Blaine Graboyes is the CEO of GameCo, one of a select few, but undoubtedly increasing, number of suppliers looking to bring esports into casinos.
Prior to speaking at the Esports and Casino Resorts Conference at the SLS Las Vegas later this month (25-26) Blaine had a chat with Esports Insider on how esports can work in this environment, who the games will be aimed at and why it hasn’t happened before.
ESI: What type of video game genre fits best within the casinos environment?
Blaine: At GameCo, we’re focused on a wide range of genres from “core” to “casual” games including first-person action, adventure, sports, fighting games, platformers, and hidden objects.
Our goal is to both attract a new generation of gamers to the casino as well as provide new experiences for current casino customers looking for a more interactive and engaging gameplay.
We’re working with many of the biggest game developers and publishers as well as movie/TV studios and popular brands to bring their properties to the casino. The response from the “brand community” has been very strong as they also see the opportunity for creating a VIP destination for gamers at the casino.
ESI: Why are casinos only just looking at bringing skill based video games onto their floors? How long has GameCo been working on the development of its Video game Gambling Machines (VGMs)?
Blaine: This is a great question! We’ve been developing the VGM concept for a few years now. GameCo was incorporated in 2015 but we’d been prototyping for a year or so beforehand. I was producing esports events for game publishers such as Blizzard, Ubisoft, and WarGaming.
In bringing these events to casinos we learned about the mismatch between the esports consumer and the current casino consumer. Casino executives asked “How can we bring esports to the casino floor?” Back then, those same executives said “This is definitely the future but it’s twenty years away!”
Those exact same executives are now our customers. I’d say that the main challenge is the Innovator’s Dilemma – it’s very difficult for an entrenched industry to innovate without destroying their existing business, so slot manufacturers have been slow to provide new innovations to casinos. I think this pace of innovation will now increase very quickly. It was only a few years ago that Uber launched and now it’s hard to imagine a better way to get around!
ESI: How do, or can, these games entice players into becoming repeat players?
Blaine: Ask any slot floor manager and they will say “It’s the math!”.
We’ve focused a lot on the core math model for our games and were recently awarded a patent for our method and system for our game design and managing the return to player. While it’s easy to focus only on winning, there are actually two factors that drive more repeat play; almost winning and people near you winning. This is ingrained in our ancient brains and helped our ancestors survive and thrive. Our games are designed to appeal to players of all skill levels and contain mechanisms to entice and retain all gamers.
The other question is how to do you first attract these “net new players” to the casino and this is really the core thesis at GameCo. On the one hand, gamers are today’s largest underserved audience; people still think we’re teenagers in our parents’ basements. But we’ve grown up. Today, the average gamer is 35 years old and we over-index for education and income. However there’s no place for us to get together and socialize – that’s why every esports event sells out so quickly.
On the other hand, we have casinos who’ve spent billions to cultivate the “VIP Sexy Cool” brand persona. Casinos are expert at making their customers feel important and appreciated. By creating a VIP experience and destination for gamers at the casino, GameCo is serving all of our constituents – gamers who want to be treated like VIPs, casinos who need a new generation of customers, and game developers/publishers who want more “touch” with gamers.
ESI: Is there a specific demographic that GameCo’s VGMs are best geared towards?
Blaine: We’re definitely working to appeal to all gamers with a wide range of game genres and themes.
This includes “core” gamers who play action, adventure, and fighting games as well as “mid core” gamers who love sports and platformer games and casual gamers who play hidden objects and match 3 games too. Initially, we’re fairly focused on appealing to the core gamer, especially esports enthusiasts. This is solving the #1 challenge for casinos, which is how to appeal to and attract an entirely new audience. It’s also bringing together the biggest trends around esports and skill-based gaming. But over time we will grow our product line and marketing efforts to appeal to the widest possible market of gamers worldwide.
ESI: What’ll you be discussing at this month’s Esports and Casino Resorts conference?
Blaine: I’m really looking forward to this conference as it’s focused on moving from “concept to reality” around esports and casinos. It’s easy to see these big esports stadium events and think that’s the only way for casinos to get into the space. But there’s a lot of opportunity at all levels to make casinos the premiere destination for esports. I will be sharing more detail on our VGM – which is now the first skill-based video game gambling product approved by any U.S. regulator. We also have a subsidiary company, The Gamer Agency, that is dedicated in the esports industry. So I will be sharing more information about our programs and products for casinos to get into esports now!