Slot development is one of the hottest topics in the latest casino news articles. Other aspects, like launching a new game, working out branding and promotional strategies are also coming to prominence.
Jeremy Coleman, Senior Sales and Account Manager at RNG Foundry Limited, answered the most pressing questions, concerning the developing of slot game software and introducing a new slot in the iGaming market. Jeremy, what are the latest trends in slot development?
When the first Megaways games came out, they created a new trend in slot mechanics and they continue to be very strong performers with a huge number of Megaways games now available. This is an exceptional example and has been the biggest change in slots over the past few years, so I think we can agree that Megaways is no longer a trend but a part of the slots world that will not fade away.
In general, trends are driven by player behavior and the operators have to respond to what the players are wanting to play. I find that with the growth of the streamers in the past couple of years, it has influenced many of the games that are popular this year. Streamers like to play high volatile games that can create big wins because their audience likes to see big wins. Therefore, the suppliers are creating many games that can offer a high win potential.
We are seeing a good number of drop-and-win or lock-and-win games that offer a nice feature in a bonus game. Different studios have delivered this in different ways.
Will there be another big trend similar to Megaways?
I'm not sure but I do know that every supplier would love to create whatever the next big thing will be.
What do you consider to be the features of a great slot game?
For me, the key features for any successful slot game are simple and can be tweaked depending on whether you are building a game suited for experienced players or for beginners who might not have much experience in players slots but who want to be entertained and have the feeling that they won a bit of money.
These features include:
a good math model - players need to be able to win where expected and to know what the likely wins will be depending on if the game is a low, medium, or highly volatile game;
engaging theme - make the game interesting and exciting to look at and play. The right creative approach can help make a game more successful;
clean and easy-to-understand mechanic - players need to know what is going on within the game. If it is a simple game, this is straightforward but with a feature-rich game that includes various bonus features, this still needs to be easily understood so that players do not drop off after a few spins;
good win value. Most players are savvy enough to know what parts of the game should reward them by how much. A player wants to know that when they get into free spins or an exciting-looking feature that it is a rewarding experience. Obviously, there is always variance but ultimately a player wants to be rewarded for putting in some time on a particular slot. Players want to be able to see the potential in the game which is why more games are promoting "win x times bet" in the real estate on the screen.
What marks a game developer with a promising potential? Is it difficult for new companies to enter the market?
New studios or game developers often have a good pedigree working in social gaming or doing games on a game-by-game basis or, perhaps, have broken away from a large studio team to create something new.
In general, a studio with a good mathematician, strong creative head, and a well-organized leader or production director will do well.
The only realistic way for new studios to succeed nowadays is to work with an aggregator. There is no real opportunity these days for new studios to integrate directly with an operator, certainly not a tier 1 operator. They have large product roadmaps that could easily be over a year in the planning, so a small or new studio will not be top of their list.
Could you tell our readers about the branding work behind the slots?
Building a brand is a hot topic at the moment. The question is whether to create a brand or specific IP or to buy licenses to create branded slots. Looking back at some of the most popular slots over recent years, these are all brands created by the studios. Many studios have created excellent IP with strong game series and by extending some of these original games.
Studios are always looking to create their own next big title rather than buy a license for a big Hollywood movie or popular Netflix TV show. A studio has full creative control over its own games, and there will be no royalty to pay to a brand owner. Studios know that a strong brand will be a better bet long term.
There is always a discussion within studios that have a very strong game title that they want to maximize what constitutes brand extension and when is a studio "overdoing it"
How do the game providers collaborate with the operators in terms of marketing their products? What are the best ways of promoting slot games?
Top game providers often work very closely with the larger operators to promote new games because this is a win/win situation. The operator has so much content to choose from these days from all the various suppliers that they can cherry-pick the best titles. When they identify what might be the strongest game, they can choose to promote it. Likewise, if a studio feels it has a particularly strong title, it might approach an operator to offer them an exclusive period to have the game prior to the network launch or it might offer to support the game with a co-funded promotion. Promotions can include various mechanics aside from the top placement of the game on the casino lobby. Campaigns can include featuring the game as "slot of the day/week", player leaderboards, tournaments or prize ladders are always very popular. With the increase in gamification tools available, operators can create campaigns and missions around a specific game such as a target number of spins, getting free spins, etc.
Ultimately many players will play the games that operators choose to put in front of them by pushing a game via placement, CRM messages, and daily bonus campaigns will ensure that a game will perform well.
Software studios usually develop different games according to the needs of each market. Should the studio itself define the demand of a target audience or is it an operator's job?
It's not the job of the studio to try and define the demand of a target audience. The operator has a direct relationship with the players and can see what works in each market across all its various suppliers. If a particular theme or mechanic is working, they can choose to pass this information to the suppliers who can choose to create a specific game for that territory. Suppliers can also do their own research to check what games are working in a specific country or geographical area.
Studios will want to create a game that is suitable for the entire world, but this simply does not happen anymore. What works in Scandinavia might not be popular in Spain or Italy. Likewise, a game with a strong land-based influence would do well in the US and Canada but might struggle in Europe or Asia.
From the marketing standpoint, what are the biggest challenges in launching a new slot game?
Positioning. As I said before, operators are spoilt for choice when it comes to content with so many new games coming out every week. All the games are fighting for a limited amount of real estate on a casino lobby so positioning is vital to a game's success. This includes positioning the game in any daily bonus campaigns or slot of the week campaigns.
With so much content available, operators can choose what takes the top spot and how long it stays there. Every top position has a value to the operator. They know from experience what it should generate in terms of players and revenue. If a game doesn't perform to that level, it will quickly get moved down.