Video bingo comes in a few different guises, from online ‘video bingo’ that is actually little more than an animated version of the game, to live television broadcasts.
Depending on which type of video bingo you are playing, the whole approach to balancing the ‘live’ element with the rest of the usual gameplay is likely to be radically different.
Here are some of the different types of video bingo to look out for…
GSN Video Bingo
This one deserves a mention all of its own, as GSN dominate the search results if you look for ‘video bingo‘, and it’s not immediately clear what their game has to offer.
Play GSN’s bingo on Facebook, for instance, and it’s not much more video-based than on most 75-ball bingo sites, with an animated ball-selecting machine, a cartoon-like background, and a pre-recorded voiceover.
It’s a far cry from live video bingo as you might imagine it, but that’s because it is not really GSN’s flagship video bingo product – that accolade actually goes to Bingo America.
Bingo America is (or was) a televised bingo game shown on the Game Show Network, hosted by Richard Karn, who you may know better as Al Borland from the TV sit-com Home Improvement.
At the time of writing, Bingo America was on hiatus, with no indication from GSN of when – or if – it might be resurrected.
However, it continues to exist as an online brand, giving US players the chance to log on and enjoy the same kinds of games that made it to the live show.
Virtual Video Bingo
GSN’s online bingo games are actually not typical of ‘video bingo’ in its online form; in fact, there are several virtual bingo titles that are more like online slots.
One example of this is Mayan Bingo, a title from Microgaming that delivers a selection of 28 balls immediately when the ‘Play’ button is pressed.
Players can wager on up to four cards, with several different patterns qualifying for wins, in a style similar to 75-ball bingo.
Complete a full house in those first 28 balls, and you get a massive 50,000x multiplier on your wager, with smaller 50x multiples on easier patterns, and several in-between payout levels too.
Finish with just one to go on any of the standard patterns, and you can ‘buy’ an extra ball for a stated number of credits – the cost of a ball increases depending on how likely it is to complete a winning pattern.
You can only buy a maximum of ten balls, however, after which it will be game over whether or not you have won.
It’s actually quite a fun way to play bingo as a single player, without needing any opponents to fill a room, and it’s not especially difficult to complete one of the easier win patterns, and earn yourself a modest payout in the process.
Bingo Night Live
Probably the most successful attempt at live televised bingo in the UK was Bingo Night Live, which aired in the late summer of 2008.
ITV had, for a number of years, made significant revenues from phone-in quiz shows, particularly those that ran late at night, and were popular with students.
In 2007, these came under fire, with accusations of being impossible – or, at least, very improbable – to win (example questions famously include “Name something you’d find in a handbag”, to which answers given on the otherwise much-loved Quizmania reputedly included “balaclava” and “rawl plugs”).
Bingo offered a more mass-market, and less controversial, format for the network, with viewers being encouraged to buy their game cards in advance – and given the opportunity to print them out and play along at home.
Like most online games, once you had purchased a game card via a registered account, you would typically receive your prize regardless of whether or not you were watching the show at the time the game was played.
Big Box Bingo
Bingo Night Live is by no means the only televised bingo broadcast to hit UK screens; another example is Big Box Bingo, which hit our screens in 2007-08, hosted by cult presenting legend Greg Scott, who had also worked on TV quiz shows including Quizmania.
Scott, known to his fans affectionately as ‘Greggles’, also did stints on ITV’s Play DJ, another TV-based game show, and appeared as a guest host on the online version of Quizmania during its short revival period, highlighting the close relationship between broadcast bingo and other forms of online and televised gaming.
Other ‘live’ bingo sites:
An example of truly live online video bingo is LiveBingo.com, a website first registered way back (in online gaming terms, at least) in 1998 and due to be around until at least 2019 under its current registration.
Live games take place from 6pm until midnight each day, with experienced bingo callers hosting the events, including 2005 Bingo Caller of the Year Karl Seth.
There are plenty of websites out there that allow you to speak to other people on webcam, but Bingocams combines this with online bingo.
It’s a reversal of the usual concept of ‘video bingo’, putting the players in front of the camera, and gives you the opportunity to witness people’s celebrations when they realise they have won.
You’re not obliged to appear on camera in order to play, and when we visited, only 5% of the active players had their webcams switched on; however, Bingocams claim to have caught over 3.5 million ‘LiveWinMoments’ on camera in their history.
The theme continues to the on-site support, too, with live chat hosts also appearing on webcam so you can speak with them face to face.
Beach Bingo is just one app bringing live video bingo to iOS platforms including the iPhone and iPad.
Log in and you’ll see bingo cards and, on the iPad version, live chat. Interestingly, on this app, you’ll also see a live bikini-clad presenter calling the numbers (or an equally scantily clad male host – no sexism here).
It won’t be to everyone’s tastes, but it’s certainly an intriguing twist on the classic game, even if it was unseasonably launched in December 2012 – let’s hope the presenters were in a heated studio!