There’s no question that classic games like poker, bingo, and roulette are some of the more popular pastimes in the world today. However, the development of the internet has created something of a rift in the gamer community, with a statistically younger audience preferring internet and mobile-based titles and more senior players continuing to head out to brick-and-mortar establishments.
Offline gaming has several problems – its lack of technological sophistication is incompatible with millennials (born c.1980-2000), the most connected, social generation in history; it’s not always convenient, and it has an image problem, a game like chess (for example) falling distinctly short of what the kids consider cool.
The latter issue is particularly pronounced in something like bingo, which has suffered greatly in the shadow of its online variant.
There aren’t many physical bingo halls left in the Surrey area – Playtime Gaming on 132nd Street and Budget Bingo up the road in Whalley the notable exceptions now that the Newton Community Gaming Centre is facing closure – and there’s some evidence to suggest that real-world bingo is dying out, both in North America and in European countries.
In the UK, for example, 200 halls closed their doors in the decade between 2005 and 2015 according to Vice, with a further 10% following in 2016. The Financial Times indicates that tax relief from the government is one of the few survival strategies still open to bingo halls in the UK, after investors disowned the industry and fled.
Once you separate the game from the physical halls however, you find that bingo is booming. For instance, there are plenty of places where you can play 90 ball bingo online, as well as its 75 and 80-ball variants. Bingo now accounts for 5% of the global gambling market in 2016, behind casino, poker, sports betting, and lottery games.
It’s interesting to note that a lot of offline games are in decline – for example, USA Today mentions that the number of bowling alleys fell 26% between 1998 and 2013, although the five in and around Surrey seem to defy that statistic – with a lack of innovation at least one of the contributors to the declining appeal of classic games.
It is a sad development as online and offline gaming aren’t incompatible bedfellows. The biggest concern for players making the leap from offline to online bingo is arguably the loss of community. However, that seems set to change. Websites are often built around chatrooms or forums, meaning that a bingo night at the local hall can be business as usual on a mobile app.
It’s perhaps inevitable that online gaming will continue to erode interest in offline pursuits, in much the same way as consoles all but eliminated arcades from the country’s highstreets. The rate of closures of physical bingo halls, for example, means the offline game is not likely to survive on a corporate level for more than the next twenty years.
So, to answer the question in the title: are offline games still relevant? Online gaming is booming and easier to learn devices and apps are certain to attract players’ attention for years to come. Bowling alleys and the like are unlikely to disappear forever but their days may be numbered. Enjoy them while they last.