will we start to see significant games exclusive to a certain casino or multi-property corporation? Could we ever see a gaming company purchase a manufacturer in an effort to get exclusive access to the hottest games? This is not an uncommon pattern in video gaming, as manufacturers like Microsoft and Nintendo have purchased companies like Bungee and Rare in an effort to lock up the best titles as exclusives. What if you could only get Wheel of Fortune at Las Vegas Sands properties?

IGT's market cap is only $4.65B - not unsubstantial for the debt ridden gaming companies but not so high that it's outside the realm of possibility. Let's also not forget that Kazuo Okada is one of the major investors in Wynn Resorts - his company is a device manufacturer in Japan.

Come On, Most Slot Machines Really Are Pretty Boring

It's interesting to see what seems like the relatively slow pace of game innovation on the slot floor. In other industries, companies like Zynga have proven that there's a huge market for different types of social games (i.e. Farmville) that, if you explained them to someone before they became popular, you'd be laughed at because the idea sounds so dumb. My gut instinct is that while some of the traditional double-diamonds-with-cheese type games may continue to draw for some time, eventually these game makers will need to come up with something more compelling. I can tell you that generally speaking, I find slots a bore and not worth more than a few minutes while waiting for someone, etc...

How about a game where winning money is just part of the draw - something that has other compelling qualities as well? I'm not suggesting that we somehow turn Halo into a negative expectation slot machine but there's got to be some way to meld these two concepts so that they can start to look at the future.

One hurdle is regulation. In NRS 14.040, the "Minimum standards for gaming devices" states that games "must use a random selection process to determine the game outcome of each play of a game". That sounds like any game that uses skill is out but it's not quite that simple.

The Gaming Control Board's 'Technical Standards for Gaming Devices and On-Line Slot Systems' deals with extended features and bonus games, which *are* allowed to incorporate skill into the outcome, though they are severely limited in the amount they can contribute to the overall return to the player - no more than 4%.

"Oh, they tried skill based games and they didn't take off."

Yeah, you know what kinds of games they tried? Crap like Battleship. I can't imagine anything more boring. The recent 'Pong' slot machine also had a skill based bonus round. I give them nostalgia points and it's a little closer to what I'm talking about but still, it's a half-assed attempt at doing something interesting.

The regulation is extremely important - they ensure a fair game. That said though, they may need to be reviewed and expanded in coming years as consumers tastes change. It's not like games of skill aren't already wagered on daily in the casino - from poker to twenty one to the sports-book. Unfortunately, change will probably be a very slow process.

People spend a lot of discretionary income on other forms of game based entertainment ($20B on video games annually) - the casino game manufacturers should be working more aggressively to steal some of that market. Make casino games and specific 'gaming devices' a reason to go to a specific property, not just something to do once you've already arrived at the casino.

Will server based video slots in any way lower the barrier to entry for game creators? Again, regulation still stands as a significant obstacle but imagine if manufacturers like IGT could draw on talent from multiple, smaller game 'studios' that would then partner with a licensed manufacturer to bring their games to the market. This model has been very successful in other forms of entertainment production and potentially could result in an explosion of new and interesting ideas for gameplay.

I don't follow the gaming manufacturing industry as closely as I follow the hospitality side - any slot experts care to comment on the above? I'm specifically interested in folks that love slots AND love Facebook.


Read archived comments (14 so far)
December 1, 2010 9:51 PM Posted by atdleft

You certainly have some good ideas, Hunter, and it looks like some of them are already slowly being implemented. I know "Sex And The City" doesn't scream, "Cool game for All-American straight guys!", but its success so far shows that there is a growing appetite for more complex slot games, games with story lines and intense gamer interaction. IMHO games like this and the newer, more communal "Monopoly" video slots are the wave of the future.

Oh, and at one point, slot manufacturers will have to give gamers the option of connecting onto social networks like Facebook and Twitter, since it's already happening and the casinos probably aren't liking gamers shooting photos on their camera phones.

December 1, 2010 9:54 PM Posted by mike_ch

WMS has had slots that track you for almost two years now, though they're sophisticated enough that they don't crank out the themes the way they do for other things. Star Trek and LOTR are the only two games with it.

They're never going to use social networks, though, and especially not Facebook. People don't want to turn their identity over to a slot machine, they have good reason to, and the gambling industry understands their customer's valuation for privacy and Zuckerberg simply can not be trusted to anyone who is serious about privacy.

Just like I said about iPhone apps a few months ago: you love open APIs and information sharing, Hunter. Many gamblers and the industry won't. It exists, and I think it will be more common, but it's going to be tightly controlled, with proprietary closed source software.

December 1, 2010 10:10 PM Posted by Hunter

Mike, you might want to be more careful about saying things like 'never' and 'people don't' just because it may not interest you personally.

The massive popularity of Facebook has proven that people not only love sharing things but that they do it more than anyone would have guessed before it existed.

It's also a mistake to look at the customers of the recent past and today and expect that the same behaviors will continue. Society is becoming more open and prone to sharing this sort of stuff, not less so.

You don't think the casinos would like publicizing jackpots? Have you not seen the hundreds of billboards showing the latest Station winners that are all over your town? Casinos love showing off winners.

Just like with the discussion of the apps on VegasTripping, you're looking at this through way too small of a lens. The delivery mechanism doesn't matter - I mention FB because that's where the 500MM+ people are today - you can't share if there's no one to share with.

As an aside, since when do I love information sharing? I personally hate Facebook and do not use it but it's impact and trajectory are undeniable. I also don't see what any of this has to do with Open Source software. I never mentioned that and I don't think that part matters at all.

December 1, 2010 10:52 PM Posted by atdleft

Hunter & Mike C-

"Have you not seen the hundreds of billboards showing the latest Station winners that are all over your town? Casinos love showing off winners."

Not too many around here, but funny enough there was just a Sunset Station ad for Cox Cable. And on the local channels, Station has often highlighted its winners. I can very much see them taking it "viral" in the future via Facebook posts directly from the slots.

"I personally hate Facebook and do not use it but it's impact and trajectory are undeniable."

I personally love Facebook, and I can go on and on talking about how it's changed my life, especially when it comes to sharing so much of it with the world. And now that more and more people are using programs like Foursquare and Google Latitude (which often can link to Facebook and/or Twitter) to share everywhere they go, it's increasingly looking like privacy concerns are being thrown out the window.

"People don't want to turn their identity over to a slot machine"

But they already are. That's what Player's Club cards essentially are, tools that let the casinos know who these players are. They're already handing over their identities so the casinos can "offer them rewards" as they collect very valuable demographic data.

"the gambling industry understands their customer's valuation for privacy"

Sorry, but I just can NOT believe this. Again, Player's Club cards were introduced so that casino conglomerates can track where, when, and how consumers gamble. iPhone & Android apps are now being used so the casinos can better track consumer interests. Casinos are being more aggressive on Facebook & Twitter so they can better track consumer interests. And all this interaction is becoming increasingly popular, so again it's looking to me like casinos are figuring out what incentives to offer players so they will hand over more personal info to them.

December 2, 2010 1:09 AM Posted by mike_ch

No, actually I wouldn't mind such a thing personally. I don't think some players would, and they're often the ones that are very important (the very high rollin' type.)

My dad doesn't get Facebook. He thinks it's Big Brother and the kind of thing he spent most of his life resisting. He was genuinely creeped out when someone sent him a "come join!" email and it suggested he be-friend other people he's known who have no connection to that first person at all, and wondered how they connected them when he has no account.

I have overshared and I have undershared, but I still "get" the thing. I'm pretty neutral to it, although I'd probably leave it for other venues if there weren't people on there I don't communicate with through anything else.

But I don't think either of us would be keen on publicizing our gambling histories in places where friends and family members can examine them. It's not just about being interested in social networks, it's about wanting to have a kind of a barrier between the you that you put forward to the general public with your legal name attached, and things you do that maybe not everybody needs to know about.

I don't mind casinos giving a floor-wide "Hey, a jackpot was hit!" (Wynn did this for the first few years with a dollar figure on the screens around the floor), but there are sometimes social implications that come with telling nearly anybody who is looking that you just won a pot of money.

December 2, 2010 1:15 AM Posted by mike_ch

Also, just to address something else:

Well, I brought up APIs because we talked about it in the past, and we're doing so again here. It's not about open-source software, it's about relying on an outside database to handle your customers's data, that is nowhere near you, by using a connection to the outside.

I dunno. I think casinos and customers expect some manner of privacy and security, and I think equipping a connection on every slot machine not to some intranet but to the wider world of attacks and vulnerabilities is a pretty tough row to hoe.

December 2, 2010 5:20 AM Posted by Jeff in OKC

Let me toss in the middle-aged perspective:

Mike, I think you are right in your concerns, yet the public will blow through your roadblock like Bo Jackson going through Brian Bosworth. I recall that the biggest source of slot revenue for casinos are post-menopausal women. Those ladies between 50 and 60 really use Facebook and they love to share without thinking about the baggage. Us men of that age-not so much. I probably joined FB to communicate with son 1 while he was in Afghanistan, or to comment on some Las Vegas related site, I don't remember. I think the friend "pool" for my age group is probably 80% women.

I think that might help explain the results of 3 new machines, at least through my casual observations. Sex And The City is a big success because it's aimed primarily at women 40-60, big players. Star Trek, in the Shatner version, draws men from that age group (I don't know if that's who they meant to draw, but I think that's who they got). It's a little too technical for us baby boomer guys who hang on the casino floors, IMO. And that's why I think it hasn't been very successful. LOTR draws a younger group and has been quite successful, from what I've seen and heard, even though it is pretty close to Star Trek in technology and operation.

I see the key to future success for slot makers laying in their ability to keep the old ladies coming back until they have to move to assisted living, expand the baby boomers and draw the video game crowd. Kinda like the post war General Motors structure or Toyota today.

December 2, 2010 6:42 AM Posted by Brandon Griffiths

I like the social aspect as a way to get people to play. I have a bunch friends (in their 30's) that are playing stupid facebook games and I could see them being more interested in slots if it had this sort of integration.

Casinos need to do something to lure in a younger crowd and the world is going social. I think such integration could really take off.

December 2, 2010 8:29 AM Posted by Hunter

In case I wasn't clear, I believe this stuff will and should be totally optional... but I also believe that option will be offered and probably sooner rather than later... and yes, of course, it all has configurable so that you only share what you want.

It's the next evolution of snapping cell photos of your winning jackpot.

December 2, 2010 11:02 AM Posted by atdleft


Good point! Now that you mention it, most of my dad's Facebook friends are women, and they're baby boomers. And my cousin and her best friends are older Gen X'ers, and they're also rabid Facebook users. By adding the Facebook option (and yes, Hunter's right that it will be optional, not mandatory) to games like "Sex And The City", they're also making those games more appealing to 40+ women as well. And since most slot players are women, it naturally makes sense.


I also think you're right. Getting back to Gen Y, making these slot games more social and more interactive is critical to locking in more of us. Since most folks my age are already addicted to Wii and/or Xbox 360 as well as Facebook and/or Twitter, it just makes sense to marry the best of all worlds with new video slot games. Many of my friends are already using Foursquare wherever they go, so it's not like they're all that concerned about their privacy rights. While I understand where Mike C is coming from, since I myself have privacy concerns, I really do suspect we're in the minority and most players will appreciate connecting to social networks with video slot games.

December 2, 2010 12:31 PM Posted by mike_ch

Well I'll just close my thoughts on this issue by saying that options aside, putting an internet connection on every video slot will certainly be, ah, interesting.

I've looked inside video slots, and seen them start up. They're basically clunky old mainboards and CPUs repurposed (I've seen old Pentiums in there before) and I think to operating systems and how monthly updates on the Mac, or weekly updates on Windows, weren't really a common thing until the always-on connection to the internet got into most American homes and people started becoming vulnerable to hacker attacks without deliberately provoking it like you had to do in the past, by going into some script kiddie IRC channel and acting like an idiot.

Any corporate IT guy worth his salt will tell you that if the protection of your data is paramount, the best thing you can do to preserve it is have no outside links to the internet in your network. It's ultimately about as useful as teaching abstinence to teenagers because eventually someone in the office will want a line to the outside to do something, but the moral is still true even if it's not often useful in practice.

Presently, most forms of scamming casinos require you to actually be inside the casino at some point in time. If you're not concerned about collecting ill-gotten winnings, internet connected slot machines present a high-profile target to people just looking to screw with things. Being able to do so anonymously from a distance would really change the nature of things.

I'm thinking if this can be done, it should be tried out in Macao first. China has more hackers than anywhere else, and it's not even uncommon for companies to hire them and wage war against one another. I don't want to say I have visions of Stanley Ho hiring a small building's worth of hackers to cause the entire Strip to go bankrupt in one evening, but if they can defend themselves in Macao, they could do it here.

December 2, 2010 9:36 PM Posted by Hunter

That's an interesting point.

Network security is a legitimate issue and something that would need to be addressed in a competent manner, no doubt. As a former corporate IT guy myself (100 machines - not on the scale that we're talking about here but still similar tech and problems), you're right, the less links the better. Still, with the right types of safeguards, firewalls and auditing, it's not insurmountable.

The major casino corporations already allow some employees remote access to their internal networks, albeit always via encrypted VPN. My understanding, based on past conversations with a few folks in Strip IT departments, is that at least some of these critical networks aren't setup to be air gap secure, even today.

Of course, you could always run two network connections to each slot machine, if you really really wanted to keep things separate - one secure net for the game server connection, another less secure connection to the riskier stuff. That wouldn't have any significant cost impact when it came to building the machines.

December 4, 2010 6:52 PM Posted by jinx

Server based gaming will help with some of the issues around network security. In the end something like a facebook post is definitely a next step and I think we'll see it, although how successfully integrated will remain to be seen. It's going to take some back of the house work to do right though, players club card association and such, as having some 50-60 yr old woman work the interface of a slot after a win is going to be far more then they want to do at that point.

As mentioned previously, individual game experiences have been going on for a couple years now with Start Trek, Lord of the Rings, and Reel em In. Everything to new bonus games that you unlock as you proceed to tropy cases on Reel em in. We are definitely getting more video game like, although how much that's going to change the floor remains to be seen. I think there is a demand for it, but that in most cases, the industry is sort of slow to implement as the base is difficult to change.

What I mean by that is that the majority of slot players still stay away from these machines, or that the licensing for them makes it difficult to keep them on the floor for great lengths, there have been a variety of machines that changed things up that have failed that weren't licensed properties, I can think of wheel spin VP, a dice side game on a slot machine, WSOP VP, and some others, but typically if it takes explaining a good portion of the gaming public doesn't want to deal with it.

Look at the table games and you see the same thing, don't over complicate it is the bottom line for most games. I can't tell you how many times sitting at a Video Ultimate Hold'em machine, watching people come up put a 20 in, stare for 10 minutes at the screen, maybe play one or two hands and then litererally throw their hands up in frustration as they cash out because they cant figure it out. My point is it's going to take a while.

I do like that not only has LOR continued using unlockable levels as a carrot, but that they've also introduced 'powerups' on their machines too, very video game like and you get one of four powerups that you can use on your next spin.

December 10, 2010 4:56 PM Posted by Let's Do Something About It

I don't love slots. I don't love Facebook. I LIKE SOME slots, and I LIKE SOME aspects of Facebook. I do however follow the gaming manufacturer side of things quite closely because I do LOVE this industry and all the good, bad and ugly that comes along with it. And this topic is especially interesting to me as a 31-year-old female who has invested her future in it.

When I say I LIKE SOME slots, I mean I like very few. Why? Not because I know the house always wins in the end but because I don't find much entertainment value in them. I don't like the feeling of spending $20 or more just to push a button and watch hundreds of lines zigzag across the screen in some pattern I can't even understand only to lose that $20 in less than five minutes. I hate the boring graphics and themes. I hate that I have no control over when the reels stop or where. I hate that there is virtually no interaction between the game and me, unless I happen to hit the bonus round and have to press another button or touch the screen to see how many free spins or credits I might get.

The only games I “somewhat” enjoy are Sex in the City, Kitty Glitter and Top Gun (the latter I can't even find on the floor anymore thanks to the "wonderful Wizard of Oz"). The reason I even somewhat like these is only because of either a.) The bonus round offers some sort of pseudo skill-based fun (Top Gun). b.) I like shoes and girly things (Carrie, can I borrow those purple Manolo Blahniks?) OR c.) Kitties are cute and I want to pet them.

When it comes down to it, I maybe spend $300 a year on slots, and most of that is for work purposes. I know chasing bonus rounds is futile in the end and that Carrie will never borrow me her shoes, and I have my own kitties to pet. Plus, I'd rather spend my money on something I can actually show for it, like those Manolo Blahniks or a new spiked collar for my cat.

Would I spend more money on slots if they offered more video-gaming, casual-style gaming experiences that integrated with social networking mediums? That sure would be a good start.

The perfect slot machine in my eyes would not only provide an engaging entertainment experience built on skill and luck, but also allow me to share that experience with others either through social networking mediums or with my friends at an actual casino. It wouldn't need a manual to understand. And I wouldn't want to have to guess how much entertainment I would get for my money.

I'm disappointed on a daily basis how boring most of the games are year-after-year. I'm sad that gaming manufacturers and sometimes even operators don't seem concerned that a new generation of gamblers are not walking through the casino and spending their money on slots, nor are they returning if they do. More than anything I'm worried that if nothing changes, we as an industry will die right along with our current core demographic.

This topic and the comments you've all provided give me hope however. It shows that there are gamers out there thinking about the same things that I am. If we really want to change things, we have to push operators to give us the kind of gaming experiences we want. Each of us has a different idea of what that is, and that's why in the end I believe it comes down to personalization.

Shouldn't we be the ones to control our gaming entertainment experiences? Aren't we the ones that support the casinos, and state coffers, with our money? I'm not saying we should all get to win tons of money every time we play in a casino, but maybe if the manufacturers and operators gave us more say in what they manufacture and deliver, we'd be willing to spend more money more often on gaming experiences instead of on shoes and our cats.