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Back to the Future: How the Past is Becoming the Present for Casinos

When it comes to revolutions in the world of gaming, the name Space Invaders plays a pretty significant role. Indeed, the game itself not only heralded the start of the world of computer gaming truly coming to the masses and becoming a huge part of the 1980s culture of arcade gaming and the arcade halls that sprung up, but hasalso  had a lasting impact on gaming culture as a whole. The original games which, in the 1970s, caused the Bank of Japan to triple its production of 100-yen pieces in order to keep up with demand for fueling the machines, are, in fact, still heralded as some of the best and most enduring examples of ‘fun’ gaming.

"Space Invaders" by Logan Ingalls (CC BY 2.0)

On top of this, it is arguable that the game itself created the first eSports event, in the form of the 1980 National Space Invader Tournament, which took place across the USA. It is the level of skill and competition that the game requires that has made the game suitable for a comeback in the world of physical casinos and in the iGaming arena, as reported by the Las Vegas Review Journal in June 2017. At the time when it hit popular culture, it was quite easy to suggest that Space Invaders and the world of computer gaming would be a bubble fit for bursting, much in the same way the world of Bitcoin is perceived today, but the use of the game to create a new spin on slot gaming is one that seems appropriate for a wave of retro gaming comebacks.

Atlantic City Making Its Move

Retro gaming is on the way back, and in the modern world, it may not come as a huge surprise that the place where Space Invaders seems to be "invading" first is Atlantic City. With casino revenue up and new investment coming to the city, it is clear that there is a desire to see a continuation of the wave of energy sweeping casinos riding high from a reinvention. In part, this fight-back from casinos like those in Atlantic City is aimed at helping to encourage those who perhaps entered gaming from the portal of online or mobile devices to hark back to the refined glamor of visiting a casino, compared to the forward-thinking ideas being trialed in the online arena, like virtual reality technology and the idea of "visiting" casinos in this way. Even though retro clearly belongs to the world of online slots as well, with themed slot machines also riding high on Elvis, Betty Boop or Sherlock Holmes themes, Atlantic City is proving that the physical casino still has a big role to play when it comes to pulling on the nostalgia heartstrings of gaming fans. 

"Ceasars Casino" by William Warby (CC BY 2.0)

With the Space Invaders slot opening first of all at Caesars Atlantic City, the resort is showing itself as suitable for embracing and modernizing the past once again, much as it tries to do with its Roman theme. However, this time the past that is being jazzed up is far more modern! Perhaps the more controversial element of this modernization is not that the game itself is coming back from the 1980s with a bang, but that it offers the chance to introduce an element of skill into a pastime that many enjoy just to taste the thrill of pure chance.

Of course, there is a possibility to opt out of the skill element, which will appeal to those who haven’t always found themselves on the successful side when it comes to Space Invaders. Whether or not the consumer chooses to play the bonus round based on luck or on skill, the theme of the game has been kept true to its roots, with familiar symbols, correlative music, and authentic gameplay that should keep fans happy. 

Riding the Retro Wave

While Atlantic City is at the very forefront of innovation in the gaming world, it’s by no stretch of the imagination an isolated location for this trend. Indeed, it is the strength of retro popularity as a broad trend both in physical gaming arenas and online that is helping to fuel the bet being taken that the Space Invaders game will be a big hit, and not just a gimmick that will fade away over time.

Indeed, the group who bought the rights to Space Invaders in the USA is Atari - who they have seen their own revival take place as they re-enter the world of gaming despite not having released a console in 20 years. This comes on the back of Nintendo finding success in the world of retro gaming, having sold over 2.3 million of its NES Classic Editions and looking likely to find the same success with its Super Nintendo Classic (which has recently been released and includes a never-before released game that tugs on the retro feelings of 1990s gamers: Starfox 2).

"Atari 2600A" by Brian Vasconcellos (CC BY 2.0)

Impressive as these figures sound, it doesn't necessarily mean that the retro trend will continue to hit iGaming to the same extent it has hit the wider video gaming world. Indeed, a PacMan slot game has been created in the past but it never truly hit the headlines as being being really capable of capturing gamblers’ true feelings of nostalgia. That said, the comeback story of bingo, which is now huge in UK, is a telling case in point of how an online drive can help to bring retro games in from the cold when it comes to iGaming. Bingo in the UK is now big enough to count as the sixth biggest sport in terms of numbers of individuals taking part in it as well as its broader appeal among younger players.

Indeed, if you look at a more time-sensitive example of the impact that the coverage of arcade games in season two of the Netflix show Stranger Things has had, you can see that retro and in particular retro gaming is truly back in fashion, which means we may well start to see more and more slot machines take some new direction from the latest trend of retro gaming from the 1980s and 1990s.