The casino is an ubiquitous part of pop culture around the world. In most scenarios, it represents the intersection of luxurious lifestyles, big money, and designer fashion. In many cases, it’s also the domain of a certain secret agent man.
But the casino and its long list of popular games, from slots to poker to roulette, have found their way beyond brick-and-mortar establishments. Unsurprisingly, casino games were some of the first to launch online in the late 90s and early 2000s. At the same time, casino games were appearing in early console iterations, including a casino simulation for the handheld Nintendo Game Boy back in 1992. In 1993, another casino simulator hit the markets, this time with imposed RPG restrictions that enhanced gameplay.
Clearly, casino games fit well with video games—after all, both are challenges that require skill and discipline. While video games (often) eliminate elements of chance, the spirit behind gaming is the same.
Minigames based on poker and slots fit seamlessly into games like Red Dead Redemption and Final Fantasy. In fact, in many cases, they meaningfully add to the overall gameplay experience and have their own Wiki pages where gamers can learn the ropes and helpful hints.
DRAWING ON TRDITION TO CREAT NEW GAMES
Video game developers turned an eye toward casino games during poker’s rise in the early 2000s when many tournaments began being broadcasted worldwide. Since then, casino minigames have proved popular in part because they’re recognizable.
For example, GTA’s Diamond Casino & Resort package offers gamers 1,000 free chips every day. In real life, the deals on offer aren’t quite so competitive, but they often follow a similar scheme for newcomers. One popular welcome bonus includes free spins, which are rewarded in certain situations and for a pre-determined amount of time.
Unlike in GTA, these can often translate to real money winnings instead of hidden easter eggs like the Master Penthouse. But that doesn’t mean gamers don’t appreciate side quests like GTA’s Diamond Heist scheme.
In fact, some casino minigames have helped make certain installations iconic. For example, Final Fantasy has included multiple minigames throughout its mega-popular installations, with Triple Triad in Final Fantasy VIII proving to be a fan favorite.
Other games, like Fallout: New Vegas and The Witcher opted to reinvent popular card games. Both games, Caravan and Gwent, respectively, draw on blackjack and poker to enhance the game’s narrative. In the case of Gwent, there’s now a Masters eSports Series that’s organized for fans of The Witcher franchise’s unique card game.
THE QUESTION OF MICROTRANSACTIONS
Casino minigames aren’t the only recent development in the world of video games. In fact, casino games have been closely tied to video games since the 90s, as demonstrated above. However, casino minigames are sometimes associated with microtransactions, a new trend in gaming.
Microtransactions are part of a business model developers use to offer virtual items for small fees, hence the term ‘micro’. However, the trend has proven unpopular for many gamers as, in certain games like Star Wars Battlefront II and Clash of Clans, gamers can’t win unless they opt into microtransactions.
This has caused many to criticize the budding model for video game developers. Though microtransactions are largely an issue in mobile gaming, which raked in $77 billion in revenue in 2020 (Statista), they’re becoming more varied.
Typically, a casino minigame provides a player with a unique opportunity. In the cases of Caravan and Gwent, gamers can access helpful resources for winning a game. In other words, it might simplify a quest for a gamer, but wouldn’t make it impossible to continue on should they opt-out of a game.
In the case of Triple Triad, gamers can access new cards if they win a game. This can also translate to Manderville Gold Saucer Points—both of which are only applicable in the game. But with microtransactions, there’s a clear financial crossover, in which paying a small amount may lead to an edge in the game that makes a clear difference.