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 continues the conversation with Simon Hammon, CPO of Relax Gaming, Andy Sekula, head of games at Kalamba Games, Ivan Kravchuk, Evoplay Entertainment CEO, Oliver Castleman, head of marketing at OneTouch and Robert Lee, commercial director of Realistic Games.

CB: The introduction of higher RTPs is becoming increasingly common among some suppliers. What is the thinking behind this move and how are operators responding?

IK: The thinking behind this move is clear, slot developers are not only looking to differentiate, but also to re-awaken a largely dormant customer base with the return of live sport. Many of these players are also experiencing a wider recession taking place across the global economy – so are far more preferential to entertainment that doesn’t empty the wallet

By offering games with lower risk – the appeal certainly broadens. Arguably for operators, in markets that have restricted bonusing and the like in recent months, this can also be an interesting acquisition and retention channel that won’t land them in hot water with the regulator. 

SH: RTP has been relatively stable in recent years with most reputable suppliers producing games with a 95-96.5 per cent average, but the range is expanding. In the case of Sweden, for example, we’ve seen an increase in RTP as a result of heavy market regulations; attempting to offer a cost-effective marketing edge that can be positioned to attract a larger casual player base. 

Additionally, we’ve seen a growing trend, which we do not agree with, where suppliers offer variable RTPs, meaning that the same game can be played with different RTPs on different casinos. The emergence of this is in direct correlation with increased revenue pressure on suppliers, but it’s at the expense of transparency for the player and ultimately fairness.

AS: It all depends which market the operator is targeting. The same game can have a higher RTP on one operator and lower on the other. Having the flexibility to choose from different math profiles allows operators to balance between engagement and the player’s lifetime value. Where the math profile itself hits its limits, promotional tools, such as our own Bullseye suite, allow operators to test and learn about other performance indicators.

“…any changes that are implemented must be clearly communicated with players”

OC: It’s all about retention. Low RTPs tend to discourage players that sit down for an extended session without seeing a return on their outlay. In the long-term, the best option is to produce slots with a higher RTP, because that’s what makes customers play a game more than once. 

We usually recommend against reducing a slot’s RTP once it has gone live, because playing a casino game should be a rewarding and immersive experience. Most importantly, any changes that are implemented must be clearly communicated with players to ensure responsible gaming.

RL: Again, it comes down to creating a friendlier experience for the player. The use of RTP and what it means for the gameplay is rather more complex than the introduction of lower stakes, but ultimately, we believe players spend longer on a game when the return is greater. Realistic is soon to release a brand-new slot with an RTP of over 97 per cent – the highest in the company’s history – which we designed with a view to creating happier players for our partners. 

Not all operators are interested in higher RTP slots, which is in part due to internal factors around bonus abuse. Many can see past the ‘reduced profit margin’ of such games, however, and understand the benefits offered to customer engagement and retention.

CB: How do you ensure that your efforts to attract more casual players don’t deter more serious slot enthusiasts who enjoy high volatility games? Can you cater both player preferences in the same game?

SH: In a churn market, the shelf-life of new releases is short, so content needs to stand out irrespective of its target audience in order to survive. Relax differentiates by building titles that are visually appealing, intuitive and mechanically interesting.

Game designers today need to think more about general product appeal rather than separating profiles. Offering differentials within a game through gamble features, variance options or even feature buys that help cater to different preferences in one title.

OC: Diversity is essential. There is no magic formula which can please every player, but the focus must be on producing a wide variety of entertainment experiences. From VIP table games created with experienced players in mind, to simple and nostalgic casino classics such as Juicy 7, our portfolio offers something for everyone.

There are ways to appeal to multiple player types in one game”

A single game may not always cater to the full spectrum of players, but your offering as a whole should accommodate a diverse range of experience levels.

IK: Game development is all about the maths – and that determines what kind of player you attract. If a game has been developed to provide a high-volatility proposition, then it’s very hard to simultaneously cater to the casual player at the same time. 

Of course, you can split the mathematics in the main game – with different features used for in-game events, such as free spins and the like. 

In my view however, it’s better to focus on a diverse portfolio that offers something for everybody, rather than trying to please every type of player with each new game you create.

RL: There are ways to appeal to multiple player types in one game, such as customisable mechanics and buy-in features, which have been implemented to varying degrees of success by some suppliers. We’ve taken a different approach, instead focusing on diversifying our portfolio.

The company’s history goes back to developing highly volatile slots that were popular among players in land-based casinos and arcades in the UK, but as player preferences have evolved over time, so have we.

Our offering now contains a balanced mix of slots with varying volatility and feature sets, as well as a host of instant win games, to offer more sustainable choices for players alongside our high-excitement, high-volatility titles.

AS: Yes, you can cater for both player preferences, by allowing them to choose their preferred level of volatility in the base game and during the bonus game. This is frequently built into Kalamba titles via our signature HyperBet feature.

It’s beneficial for all as premium players can pay for increased win potential which is a matter of choice for them, whilst low stakes players enjoy all the other fun aspects of a game.

Even high volatility games, when paired with low min bets (€0.10 or even below), with a relatively high hit rate and good looking game mechanics can easily become appealing to players looking for a longer, more entertaining session.