Roulette is one of the older games still played today, dating back to the early 18th century. Derived from the existing games of hoca and portique, roulette’s legacy would last much longer than the titles that inspired it. Eventually, roulette would go on to be a mainstay in gambling, being a centrepiece in casinos the world over. In more recent years, the games’ success has spread even further, finding a home in both the online casino sphere and even making an indirect jump into video games.
Though traditional roulette tables are still popular, it has been the more recent digital versions like Betfair live roulette that have pushed the envelope. These tables combine at-home convenience with professional live casino-style dealers, with games like Prestige and Lighting Roulette drawing in huge numbers. Essentially, the desire for roulette-type experiences at home has become so great that these new forms of the game took off, and have shown no slowing down.
This idea of online casinos offering roulette is not a new one. When online casinos first arrived in 1996, roulette was one of the forms of games along with blackjack that quickly made a mark. Over time, even in these early forms, developers in other markets saw the potential that the game represented. It was chance, it was excitement and thrill, and this has been what made roulette such a great fit for video gaming.
Roulette in Video Games
When we write of roulette in video games we’re not usually talking about direct translations, though those do occur. Titles like GTA Online have seen popular updates in leaning on casino themes as noted at Polygon, but these are the exception rather than the rule. Overwhelmingly, roulette in video games takes an indirect route as loot boxes.
Made famous in games like Overwatch, loot boxes are essentially randomised rolls on sets of items. These commonly give out the likes of cosmetic items and are earned through continuous play, levelling up, or attaining certain achievements. Like in roulette, the concept is very simple, though the application of a loot box economy can be a complicated matter.
To fall back on the Overwatch example, loot boxes are used to keep players seeking out their next level or loot box drop. With so many characters skins, emotes, and poses to unlock, the chances of winning exactly what a player wants outright is slim. This is where the thrill comes in, as opening a loot box gives a player four items, or what is effectively four spins.
As soon as a loot box is opened, the wait is analogous to waiting for a roulette wheel. The box pops open, and the players are quickly shown which tier of items they have rolled. Gray is a low win, blue less common, followed by purple, and with gold being the rarest of all. Seeing this is like watching the ball settle, and waiting to see which gold item you win is always an exciting experience. This basic idea is shared by many games, and when properly managed as The Verge notes, can help drive long term engagement.
As with roulette itself, loot boxes in video games are a matter of implementation. Not generous enough, and players feel slighted, too generous, and they come without the thrill. The key lies in finding the balance, which can be an ongoing process. One thing we do know for sure is, like roulette, loot boxes are here to stay. Even if we still can’t get the Zarya skin we want, we can’t help but enjoy them.
Image Credits: Zdenko Zivkovic