I usually ignore the social casino game genre, but that may prove more difficult soon. Social casino games have players gambling fake currency on glitzy digital slot machines and other games of chance. They are especially popular on mobile where top games like Slotomania generate millions of dollars a day. But since I spend most of my gaming time on Steam, Epic Games, and Switch, I’ve found it easy to overlook Bingo Blitz, Jackpot Party, and the rest. It’s more difficult to avoid the social casino games called GTA Online and NBA 2K.
Traditional game publishers have clearly begun to take notice of the social casino space. These games are very lucrative. Slotomania is the No. 5 top-grossing app on the Google Play store. So if hardcore players aren’t going to social casino apps on mobile and Facebook, then developers are going to bring them us.
This is already happening. Rockstar launched Red Dead Online with Blackjack and Poker. In July, Rockstar then added the Diamond Casino to GTA Online. This introduced slots, cards, craps, roulette, and more to the open-world crime game.
And then this week, 2K Games highlighted a number of casino-style mechanics coming to NBA 2K20 in a bizarre trailer. Basketball fans will get a chance to unlock player cards for the MyTeam mode in pachinko, slots, and a giant spinning wheel.
For many gaming fans, social casino is already here. And it’s probably going to start showing up in more games.
Social casino in GTA Online and NBA 2K is only the beginning
Maybe you noticed that NBA 2K, Red Dead Online, and GTA Online all have the same publisher. Take-Two Interactive Software owns 2K Games and Rockstar.
In early August, Take-Two chief executive officer Strauss Zelnick told CNBC’s Jim Cramer that it is deliberately pursuing this space.
“Social casino is a big part of the interactive entertainment business,” said Zelnick. “It’s great to be in the social casino business now through Red Dead Online and GTA Online.”
Maybe Zelnick is on to something because players seem like they are embracing social casino. The first day and week that Diamond Casino launched both set records for the most players in the game’s history.
And it’s not like GTA Online is rebounding from some kind of a low point. It was continuing to grow right up to the launch of the casino features.
“In five of the last six months, GTA V has been a top-10 title,” Zelnick said. “And GTA Online set a new record in the first quarter for revenue. That’s before the launch of the casino pack, which has been huge.”
And if players like it, expect Take-Two and other publishers to continue capitalizing on casino. Designers have spent decades perfecting the appeal (read: addictiveness) of slots and similar gambling staples. And if that keeps players coming back to a game, and — more important — if it encourages them to spend more, then this trend is only going to expand in the future.