Video gaming and online gambling. They’re two of the biggest success stories of the past few decades, each generating billions in revenue for the businesses behind them. While video games came first – the earliest versions started to appear as long as fifty years ago – online gambling has been quick to catch up and in many ways feeds off the gaming industry as well as relying on many of the same psychological triggers that attract players, and keep them playing.
But how do the two really compare? We’ve taken a look at eight key areas to see which one comes out on top.
While both rely on getting the adrenaline pumping in players, you could be excused for thinking that video games would win hands down on this one, but don’t be so sure. The fact that real cash is at stake in online gambling can certainly get the heart pumping. Online poker games can have plenty riding on them – more often than not, the best and most experienced players will win, but the fact there is so much luck involved means everything is usually riding on the turn of a card and the underdog can come out on top!
The arrival of widespread internet usage heralded a huge step-change in the video gaming world as it allowed players to compete with each other, wherever they were in the world. It’s also generated a whole new phenomenon with eSports which people enjoy watching as much as they like playing the games themselves. In terms of online gambling, a number of sites, and especially bingo ones, there are generally chat rooms and other ways that players can interact to enhance the playing experience and sense of community.
It’s not just hundreds of hours that go into making the graphics in video games as perfect as they can possibly be, it’s thousands and thousands. As a result, today’s games are hyper-real, and hyper involving. While online gambling sites need to look slick, professional and trustworthy, there’s less emphasis on creating visual perfection so the video gaming industry certainly has the edge on this one. But with the onward march of virtual reality, there’s likely to be a greater convergence in graphical quality between the two in the very near future.
On the surface, this seems like an open and shut case. Online gambling offers the potential for some truly huge wins. The largest-ever payout in the UK to date came in 2015 when Jonathan Heywood from Cheshire scooped £13.2 million on an online slots game. But the emergent world of eSports has also meant that the world’s best players can also net themselves seven-figure sums from sponsorships and tournament wins. So honing those game skills can be a potentially very rewarding move as well.
Of course, the flip side of the rewards that are there to be gained are the costs of entering the game. For video games, this obviously includes the purchase of the game itself as well as the hardware to play it on, whether it’s a console, a PC or a mobile device. Online gambling tends to be through a website or via an app that’s free to use, the only money that has to be put up is the player’s stake money – which could then be increased if their luck’s in. Add the generous joining bonuses that most online casinos or poker sites offer and there’s really no contest between the two.
Research has shown that more people go online via mobile devices than through PCs these days. Unsurprisingly, this has meant that a great deal of time and money has been invested by both games developers and the online gambling operators to make the mobile experience as good as it can possibly be. Both have been very successful in achieving this, simplifying the controls and paring things down to be both functional and involving. So it all adds up to both generally being as good as each other in this respect.
This has become quite a buzzword in recent times. For the uninitiated, it involves inserting bonus elements or incentives that make a game more entertaining and engaging to play. Both video gaming and, increasingly, online gambling sites use it to great effect. There’s even been some crossover between the two. For example, Red Dead Redemption 2 includes a poker game in which players can win money to advance them in the game. Online casinos, on the other hand, often include bonus games or tournaments designed to reward players for their loyalty.
In an era when the boundaries between entertainment, play and commercial interests are becoming increasingly blurred, both areas are at the heart of a number of cultural influences. For example, there are video games inspired by movies and vice versa. Then there are online slots that reference TV shows, sports events and other iconic elements. So it would be fair to say that, culturally speaking, both video games and online gambling are very relevant indeed.
This then leads us to debate which is the clear winner, and that’s when things become more complex. Both have their fans (although it’s been found that there is a surprisingly little crossover between the two groups) and both fulfil different needs. So, rather than being in competition, they could be said to complement and feed off each other – and the real winners are always going to be the players who enjoy the results of this co-dependency.