When talking about us humans, a generation is considered as roughly 20 years. But in the world of tech, a generation can be as short as a year, or six months! That is the pace at which things are evolving in the digital arena these days.
This kind of transformative fury has changed many things in our lives – the way we communicate, the way we navigate through our daily lives, do business, and of course, have fun as well.
e-Gaming Vs. i-Gaming
While other forms of entertainment like movies and TV have evolved gradually, games have shown a more drastic transformation in the last twenty years or so. Since everything about them is in the digital/virtual realm, they are more directly affected by improvements in tech.
The changes in video games or e-gaming are more apparent because the industry is mainstream– everyone from kids to adults plays video games. But i-gaming, or online gambling games, remained a more niche sector until very recently, for obvious reasons.
But with the internet revolution, they have exploded in popularity, becoming more mainstream and accessible in the process. And just like in video games, we are starting to see the rapid evolutionary trends in the i-gaming industry as well.
The Dominant Trends in i-Gaming
The online gaming industry is largely dominated by virtual casinos. Just like their bricks and mortar counterparts, these virtual gambling dens provide patrons with a vast array of gaming options.
Game developers always strive for realism since that is a big part of what makes playing games more fun. So, just like in video games, online casinos are also trying to create something close to the real casino experience.
In a Vegas casino, gaming avenues include rows and rows of hundreds of slot machines, along with many tables for roulette, blackjack, poker, and more. An online casino mirrors this, with a games area filled with tons of virtual slot games, and all the different card games as well.
And just like in regular casinos, slots are the main moneymakers in the virtual casinos as well. i-Gaming software developers like Microgaming, Netent, Betsoft and iSoftBet keep churning out dozens of new slots each year, with constantly improving graphics and other effects.
Table games are much less popular since they pale in comparison to the gaming experience in a real casino. You don’t get the same feel of playing opposite a real human dealer when you are being dealt with the card by software.
But even that is changing, thanks to advances in video streaming technology. Many companies like Netent end Evolution are pushing out a new genre of i-games, called “live dealer” or “live casino” games.
The companies create real casino game rooms in their studios, replete with human dealers and cards. They then stream these game sessions via the internet to players who log into the online casinos. The increasing popularity of such games in recent years gives a good indication of the future directions the i-gaming industry will take in the coming years.
RNG and the Implications of AI
One area where cutting edge tech like Artificial Intelligence will have a huge say in i-Gaming is in the field of Random Number Generators, or RNG. Virtually all online casinos except for live dealer games depend on RNG.
In real life games of chance, like cards, dice, and roulette wheels, the unpredictable element comes from physics. You cannot reliably predict which cards or die side is going to pop up. In virtual games, this element of chance has to be simulated.
For this purpose, online casino games use extremely complex RNG software. These are coded to produce a constant stream of random numbers, making it next to impossible to predict the outcome of the game.
RNG software is protected by advanced MD5 security, and there are procedures in place to verify the integrity of the software. If anybody tampers with it in a certified and licensed online casino, the regulators will find it out.
At present, the randomness of the RNG is not as important as one thinks unless it becomes predictable. With current technology, it is not possible to predict the RNG outcomes reliably. But as AI technology and Big Data Analysis evolves, all this could change.
With enough troves to data, you can teach AI to detect hidden patterns in anything. In the future, this could put the sanctity of current RNG software in jeopardy. If an AI can be trained to detect any patterns in the outcome of a slot game over hundreds of thousands of spins, could it predict the next outcome?
But then, there is a counter-argument to this threat. The entire system evolves as a cat-and-mouse game. Con artists are always trying to invent new ways to cheat the house, while the casinos are themselves developing new countermeasures.
In the future, we could very well see this play out in the virtual arena, with RNG at the center of the storm. But we are still far away from truly capable AI. So the i-gaming industry still has plenty of time to focus on their own AI interactions, and there are several other areas where that holds promise.
AI as an Enabler for VR
The success of live dealer games has opened a new vista for the i-gaming industry. Players want more realism from online casinos. Using live streamed games has its obvious limitations. Human dealers can only cater to so many players, and there are obvious concerns regarding economies of scale.
We are already seeing video games reach amazing levels of realism and authenticity in terms of graphics. Virtual reality is an exciting new frontier. Pretty soon, the i-gaming industry could start profiting from its own implementation of VR.
Instead of recreating game rooms in live-action studios with human dealers, companies could start creating virtual online casino worlds, just like the many massively multiplayer online games. We already have an example, but in the world of video games – GTA online recently unveiled its virtual casino, open to players of the online game.
AI plays a huge rule in such virtual worlds, and online casinos will need advanced AI to create a truly authentic casino experience. They could be used to create life-like dealers who can indulge in idle conversation with players. AI will also be needed to secure such casinos against hacking, and other online threats.
A rapidly changing decade ahead
We are not far off from the era of Next Generation i-games. Given the rapid pace at which technology evolves, we could very well see tangible developments within the next 5-10 years. If you want proof, just take a look at some of the i-games and online casinos from the 2000s, and compare it with what we have now!