Taking Slots To The Next Level

Next Gaming’s CEO discusses their latest games and the need to appeal to a wide audience

■ BY MIKE DARLEY, CEO NEXT GAMING

Next Gaming CEO Mike Darley describes their entry into the video arcade
genre as a strategic effort to appeal to a wide demographic based on the
identified trends for the gaming audience. Translation: Develop great
games that offer mass appeal.

2018 was a year of strong growth for Next Gaming. Located in Las Vegas, Nevada and operated by seasoned gaming executives, we have expanded our skill-based gaming portfolio and acquired additional titles that are sure to resonate with our targeted audience.

As casino executives with multiple years of operational experience, our approach to game design has been a bit different.

We understand the needs of both the casinos and customers and have not sacrificed either. We have presented the customer with a gaming experience like no other while maintaining a level of performance that the casinos require. Our current games include Asteroids, Missile Command and Tempest from Atari plus Arkanoid and Bust-A-Move from Taito. We have also developed Zforce, our own exciting version of a “space shooter”.

Our entry into the video arcade genre was a strategic effort to appeal to a wide demographic based on the identified trends for the gaming audience. For Next Gaming, the goal with our skill-based titles was to capture the true essence of the core aspects of these iconic games while making the visual experience contemporary verses the pixilated presentation of the original games. We really re-imagined the games and essentially created a retro-mod game that delivers the feel of the Golden Age of Arcade Games.

It’s true that skill-based games have not received the acceptance that was anticipated a few years ago. In anticipation of the new skill-based games being released and attracting a new audience, there was significant media coverage. The expectations were high with the initial placements and the early adopters were willing to try something new. The games were placed with much enthusiasm and the players came.

Unfortunately, the reception to the games was less than anticipated. The first generation of skill-based slots were not the “panacea” to attracting a new player base that many in the gaming community were expecting.

One of the issues that the skill-based community has addressed, and continues to do so, is to educate the customer on what the skillbased experience is. From the onset, skill-based gaming was confusing to many. Did that mean that if the player was really good, they could win all of the time? If so, that would be a huge barrier on getting them in the casinos. Any business needs to have a level of profitability that makes sense. In general, and I’m not speaking for everyone, to balance the needs of both camps, you need to introduce a “luck” component. That means when playing, you are rewarded for a level of skill that can be attributed to an improved return percentage, but there is also a component of luck (randomness) which maintains that balance. That blend translates into an entertainment experience that is truly unique.

That’s exactly why we focused on creating games that appealed to a wide demographic. Games that resonate with all age levels. Remember, the golden age of video games was an era when arcade video games became a dominant cultural force. The social aspect of meeting your friends at the arcade and enjoying their company and challenging them to get your name on the leaderboard is very relevant to today’s casino experience. Our games really bridge all demographic segments. These games appeal to the players who harken back to their favorite memories which they experienced in the arcade and appeal to many of us who played those games with our children on the Nintendo, Sega and Atari systems. They also appeal to the Millennials who seek a non-traditional gaming experience within the casinos. In addressing those segments, Millennials, who range in ages from 22-37, it is anticipated that their generation will overtake the Baby Boomers in 2019. Millennials will have an estimated 73 million in their US population verses 72 million for the Baby Boomers, so why not design games with universal appeal. We believe that the expectations from the gaming customers are becoming more and more selective as we compete for the discretionary entertainment dollar.

What can you expect from Next Gaming in 2019? Our games are currently in the certification process and will be placed at two very prestigious Las Vegas strip properties for our field trial. That’s exciting for everyone! The feedback we have received from our focus groups and the industry leaders that have played our games at G2E, NIGA and at our company showroom has been exceptional. We will maintain a rapid pace of acquiring well-known brands that are extremely familiar with our targeted audience. We will also be expanding our video reel portfolio and are currently in the initial design phase of Grumpy Cat – So what!