In a bid to attract more casual players and retain sportsbook punters who’ve transitioned to online casino in the last few months, slot studios are changing their approach to game design. From lower minimum stakes to higher RTPs, we look at what suppliers are doing to broaden the appeal of their portfolios.
CasinoBeats gains insights from Simon Hammon, CPO of Relax Gaming, Robert Lee, commercial director of Realistic Games, Oliver Castleman, head of marketing at OneTouch, Andy Sekula, head of games at Kalamba Games, and Ivan Kravchuk, Evoplay Entertainment CEO.
CB: How do the mathematics of a game differ when developing a slot for the casual player?
SH: Games are designed with different player groups in mind, determining their variance, hit frequency and win potential. Traditionally, casual players preferred a higher hit frequency and lower variance product, but shifting preferences influenced by the growing popularity of streamers has seen the volatility baseline rise. The search for big win potential is no longer a trait solely attributed to high rollers.
Of course, attracting casual audiences varies market-to-market and the increasingly competitive nature of the online casino sector has blurred the lines between what features or mechanics appeal to specific customers. Generally, however, the casual profile expects a high RTP, with attractive math and front-end design to stand out and gain stickiness.
AS: Math-wise, we look towards things such as lower volatility, a higher hit rate and lower minimum bets during the development process. Essentially we look to build easy to understand and fun features as there is little chance that a casual player will go through paytables and game rules. Feature mechanics should therefore be straightforward and easy to grasp. This way we’re maximising the entertainment factor and time on device.
A great recent example from Kalamba is our slot title Miami Bonus Wheel, where we introduced a €0.10 minimum stake, our lowest one yet. We have seen great player engagement and longer play sessions as a result.
IK: Mathematics are key to a game’s performance. It determines the way in which winning combinations appear and at what time, as well as how a slot’s gameplay unfolds with each new spin.
“Casual players’ understanding of online slots is limited compared to that of long-term enthusiasts”
For instance, we know that players with less experience tend to choose low volatility slots, so if a game is designed with casual players in mind, then its mathematics should reflect this preference. No amount of visuals will keep your audience engaged if it’s outside of their comfort zone.
OC: Some players prefer regular, smaller wins, while others would rather aim to try and hit a larger pay-out after an extended build-up in play. Sectoral distinctions also apply, as the land-based market generally deploys RTPs that are lower than those used by online casinos.
Regional variations should also be considered, for example, Latin America’s land-based heritage encourages continental operators to reduce RTPs, while Japanese players tend to bet with higher stakes than Europeans. As well as math, attracting casual players is about providing entertainment that can be enjoyed on the move, so a mobile-first approach is essential.
RL: Simplicity is key. Casual players’ understanding of online slots is limited compared to that of long-term enthusiasts, so they tend to opt for an easy-to-follow gameplay over flashy mechanics and higher volatility.
For customers that play for entertainment rather than to win big, having a long run of losing spins will not be a satisfying experience for them. The maths model needs to be designed with less complexity as a result. We’ve also looked to introduce lower minimum bet levels and higher RTPs so players can benefit from extended session times.
CB: What is the impact of lower minimum stake games both from a player engagement and revenue perspective? Is there a responsible gaming angle?
IK: Games with a lower minimum stake generally provide a more engaging session for casual players, because it gives them more time to explore an entertainment experience to which they are new. That, in turn, drives player engagement and retention, so from an operator’s perspective lower minimum stakes aren’t something to be afraid of.
At the same time, a desire to attract new players must be weighed against the imperative not to repel those with more experience. For suppliers, striking this balance is a must, so we’ve developed a wide range of different slots, with both low and high volatilities, within a portfolio that caters to every experience level.
OC: Lower stakes often reduce the barriers to entry. If a player feels intrigued by a particular game, but doesn’t want to spend big on it, then a lower stake allows them to try it out without breaking the bank.
This may also be less attractive to revenue-conscious operators with an eye on the bottom line. In the long term cutting your minimum bet can encourage a larger number of players to enjoy your games more frequently, and for longer. The minimum stake in our games is fully customisable according to the operator’s requirements – but player protection remains our top priority.
SH: Up against a myriad of competing content, lower minimum stake games are becoming more of a commodity than a differentiator. Lower minimum bets drive down the average revenue per user but simultaneously makes the game more affordable to play.
Although engagement is not necessarily proportionately impacted, the benefit of a lower minimum stake game is that players are more inclined to try them, making it more cost-effective for operators to market. Since ROI is so vital in today’s competitive landscape, the visibility and volume of rounds played are critical to a game’s success.
“The introduction of lower minimum stakes is multifaceted”
There is a responsible gaming angle, too. No supplier or operator is looking to churn players quickly through low volume, high-stake betting. It’s not sustainable, nor does it yield a good player experience – as has been demonstrated in the land-based sector. A slot’s affordability makes it more enjoyable for customers, and therefore far more profitable.
AS: Lower minimum stakes can generate more rounds per player in both cases – for players that prefer more volatile slots and for players that expect less variance in the payouts.
This can also lead to lower general turnover, as the relation between the average bet and the rounds per session is not linear. If a player chooses to spin 100 times for €0.50 per spin during a session, it doesn’t mean they would spin 500 for €0.10. Maybe 200 times or so, but then there’s an additional consideration – namely how much time players are willing to devote to gaming.
With lower stakes and increased engagement there’s always a risk that a player gets hooked on the game more rapidly, but over time, lower stakes mean lower swings in the balance and a lower entertainment factor; so it’s a tricky balancing act.
RL: The introduction of lower minimum stakes is multifaceted. While these games succeed in attracting less experienced and casual players, they also help to promote safer play by offering the same entertainment without the end-user being exposed to a potentially high spend.
The regulatory attention that stake limits are currently receiving mean that this could be the direction the industry is forced to take as tougher restrictions are considered around minimum and maximum bets.
For operators, lower stake games tend to produce longer session times and less churn, particularly with titles that offer a higher maximum payout. Of course, the revenue opportunity per customer is less since players are likely to spend less on a game with lower stakes, but by attracting a wider audience and increasing volumes, the scales balance.