In an industry flooded with content standing out from the crowd has arguably never been more crucial, but how is that achieved? Andy Sekula, head of games at Kalamba, believes that with mechanics and math originality you stand a fair chance of succeeding.

The theme and visuals of a slot game are what draws a player in, but it’s the mechanics that keeps them returning time and again. Innovations introduced in the last few years such as the Megaways engine have demonstrated how transformational a new feature can be for the whole gaming community – particularly in an age of content overload where players are faced with myriad choice of games that barely differentiate.

For developers striving for originality, the race is now on between suppliers, both large and small, to create the next big feature that defines a new era. But that doesn’t mean trying to reinvent the wheel every time.

Innovation in slot mechanics is a balancing act: introducing something that is too foreign can be off-putting to players, while leaning too heavily on proven successes means you fail at delivering something new.

The sweet spot lies in keeping with what is mostly familiar, improving on it, and introducing some novelty so that the gameplay feels fresh and exciting. And since it’s the game’s mechanics which define the math model and monetisation – getting it right from the start can be the make or break of a game’s performance.

Fully understanding player preferences and behaviour is a fundamental component to the development of new features. It is important that studios make informed decisions based on objective evidence, rather than opinion – keeping players top of mind from the early stages.

“Creating that stickiness with players… is an important part of ensuring a game’s success, longevity and profitability

When developers spend so much time with a game, it is easy to forget that players are
completely new to it when released. A game’s creators therefore need to constantly consider how a player will interact with the slot’s features and mechanics, making sure they are easy to understand and, of course, add to the overall enjoyment.

Tracking engagement with previous releases provides a useful tool to gauge what works and what doesn’t, offering a foundation of information on how features can be improved in future iterations.

At Kalamba, we look at the session lengths and number of rounds played to get an indication of the game’s instant performance, while the number of times a player returns determines whether the experience is appealing enough to come back to even after the games disappears from the lobby.

Creating that stickiness with players – to which the mechanics are fundamental – is an important part of ensuring a game’s success, longevity and profitability.

This performance data has been central to Kalamba’s design process and shaped the
direction of our portfolio in the last few years through feature enhancements. In the early
days, we concentrated on high-volatility titles with complex mechanics that were targeted at slot enthusiasts.

While these performed well with the intended audience, with analysis of KPIs over time, combined with feedback from operators, we decided to switch tactics.

We now look at developing games with a lower base level but introducing customisable mechanics, such as our HyperBet feature, which allows players to increase the base bet amount of the game as well as the volatility, and HyperBonus, which provides a shortcut to
the bonus round.

“…It is only with new mechanics and math originality that new hits are created”

By enabling players to adapt the gameplay to suit their preferred playstyle, we’ve broadened the appeal of portfolio, making our titles more accessible to casual players, whilst allowing those with more experience to increase the volatility to meet their risk appetite.

Using these innovations as a foundation for our game development, the Kalamba feature set has advanced dramatically, with new additions like LuckyLoops and progressive free spins moving the engagement dial even further.

The new LuckyLoops feature lets players accumulate special symbols on every base game spin and every tenth spin, the player is rewarded with a special spin, for example expanding accumulated symbols.

To complement our in-game concepts, we are also developing Bullseye, our promotional tools and social gaming inspired elements (think leaderboards and tournaments) that connect our portfolio.

In a content-flooded industry that is full of imitation and skins, it is only with new mechanics and math originality that new hits are created. And although not every feature iteration or new concept is going to be a winner, using data as a guide – and of course, taking the occasional risk on an experiment – you stand a fair chance of succeeding.