Innovation in online casinos is a topic often visited by stakeholders, and one we delved into somewhat ourselves just last week during the CasinoBeats Malta event.
In the aftermath we spoke to Liam Mulvaney, co-founder and CEO of Plank Gaming, to gauge his opinion and that of his company when it comes to innovation in the sector.
Is innovation an over used term? How can player experience be continually enhanced? And what current trends should be taking priority? Mulvaney addresses all below.
CasinoBeats: Is innovation an over-used term when it comes to online slot development?
Liam Mulvaney: It is an ill-used term rather than an over-used term. Most game developers claim to be innovative or to have launched never-seen-before mechanics, tools, features and so on when in reality nothing is ground-breaking about what they have done.
This often means that players are drawn to the game – or the hype around it – for a short period of time but when they realise there is nothing revolutionary going on, they return to the staple games that top the charts year in year out.
Of course, some developers do launch genuinely innovative products that take the online slots sector by storm, but these are few and far between. In the past five years, Big Time Gaming’s Megaways is the most notable, but again, not all player demographics are fans of this mechanic.
“Just refocusing on the fundamentals is not enough to design and develop slots”
CB: Instead of focusing on innovation, what should game developers do to continue to improve the player experience?
LM: There is a lot that can be done with the core aspects of a slot game – theme, design and, most importantly, the mechanics. These are the fundamentals of any slot, and a lot of developers become distracted by “innovation” and don’t give these areas the attention they need.
That said, just refocusing on the fundamentals is not enough to design and develop slots that continue to take the player experience to the next level. To do that, slots studios must get among the player community and learn about what they do and don’t like.
Player preferences are constantly changing, so by always remaining engaged with the slots community and listening to their feedback, developers can create games that ride the latest trends and meet player preferences.
CB: How does Plank Gaming stay connected with the slots community?
LM: Well, we are slots players first and foremost, so we do know what we like and don’t like. But that is a trap that a lot of developers fall into – they create games that they like and not games that the wider player community likes.
To overcome this, we play slots every day from 1pm to 7pm and stream our play across Twitch. We also have social media accounts and across these channels we have 700+ followers who we interact with and chat about the games we are playing.
“One of the most interesting [trends] is the importance of instant gratification”
This gives us unrivalled insight into the slots playing community – from high rollers to casual players, those that prefer high volatility to those that prefer low volatility – and the design, themes, mechanics and features they engage with the most.
CB: What current trends have you observed from being so connected to the slots community?
LM: One of the most interesting is the importance of instant gratification. In the past, players were happy to wait for bonus features to drop but now they want to be able to access them straight away or certainly when they want to activate them.
To overcome this, developers must create a highly engaging and entertaining base game and also allow players to buy the bonus feature whenever they like.
CB: How does all of the above feed into the approach you take to slot development?
LM: So we make our games look great while focusing heavily on mechanics to deliver a superior player experience to wide range of demographics. Each of our games is aimed at a different player segment, from hardcore slots fans to more casual players.
We use the unique feedback and information we gain from being active in the slots community to guide our development, and as a nimble and agile studio we can launch games in as little as three months to ensure we capitalise on the latest trends and player preferences.
“Operators don’t want games that fade after four to six weeks”
CB: How does this approach set you aside from your rivals?
LM: We focus on the fundamentals and explore everything that can be done with the core aspects of a slot game without “innovating” for the sake of it. What’s more, our slots have been created for the player and not because we like them – even though we do!
Our games are designed for longevity. We want players to return to our titles month in month out, year in year out because they offer an unrivalled experience. For operators, we provide staple games that deliver consistent revenues over time.
Operators don’t want games that fade after four to six weeks, they want titles such as Book of Dead and Gonzo’s Quest that top the charts and then stay there. And it is this type of slot that Plank Gaming focuses on and specialises in.