How gaming’s big gamble is paying off

If you’re a gamer, then you’re no doubt accustomed to the way the lines that separate the world of videogames from other entertainment industries frequently blur.

This blurring allows franchises to straddle various forms of media comfortably. Indeed, it’s now becoming increasingly commonplace for a franchise’s canon to be spread in this way, using everything from games to films, through comics to books, to tell different parts of a greater tale.

However, there are also other, less publicised, areas where gaming’s influence is frequently felt, such as gambling. And as gambling moves increasingly online, so this partnership is evolving.

A long relationship

The worlds of gambling and gaming are by no means strangers to each other. Videogame titles based on casino gambling (be that fruit machines, poker, or a mixture of other popular casino games) have been around for years. And in some cases – such as in open-world games with their own money-based virtual markets – gambling mini-games are often featured as a means of boosting your in-game funds.

Likewise, these two industries have happily coexisted in the arcade sector for well over three decades. And while the videogame coin-op market may be a mere shadow of its former self, were you to pop down your local arcade, you’d still find a few gaming cabinets nestling between the fruit machines.

But as both gambling and gaming move increasingly online, so a new chapter in their partnership is being written.

From Modern Warfare to Street Fighter

The latest trend is for popular videogame franchises to be used as themes for online video slots games, with many of the top online casino software companies having signed up some of the biggest videogame names around.

Microgaming, for instance, has produced games based on Square-Enix’s Hitman and Tomb Raider franchises; while Cryptologic, another major player, offers online slots with themes from games as diverse as Bejewelled, Call of Duty, and Street Fighter II and IV.

That videogame franchises would be an appealing subject matter for gambling industry shouldn’t come as a surprise. From a marketing perspective alone, many of the top game franchises are among the biggest in the entertainment industry has to offer. As a result, a Call of Duty-branded slots game will always stand out more than a run-of-the-mill one.

For the videogame publishers, this makes sound sense too. Licensing opens up additional revenue streams (a useful practice in these troubled economic times), while also raising brand awareness for these products in other markets – especially now online gambling is expanding into the lucrative mobile sector as well.

But although licensing is fine, it seems there is a limit to how far videogame publishers can venture into the gambling market.

Going quietly into the NiGHTS

A prime example of this is SEGA. In January 2010, the company announced its intentions to enter the online casino market with SEGACasino.com and SEGAPoker.com. Yet it was to all end in failure a little over nine months later.

For a videogame publisher, SEGA was better position than most to expand into online gambling. Alongside a solid array of franchises, its parent company, Sega Sammy Holdings, is one of the largest producers of pachinko gambling machines. And with Playtech (whose customers include Williamhillcasino.com) providing the software, things should have gone swimmingly for SEGA.

Unfortunately, they didn’t. With customers berating everything from a lack of payment options to poor customer service, it’s clear that SEGA had underestimated the task in hand. Nevertheless, large-scale customer apathy was a major issue as well – preventing SEGA’s venture from competing with those of the industry’s big players.

Let the good times roll…

Be that as it may, it seems that the relationship between these two industries is healthy in its current state. And while videogame companies may not shout about their dealings with the gambling industry too much (presumably for fear of harming their family-friendly images), as long as the licensing money continues to roll, it’s hard to see it stopping any time soon.

This article was guest written by Mark Podd, writer for Best Online Casino.Com
Mark is a former professional games journalist who now reports on online gambling. Mark’s Google+ profile can be found Here.