The next best thing to the real thing
The entire genre of iGaming or online gaming or whatever anybody wishes to call it, continues to expand at a seemingly relentless pace, with industry analysts suggesting that the current industry value of around $61bn per year will top the $114bn mark within the next five years. Naturally enough, ever-increasing regulation around the world, as national and regional governments seek to tap into the vast taxation potential, is a huge factor in this. But evolution and technological advancement never stand still and, retro fascinations aside, in iGaming if you are standing still then you are actually moving backwards.
Enough is never enough
Software developers are a distinctive bunch, never satisfied that enough is enough. The one thing they seem to have in common, apart from a tendency to be nocturnal creatures, is an insatiable belief that the best idea will always be the next one. And so we arrive at the obsession with realism… the closest thing possible to the actual experience… and the birth of what must be one of the hottest trends in gaming for many a long year, live dealer games.
For those who may not be familiar, live dealer games are traditional casino games – or variations – that are hosted by actual live dealers and broadcast from a professional television studio setting. Everything about them is real, from tables to cards, to wheels. Players, sat at home or wherever, behind their screens, take their places at these tables via the casino’s online platform. Once tables are filled, the dealers begin the games, and all player decisions are transmitted directly to the dealer. Players use message boards to engage in chat with other players and often with the dealer and, the providers claim, in terms of the actual gaming experience, live dealer games offer everything that a live casino can offer.
Personally, I would say “almost everything”, but that is because I will always believe that the in-person, face to face experience, plus the pleasure of social interaction, cannot be beaten by an on-screen experience. However, each to their own and it’s probably no different to the difference between the cinema and live theatre; as the old saying goes, “You pays your money, you make your choice.”
The fastest growing of all iGaming sectors
Of course the commercial truth is that live dealer games have become one of the fastest growing of all iGaming sectors. Players undoubtedly enjoy the transparency and trustworthiness of the live streaming experience. The human being – although usually somewhat distracting in appearance – dealing the cards or spinning the wheel clearly adds a credible layer of legitimacy. Game variety is identified as a further advantage, especially across varying ages and demographics. Fairly obviously, the most popular of all live dealer games remain roulette and blackjack, followed by baccarat. But the flexibility of the medium and the studio environment opens up many more game development opportunities. Whether it be gambling games based on TV gameshows or the apparently endless variants on poker, the choices open to players is vast and growth shows no sign of slowing.
Social interaction is a major factor
As mentioned, and this may seem at odds with the obvious perception, the social aspect of live dealer gaming is stated as being one of the concept’s prominent attractions. Always seeking out the next slight edge over their rivals, developers have, as mentioned, introduced chat features and chat rooms for players. And whilst they may not be sat at the baize sipping cocktails together, the levels of player interaction achieved in the live dealer environment is leading the way in the iGaming space.
On a general level, it is not difficult to grasp why technological advancement, developer ambition and the 21st century player’s need for constant change and improvement all underpin this huge gaming trend. But live dealer games are so much more than today’s latest fashion, they are here to stay. They will evolve and grow, and that evolution will be unrelenting. They are, after all, the next best thing to the real thing.