There is no doubt that traditional casino games have retained their popularity in the video game era. The classic games have endured for hundreds of years, adapting to numerous social and technological changes along the way. Some of the very first online games were variants on classic table games like blackjack, roulette, poker, and baccarat, and these have remained steadfast favorites as more flash-in-the-pan gaming trends have come and gone.

It is perhaps no surprise then that the Xbox gaming console has a selection of casino games from which to choose. But how do they measure up to those offered by the many online casino sites, and in particular to online slots? If the slot machine was in many ways the forerunner of all classic arcade games, then slots represent the common ancestor of all video games. As we shall see they are also readily adapting to the modern age.

Virtual casinos

There appear to be no straightforward dedicated slots available for Xbox players but there are several “virtual casino” games that include slots as an option. They include High Rollers Casino, Casino Nights and Test Drive Unlimited 2: Casino Online. Perhaps the best of the bunch is The Four Kings Casino & Slots. A social MMO set in a casino with detailed (if somewhat cartoonish) graphics, at The Four Kings you get to create a personalized 3D avatar to explore the opulent casino setting.

The games available include roulette, blackjack, and slots, Texas Hold ’em, keno and even bingo, and you get to play against and interact with other players’ avatars. You are given some free chips which replenish every 15 minutes, with the option to buy more with in-game microtransactions, as well as searching for hidden chips around the venue. As you play, you’re rewarded with more luxurious clothing, and the game includes a VIP room that you have to pay to enter.

Better gameplay

The Xbox casino games excel regarding visuals, as the graphics are second to none, although Four Kings does have some noticeable lagging. Concerning gameplay they do fall seriously short compared to a straightforward online slot such as Rainbow Riches. This easy-to-play five-reel game combines the best features of the classic “fruit machine” style slots with more sophisticated Vegas-style video slots. Like The Four Kings, Rainbow Riches also has state-of-the-art graphics; it features an iconic leprechaun character that players hope will lead them down the rainbow road to the pot of gold that represents a real money jackpot.

Life-changing jackpots

That phrase “real money” points up the main failing of Xbox slot games. On your home console you can only play for virtual money and in-game chips, whereas online you can wager your cash, a fact which massively increases player engagement and raises excitement levels. Of course, this means that you also stand a chance of winning real money, perhaps even hitting a life-changing jackpot.

Nowhere is this more apparent than with Millionaire Genie, one of the most popular of the many online slots games offered by 888casino. This progressive jackpot slot regularly features jackpots of over $1m. As the name indicates, the pot is added too over time, steadily increasing as more online players worldwide bet on the game. The feature increases player enjoyment and excitement as they watch the jackpot climb until a lucky player eventually wins a very significant amount of money. Obviously, this is an area in which The Four Kings Casino & Slots is unable to compete.

Special features

Sadly, the Xbox casino games also lack variety in bonus rounds, free spins, and mini-games. Both Rainbow Riches and Millionaire Genie feature these in spades, as do many other online slots. Admittedly this isn’t the sole measure of success and popularity in an online slot. Perhaps it would be fairer to compare the online slots in The Four Kings to Starburst, where the simplicity and lack of special features are among the qualities that make it one of the most popular online slot games. But again, Starburst offers several ways to win real money and has a generous RTP (return to player) score that keeps the customers coming back.

The best that can be said for The Four Kings Casino & Slots is that it is an excellent introduction to virtual casino gaming, allowing one to tentatively dip a toe in the water without risking real money. But anyone with the inclination to gamble will almost certainly want to move onto one of the large selection of real-money online slots out there as soon as possible, with Rainbow Riches or Starburst providing great entry-level slot games for both expert players and beginners.

Meeting the challenge

Increasingly the distance between online slots and other forms of video games is shrinking. Casino providers realize that gamification of traditional pastimes such as slots can attract a younger audience that is used to the fast-paced action and complex narratives of modern video games.

Sharing high scores is one way for slots to have a more competitive, interactive element; building in side-games with storylines, bonus rounds in the form of special missions and so on, is another way to increase interest and to get the player more involved. The use of spectacular graphics and special effects around a recognized theme or trope- horror, fantasy, exotic adventure, or a film or TV tie-in- can also help draw the slots player into a fully immersive environment that gives them the “living-in-a-movie” experience they’ve come to expect from the best high-end video games.

The bottom line

Where Xbox casino games can’t compete with their online equivalents is the ability to play for real money. Online slots, with a strict 18+ age limit, can provide that opportunity. The knowledge that you’re wagering your hard-earned cash at a casino site gives you “skin in the game.” You have something at stake and the game- whether slots, poker, baccarat or any other variant- is all the more exciting as a result.

You don’t play online slots in order to get rich quick, but the possibility of winning or losing real money is what makes them a genuinely thrilling, authentic adult entertainment experience. Without that extra edge of risking some cash, it’s no wonder that seasoned casino gamers find the Xbox offerings somewhat lacking. However, for those new to casino gaming they provide an excellent opportunity to get a feel for which games they might enjoy, and in the case of poker or blackjack to hone playing skills in a no-risk setting before moving on to the real thing.

Key points

  • Casino games remain extremely popular among video gamers
  • Four Kings Casino & Slots is probably the best virtual casino game for the Xbox
  • Xbox casino games don’t have the wide choice and extra features that are available online
  • Online slots are adapting to meet the requirements of the video game generation
  • Being able to play with real money offers a level of excitement online that Xbox casino games cannot equal