Social gaming outfit Zynga has announced the imminent release of Elite Slots, the company’s first “synchronous, multiplayer slots game.” The six-themed game is a hybrid of traditional slots play with what game design director Josh Gause referred to as “a massive quest system within the game.” Players can select one of 26 cutesy animals (turtles, penguins, chihuahuas, etc.) as their avatar and team up with 149 other players in their particular game room to battle evil villains (witches, vampires, abominable snowmen), so long as your definition of ‘battle’ involves nothing more vigorous than tugging frantically on the slots lever. The game will be the first Zynga title to launch since the company rejigged its deal with Facebook to end the social network’s exclusivity on Zynga’s output. That said, Elite Slots is set to debut on Facebook before branching out to other platforms. And no, the game isn’t currently set up for real-money play.
As the line separating social gaming from real-money online gambling grows increasingly hazy, the intense focus regulators normally reserve for online gambling operators is increasingly being turned on social game outfits. Among the 10 names added this week to the Belgian Gaming Commission’s (BGC) blacklist of unlicensed and unwanted online operators were two social gaming firms – Denmark’s Spigo and the Netherlands’ Spelpunt. The move came less than a month after BGC representatives warned attendees at the World Regulatory Briefing conference that if a social game was played for stakes and involved an element of chance, the regulators wouldn’t hesitate to act.
Belgium’s definition of a ‘game of chance’ differs from most EU countries in that it doesn’t require the ability to win anything via the game; it’s enough that a player’s stake can be lost. BGC legal counsel Peter Naessens told GamblingCompliance that while some of the two blacklisted firms’ games were “innocent,” they also charged players real money to play games like mahjong and blackjack in the hope of winning prizes with a monetary value. Rik Haandrikman, director at Spelpunt’s owner GamePoint, didn’t understand the BGC’s stance, describing Spelpunt’s games as “like playing Pacman in an arcade a decade ago. Yes, you can put the money it, but you can’t take it out.” Spigo, on the other hand, allows players to transfer winnings to their bank accounts provided said winnings were achieved via what “the Danish Gaming Authority consider to be mainly skill games.” We sincerely hope this sparks a massive ‘skill v. luck’ debate among Pacman users, at least, those who are still alive.
Meanwhile, the news that Facebook would host a real-money online gambling offering from 888 has generated the boilerplate ‘think of the children’ response from the Daily Mail. Under headlines screaming about “tempting young to gamble,” the Mail quotes go-to denouncer of all things gambling Mark Griffiths as saying the Facebook/888 tie-up would create “the problem gamblers of tomorrow.” Since the article in which Griffiths is quoted appears alongside the Mail’s traditional assortment of female celebrities in barely-there bikinis and a ‘get naked with Bar Rafaeli’ photo essay, could the Mail be said to be creating the ‘problem wankers of tomorrow?’ Won’t someone think of the hairy-palmed children?