Skill games have been around in the US for many years. And they have been seen as a potential panacea for the gambling business for a long time. The reason lies in the legal limitations applied to the gambling business in the US, in particular in such states as Ohio, Michigan and Colorado.
One of the many reasons that it has taken so long for skill games to become serious contenders in the gaming market is down to the difficulty of defining a skill game.
According to Wikipedia, it is a game ‘where the outcome is determined mainly by mental or physical skill, rather than by chance’. Of course, the distinction between ‘chance’ and ‘skill’ is extremely vague.
A skill game must not have any mechanism that makes the outcome dependent on chance. In other words, the game must present an opportunity to win by skill - mental skill like logic abilities, strategic thinking, trivial knowledge or physical skill like fast reaction, dexterity, ect.
The definition has legal meaning, as playing games of chance for money is an illegal act in some states of the US. The legal distinction is often vague and varies widely from one jurisdiction to the next.
The UK Gambling Commission tries to balance between ‘chance’ and ‘skill’ when categorizing a game.
To distinguish between ‘chance’ and ‘skill’, we should answer several key questions: is the game played for a prize? does the outcome depend entirely on chance? does the game contain an element of chance as well as an element of skill? is the element of chance involved in the game so small that it should be disregarded? is the game presented as involving an element of chance? and some others.
Lots of casino games have a foot in both camps. We all know that slots and roulette are purely games of chance but both blackjack and roulette have elements of skill. A good poker player can read the table but still relies on luck to hand him winning cards.
Skill games require the player to nudge one reel up or down to complete a winning line within a limited amount of time. The "nudge" can result in a winning or losing row of icons. That’s why skill games are often called “nudge games”.
Unlike casino games, they don't pay cash. Merchandise prizes can be awarded for successfully solving the skill game but the prizes cannot be cash. There is also a limitation on the size and value of the prize. The wholesale value of merchandise prize awarded as a result of a single play cannot exceed $10 but it is permissible to combine vouchers awarded for successfully solving the game to collect a prize worth more than $10. Examples of prizes that can be awarded legally are gas cards, gold coins, gold, silver (not silver coins) and vouchers from stores for store products.
The above-mentioned games fall under the legal category of "skill redemption" games as the gift vouchers can be redeemed for merchandise at local stores.
They will not work in an ATM machine, and you can't just take them to the bank and get money for them. That's part of the redemption law.
For many years developers have tried to crack the skill game nut. The kinds of games that new developers are working on include first person shooters, sports, fighting, and racing games.
The secret – and potential for success – lies in skill games software that balances player skill and game design to deliver the same house return as a traditional slot machine.