myVegas aims to combine real world casinos with virtual resorts and social games

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By Mike Thompson Comment

Developer Playstudios is getting ready to break in to the social casino scene with myVegas, a social casino game that incorporates light city-management mechanics and substantial real-world rewards. The title marks MGM International Resorts’s first foray into the social game scene, as Playstudios is incorporating several of the company’s substantial casino brands into the title

Playstudios was founded by casino and game industries veteran Andrew Pascal; some of the groups he’s helped build over the years include the digital slots group Wagerworks and Wynn Resorts. In 2010, he tells us he wanted to be a part of a smaller group again and began studying social games in 2011, eventually co-founding Playstudios with the co-founders of Golden Palace Online Casino. Last July, the company secured $5 million in seed funding, and recently closed another undisclosed round. Pascal explains he wanted to create a game based on three components: delivering new content every month, having a reward platform that strengthens brands and delivering a virtual Vegas experience that’s as close to the real thing as possible.

Gameplay is broken into three parts: casino games, minigames and a simple city-management sim. myVegas will contain a number of different casino games when it launches, including slots, table games, bingo, poker and sports betting. During our hands-off demo, though, we only saw two slots games: Bet The Farm and Lost in Time: Jules Verne. Bet The Farm is unique because it’s presented from an isometric perspective and features 3D rows of crops instead of the standard spinner symbols. Players can spend currency to buy farm buildings, which sit outside the rows and provide score bonuses. There’s also a bonus minigame where players literally bet the farm by spinning a carnival wheel to increase their payout. The more times a player spins the wheel the more chances there are for a natural disaster to strike and wipe out the farm. Lost in Time is a more standard slots game with a theme loosely based upon the works of Jules Verne. Once a player wins enough spins, a hidden object minigame activates where players search a scene from one of Verne’s novels.

Each casino game regularly provides players with a “Build” token, which are used to construct virtual representations of real casino resorts along an in-game version of the famous Vegas Strip. After the build site is established, different parts of these casinos are erected piece by piece, each requiring a certain number of build tokens. Once an entire resort is constructed, players can acquire extra payouts of the game’s currency. As this virtual strip grows, it becomes populated with pedestrians, many of whom are players’ friends; players can click on their friends’ avatars to see what games they’ve played lately.

Casino games are currently popular with Facebook developers because they have higher average revenue per user and conversion rates than other social games.  Unsurprisingly, real world casinos are trying to figure out the best way to get involved with these titles. Until now, those that are already involved seem to be establishing themselves as known brands that people will trust when online gambling is legalized (which some believe will happen within the next two years). PlayStudios isn’t concerned with making a game that monetizes outside of the basic hard currency sales that are the norm within this genre, though. Instead, the developer believes myVegas will stand out from the pack and see better monetization than other casino titles by doling out real-world rewards.

This is where MGM’s involvement pays off for myVegas. MGM owns approximately 80 percent of the iconic resorts on the Vegas Strip, including Aria, Bellagio, MGM Grand, Mandalay Bay, The Mirage, Monte Carlo, New York-New York, Luxor, Excalibur and Circus Circus. Playstudios owns the mobile and social rights to each of these resorts, and myVegas can offer substantial real-world prizes from each of them in exchange for playing its casino games.  Every time a user plays a round they earn loyalty points, which can be redeemed for things like complimentary rooms at the aforementioned MGM properties, entry to premiere clubs and free show tickets. During our hands-off demo, Pascal demonstrated it’s possible to sort available rewards both by resort and prize type.

Although the there are scores of social casino games, myVegas’s main competition will come from Playtika’s Slotomanaia, DoubleDown Interactive’s DoubleDown Casino and Zynga’s Texas HoldEm Poker. Both Slotomania and DoubleDown are owned by other casino groups and are solid presences on our monthly Top 25 lists. Slotomania sits at 2.1 million daily active users and DoubleDown Casino is at 1.4 million, but neither of these games offers anything substantially different from other casino games on the social network. Texas HoldEm Poker, on the other hand, dominates our Top 25 lists and currently has 7.1 million DAU. None of these games feature city-building mechanics, not to mention real-world prizes like the ones myVegas is offering. The virtual resort mechanic in myVegas could very possibly allow PlayStudios to tap into the massive audience that normally plays Zynga’s “Ville” games, several of which average 4 to 5 million DAU.

myVegas is due out sometime this summer for Facebook with iOS and Android versions expected to follow in Q4 2012.

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