For a long time the online slot market has been flooded with heavy and content-rich games packed with complex mechanics and features, writes ESA Gaming CEO Zorica Smallwood.

For a long time, the online slot market has been flooded with heavy and content rich games, packed with complex mechanics and features. Gamification elements have been taken to a new level with many titles inviting players on a journey with a mission to solve, similar to the storylines we know from video games.

Don’t get me wrong, there is a demand for these types of games, and we have seen many successful titles hit the market. However, over the last few years, we have seen a significant shift towards mobile, one that is continuing at a lightning pace.

Data from the UKGC shows that over 50 per cent of players preferred the mobile phone as a gaming device in 2019, with the number rising to over 70 per cent for the age group 18 to 34. For real money gaming, this means a different thinking altogether when creating casino slots. Several elements must be considered as the UI and UX journey for players is different to when playing a game on desktop.

At ESA Gaming we specialise in mobile games, but our focus lies in cross-selling into sportsbooks. This means we have yet another element to consider when developing our products; making sure the gameplay must not disrupt the sports betting experience.

“How do you keep a game as simple as possible while still ensuring it is entertaining”

The key question we ask ourselves is; how do you keep a game as simple as possible while still ensuring it is entertaining? Our EasySwipe portfolio consists of lightweight titles that in many ways resemble popular mobile games such as Candy Crush.

We have taken some inspiration from this games vertical as there is no doubt that many of the most successful titles on the market rely on simplicity. However, every gaming environment is different, and we must recognise that by creating games designed for direct integration into a sportsbook, we have a duty to make them both engaging and unobtrusive. 

When it comes to certain standard games, such as blackjack and roulette, one key thing is to make the game smooth and playable without elaborate changes of the surroundings. This could for example be done by avoiding panning through a 3D environment and not including any features that could be seen as complex or confusing to the player. Speed is very important as well, as the players using our products will do so during a lull in sporting events. 

Our latest EasySwipe game, Goal Mine, went through various iterations as we tried to shed some of the features that slowed it down. Windows’ iconic Minesweeper game was the basic inspiration behind Goal Mine because of the simplicity of the title, but we thought of loads of cool things we would like to incorporate, all of which had a football theme to make it a realistic experience and to attract the sports mad bettors.

We looked at including elements such as allowing players to dribble past others as you attack the goal, the option for a ‘long ball’ as well as awarding a corner kick after a save.

Cross-selling has always been important for operators but the last year has seen an increased demand”

In fact, our first version had most of this but when played in a live environment we realised that our desire to make the game as similar as possible to the real thing, it made it too feature-rich to be usable at the speed at which it needs move. So, we stripped it back to the final version that we are soon to release. 

You might say this is a slightly clunky way of working, but for a completely new game it was also a great way of learning how a game can be exciting without all the bells and whistles. It also requires some discipline as anyone involved in the design process can get a little attached to certain features that actually aren’t important to the gameplay.

The end result is a title which is immediately easy to understand while still being engaging and entertaining for customers to play quickly in between placing a bet on their favourite sport. 

Cross-selling has always been important for operators but the last year has seen an increased demand for these products, mainly because of a lack of sporting markets to bet on, but also because of bonus restrictions being introduced in several regulated markets.

The titles in our EasySwipe portfolio have been proven to help operators lower their bonusing offers by up to 40 per cent compared with other casino games. This makes our product ideal in markets where bonuses are limited as players can be converted from sportsbook to casino without using bonuses and other incentives as an acquisition tool.   

To a certain extent, our games create a completely new vertical that operators can offer their customers. A vertical that is completely different to the thousands of feature-rich games currently on the market. The interest we have seen in our products since we launched the first game earlier this year cements our belief that less definitely can be more.