Lior Cohen, CTO at mobile-first slot developer Betixon, says that in-game narratives and characters can drive player loyalty to the next level.

Online casino operators invest a great deal of time and resources into acquiring players, so once they have captured and converted them, they need those players to remain loyal to their brand in order to drive the greatest ROI. 

When it comes to player retention, operators often look to bonuses, loyalty schemes and rewards but one of the most powerful tools at their disposal is the content stocked in their game lobbies and especially those that form part of a series or franchise. 

Slots that have a central character or characters, and that take players on a story as part of the game experience, are some of the most popular titles out there. I am talking about games like Gonzo’s Quest, Starburst and Age of the Gods, or famous themes like Irish, Egypt or Wild West.

Character-led slots that form part of a series provide operators with tremendous potential to encourage players to return to their sites, especially if their launch is combined with some sort of exclusivity.  

At present, operators do offer these games, but they tend not to be exclusive which means players can play them at a number of online casino sites. This in turn means that operators are not maximising the power of narrative and character led content. 

Stories that capture the imagination: 

Before discussing how operators can maximise the power of narrative and character led content, let’s first discuss why these games are so popular. Really, it comes down to offering players an engaging and immersive experience while wagering. 

The addition of a story and characters adds another layer to the experience. Instead of simply hitting spin and watching the reels tumble, players find themselves at the heart of a story which plays out for the duration of their gaming session. 

This ensures that players return to the game as they want to progress further through the narrative and storyline. Developers can then take a successful game story and characters and roll them out across a series or franchise of titles taking player loyalty to new heights. 

There are other advantages, too: 

The advantages of narrative and character-led games go beyond player engagement and loyalty and extend to overcoming new challenges faced by increasingly stringent regulations. This is particularly the case when it comes to the minimum time between spins.

This requirement is designed to reduce the rate at which players can spin and while this is understandable from a safe gaming perspective, it causes untold disruptions and potentially damage to the player experience.

The use of narratives, however, can fill the minimum time gap in a way that keeps players engaged with the story and, more importantly, with the game while still respecting responsible gambling requirements. Features can also be overlaid to improve the wagering experience. 

In the first title in our Fortune Breakers series, for example, we have created short narratives in-between spins where players are also given the option to “Gamble” their winnings in an unusual way which connects to the story. This taps into the wagering part of slot play but also adds another level of excitement and anticipation. 

There are some challenges, however: 

The greatest challenge when developing narrative and character-led games is that studios can never be sure if their stories or characters will be a hit with players. This is the same issue faced by film writers and directors, but remains one of the most difficult to overcome. 

Ultimately, the studio must have confidence in its stories and characters and this confidence can be arrived at with experience and by building a team of the brightest minds and creative talents. That being said, it still comes down to trial and error. 

Of course, the rewards of taking these greater risks can be great and for operators wanting to maximise the potential of narrative and character led games, the best thing to do is work directly with a studio to create exclusive games to offer to players. 

Why exclusivity works best: 

There are several reasons for this. First, the operator can help the developer create themes, stories and characters they know their players will engage with. They can also help shape the mechanics of the game, and how that ties in with the overall narrative and theme. 

Second, they can leverage the true potential of these games when it comes to player retention – players will return to story-based slots and if you are the only operator offering a particular title or series, they will have to come back to your site to play. 

Operators can also use exclusive content in their marketing activity, as well as when it comes to bonusing, loyalty schemes and rewards. In addition, they can also be incorporated in gamification and social features, such as tournaments and reel races. 

Ultimately, it allows operators to stand out from their rivals, provide players with a great selection of engaging and entertaining games and ultimately ensure players return to their site time and time again. And that, in turn, will allow them to drive the greatest ROI.