Touch screens may not be best for skill-based games

Oct 13, 2015 3:00 AM

During the recent gaming industry trade show G2E, gaming executives and media were treated to demonstrations of early versions of skill-based games. As was suggested in past columns, the games proffered were variations of familiar video games and a video variation of a pinball game. I had the opportunity to play a few of these games and thought them good first efforts, but good in the same sense as watching a child learning to walk.

In playing both the “Space Invaders” and “Pinball” variations I became a little frustrated with the lack of responsiveness of the touch screens. Unlike their original predecessors where there were physical buttons to press to control the action of the games, these skill games used touch screens.

Those familiar with playing video poker or video slots will probably agree that it is a fairly frequent occurrence to need to tap the screen a few times to see your selection(s) recognized by the machine. While it can be annoying to have to tap the screen a few times to get the desired results, in traditional slot games it often does not have an impact on the game play or results. However, when you are playing a skill game where timing and responsiveness of the game is critical to the play and results, needing to tap the screen a few times will just not be acceptable.

Most touch screens generally work in one of two methods: one is “resistive” and the other is “capacitive.” The resistive method uses two screens layered over each other and when you touch the outer screen it presses into the inner screen creating a connection that tells the system what area of the screen has been selected and the system then matches the screen location to the instruction button on the display.

The capacitive version relies on a change in the flow of electricity on the screen and works with anything that conducts electricity like a stylus or a human finger, and then it essentially works the same way as the resistive version. Capacitive-type screens are the most common in use for games, smart phones, tablets, etc.

So let’s add what happens in a casino environment to the touch screens on slots machines. Drinks get spilled, cigarettes are smoked leaving nicotine and smoke film, people have everything from hand lotions to body oils to a range of other substances on their fingers that can build up on the touch screens making it harder overtime, particularly without regular cleaning, for the screen and finger connection to be properly made and recognized on the touch screens.

Net result of a dirty touch screen, is having to tap the screen a few times for your command to be recognized. Not real efficient for a skill game that relies on the player’s speed and timing along with game responsiveness.

As the technology standards related to skill-based gaming are still evolving and pending approval, it is likely the type of circumstance described here will be included in the testing process. Yet I would suggest this very issue will be added reason for the skill-based games to migrate from traditional slot machine boxes to player’s smart phones or tablets. During a media only Skill-Based Gaming Panel at G2E, Bryan Kelly, SVP of technology for Scientific Games, in reaction to concerns about the future cost of games to operators by Melissa Price, SVP of gaming for Caesars Entertainment, disclosed that other form factors such as tablets would likely be a part of the future way for skill-based games to be played.

While tablets would certainly be less expensive for casinos to provide their patrons with access to future new games, skill-based or not, they would also be a more familiar device for the coming generations of patrons and avoid the issues described above.

As skill-based games are eventually to be offered on tablets, it seems there is a coming convergence of the regulations between mobile gaming and slot machines. Mobile gaming, which already allows for customers to play casino slot and table style games on portable/personal devices, would not require much change in regulations to allow skill games as well.

Accordingly, the likely future will eventually see all style of games played on personal devices anywhere the customer is comfortable on the casino property and the slot floor will in the future probably yield space to a luxury interactive gaming lounge.

The Analyst is an experienced gaming industry executive who offers insight each week on events and issues affecting the industry. Email: [email protected].