Gaming in bars is a combination as old as time itself. Whether darts with the regulars or a friendly arm-wrestle to settle a bet, there is any number of opportunities which are well suited to a pub environment. With a new generation of patrons coming in, especially those who are more accustomed to digital games, we have to wonder, where exactly could a new line be drawn?
Which new forms of digital gaming might make the best additions to modern style pubs, and where can we learn lessons from the industries which already perform well?
The Case for Video Games
Over half of the UK entertainment market (51.3%) comes from video game contributions. In 2017 alone, gaming contributed around £1.5 billion towards British GDP. In other words, the market for video gaming is enormous, and this is as true for bars as it is anywhere else.
Dedicated video gaming bars are hardly a new development, though so far, they tend to be unsuccessful. This is usually owing to the unfamiliarity which the managers have in the bar business, and the over-reliance on the gaming aspect, rather than the bar itself. As a simple addition to an existing bar, however, gaming stations have proven to be immensely popular.
The likes of Pac-Man and other arcade games have operated in this way for decades, but many bars are seeing better success in a more traditional gaming experience. From running classic games to appeal to nostalgia to newer competitive or cooperative experiences, there are many avenues ripe for exploration.
With the addition of charging for time or a drink minimum, these games can keep patrons coming back, and draw in newer bargoers who might otherwise ignore a particular establishment. Some emulation systems, such as those running Retroarch, can easily cover a dozen systems and hundreds of games from one small and self-contained cabinet.
Looking Forward, and a Question of Gambling
Slots in bars have been around since the 1880s, and since then have become a mainstay in many popular establishments. What we wonder about, however, are the rather profound limitations of these traditional hardware machines. Expensive, and requiring ample space, it is quite possible that these machines might someday be usurped by smaller and cheaper systems.
Take, for example, online casino games like those from NetBet. Any system connected to this service has access to hundreds of different games, covering slots, roulette, blackjack, live casino games, and more. Naturally, this already makes them a preferable choice for many, but what if these could be expanded into licensing deals with physical locations?
As for now, this might be a pipe-dream, but it does raise interesting questions as to efficiency and choice in the years to come.
Anyone younger than 40 today is likely to have had a childhood which heavily revolved around video games. As the younger generation becomes of pub-going age, these proportions are only going to become more significant. Whether a patron or a bar owner, consider what changes you and others might want to see to bridge the components of past and present.
It’s only a matter of time before digital gaming becomes a bigger part of bar culture, the only questions remaining are what form this could take, and who will be the first major success stories.