Chip solutions provider AMD says it has the products in place to power the next-generation casino entertainment with the advent of skill-based gaming. Mitch Furman, Senior Product Manager for Casino Gaming at AMD, explained the company’s outlook on bringing this console-style of play to casinos to Casino International.
Skill-based slots are evolving, but the games alone won’t guarantee success – the casino has to evolve alongside them, without alienating its existing customer base. While it’s a fine line to navigate, the skill-based gaming systems themselves are looking good.
Casino International: Skill-based gaming is proving even more interesting than it promised, but it is still unclear how it will evolve and become part of the casino gaming floor. From your side, the hardware that runs it is vital – is there a huge difference between the kind of chip that runs a console and the kind you might find in a slot machine? Does working in the sector mean you have to up your game for skill gaming?
Mitch Furman: The graphics technology is, at its core, going to be the same whether we design products for casino gaming cabinets or console systems. Of course, casino gaming chips are beefed up in terms of their graphics capabilities because they are running 4K, high-end HD, 3D content. AMD offers a range of graphics options from very low power up to a very high power 300W graphics card. Naturally, the higher the power, the better the performance.
When we look at the console environment blending into the casino, one key element to understand is the caveat that the player can’t just sit there for an hour after spending 25 cents – the casino has to make specific return on the space that the machine takes up. This sets up a complex equation taking in value and time on device. If you look at one of the most popular console games today – Fortnite – you can get 100 people together and play battle royale for 5-10 minutes. In this scenario you have a top-end PC, Xbox or PlayStation graphics experience for the gamer. On any given weekend there can be 45 million people playing different games of Fortnite simultaneously, more than seeing any one movie or show. Now, imagine how this would play out in a casino. Let’s say there is a group of friends in Vegas for the weekend and they see 10 Fortnite-like pods on the floor – you would bet that they would play a round. And what’s better is they may win some money while playing. What it comes down to is where and how you appeal to the people that are not playing casino games because they are more interested in the immersive experience typically associated with console style play. AMD has the strength in product portfolio to help casinos get to this next step.
CI: Your description of Fortnite brings home that console gaming, or the skill-based side of gaming, is a multi-faceted thing in itself. Just the Fortnite model could be incredible on a wide-area progressive in the casino, with team play within the model… People would travel for that.
The big thing in console gaming in recent years has been the social aspect, even when playing among strangers – the casino environment brings that too, in its own way.
MF: I was at a casino in New Orleans that was having a slot competition, which meant people were playing ‘against’ each other, with the highest scores advancing to the next level. I’m sure those people knew the outcomes were random, but there they were, playing it. Imagine adding a little bit of skill into that, and you have a much more fun solution for players.
CI: The chips in a slot machine do a lot more than simply drive graphics – it’s a complex set of interactions than might first appear. If you then throw in 4K, four or five displays, high end graphics… Do you have the means to achieve that now, or do you have to up your game for this?
MF: I don’t think we have to up our game, we just have to offer the higher performing chips we produce into that game. AMD has a range of solutions so that when we sell a chip for a lottery terminal, for example, it might have graphics requirements for one or two screens. We sell a chip tailored to that job. It might have three compute units, whereas what we might supply to a console manufacturer would have, say, 24 compute units. Beyond that we have other parts that have 54 compute units for a more robust system. If we looked at a console type solution in a casino, it would be a quad-core accelerated processing unit (APU) with 24 compute units to handle 4K graphics – akin to what is inside the new Xbox 1X solution. The chip of course is a full system so it’s not solely GPU and CPU, it’s also I/O, all the interfaces between USB hubs, between devices, memory interfaces – a whole range of inputs and outputs. The core of the system is not just running a screen, but it is a card reader, a bill validator, has lights on the outside, full sound system – many different pieces connected into our device at the heart of the slot machine.
CI:What clients are you working with in the skill-based gaming sector?
MF: The big names out there are Gamblit and GameCo. Gamblit is using our parts with Quixant boards. The company has terrific ideas for skill-based gaming, and many of them are based on one-on-one competition. The games are evolving really nicely – the company is exceptionally creative, as is GameCo, so I think the future is bright for the sector.
CI:What do casinos need to do to appeal to the players that might want these slots? Surely it’s not enough to just put the machines in, you have to provide an environment that these people want to enjoy, and that might be quite different from what casinos traditionally offer.
MF:When you go to a resort casino like in Vegas, one thing they have in common is the gaming floor, a selection of restaurants, top notch nightclubs. The people going to those nightclubs play video games, I have no doubt about that at all. But they walk right by the casino floor and go right up to the lounge before the club and that’s that. But a separate environment from the casino floor, like the lounge I just mentioned, might just be where these potential players stop and play. It has to be a new environment, a new kind of floor to attract these people. While that would cost money and potentially take away from another area making more money in the short term, but if you’re serious about growing your gaming revenue, you have to explore these options; it always involves changing the game a little bit.