Placing innovation at the heart of game development can help create new and engaging experiences for players – something which is also key for those looking to stand out in an increasingly competitive casino industry. That’s according to AvatarUX managing director Marcus Honney.

Speaking to CasinoBeats, Honney began by sharing some of the challenges that AvatarUX has faced in the last 12 months, highlighting that the company will be doubling down on its commitment to deliver entertainment and excitement for players. 

“I would say the pandemic and the instability it has brought around the world was the biggest challenge we had to face during the past year,” he said. “However, I have to say we have managed to adapt quite well and created an operating model that lets us work without any major disruptions. 

“Of course, we are missing the more frequent igaming events and meeting partners and industry professionals in person, but we have achieved so much by operating fully remotely last year that, despite the situation, I am pleased with the results. 

“This year we simply continue with our plans and keep on offering entertainment and excitement to players. We not only want to release new games and features, but also focus more on promotional tools and gamification. So, I’d say for 2022, we are upping the game.”

So what role will innovation play in AvatarUX’s company development in 2022? Well, for the AvatarUX MD, we can expect to see a range of new products and features which he hopes will disrupt the current market offering. 

Giving us a sneak peak of the upcoming Lollipop title, which is due to be released at the end of this month, Honney noted that players will now be able to enjoy access to the firm’s new Scatter Reward Upgrade feature.

He explained: “Innovation is also key to our work. We are always seeking new ways of offering more engaging and fun products. We have big plans this year and you will see many ground-breaking things coming out. 

“One that I can mention already and that players can enjoy pretty soon is the introduction of new features in our upcoming game Lollipop. This new title, set to be released end of the month for partners with direct integrations and globally in April, will introduce a very interesting and innovative element called the Scatter Reward Upgrade. 

“This new feature will upgrade scatter symbols to higher value during free spins creating additional win potential. This is of course just one example of what is coming up with plenty more features we are discussing and planning on.” 

Building on from this, innovations such as the Scatter Reward Upgrade can help bolster engagement and retention among new and existing players.

When we quizzed Honney about this, he emphasised that audiences want to play games which deliver a sense of excitement. This, he implied, will keep players coming back.

“We know that the audience wants to see and experience new things and we strongly believe that by adding new exciting and quite rewarding features like the one mentioned above can drive engagement and retention,” he added. 

“In the Scatter Rewards feature, for instance, two or more symbols of the same value upgrade to a higher value with each new one causing an even higher upgrade. 

“This can lead to a chain reaction that can quickly turn multiple scatter upgrades to even 500x the bet size. So, it offers potential for some huge wins for the lucky ones. Such innovative features are what we believe keeps the players entertained and willing to choose our games.”

Scatter Rewards aren’t the only innovative feature within the AvatarUX portfolio, with the developer having launched its PopWins offering at the end of 2021. 

Over the next few months, Honney told CasinoBeats that players can expect to see “plenty of permutations” of the PopWins mechanic with the launch of features such as PopCoins, ClusterPops, StickyPops, JackPops and PopXReels. 

In addition, the MD disclosed that plans are in place to also roll out a range of “feature rich games with exciting pre-bonus games, re-triggers, and also jackpots”.

But while innovation is a big focus for AvatarUX, is there such a thing as too much? And if so, how do you balance innovation with the creation of a stand-out gameplay experience? For Honney, there are no limits to innovation. 

“I don’t think there is such a thing as ‘too much innovation’,” he told CasinoBeats, “but I strongly believe that new things have to be presented well to players. If we skip the “educational” process, so to say, players might not understand well all the new things that are being introduced. We do not want to overcomplicate things. 

“The gameplay experience has to always be smooth and entertaining for the player. That’s why we chose to build on our PopWins  mechanics for instance. It is an already known concept, appreciated by many, so any new variation will only add extra thrill rather than disrupting the gameplay experience.”

He went on to explain that in order to elevate the overall gameplay experience, gamification can be a useful tool for any developer – and for AvatarUX, this is a key weapon in its arsenal.

He said: “Like innovation, gamification is also something at the core of our business. We have already taken this concept very seriously when designing various features in our games, but we are upping the game by focusing on developing some ground-breaking promotional features and mechanics with the aim to offer even more excitement in our games. 

“Our idea is to provide options that allow players to feel that they are not playing alone, but indeed playing in a community, where competition and participation can be a major driver in gameplay. So, we plan to approach this by keeping, as always, the player at heart.

“Apart from this, we also want to keep the player experience as our number one priority during our development cycle. We want to engage players to have their say on the games we make, so we can focus on developing what they really want to see and experience. 

“When we come up with ideas, we always discuss and carefully select to go ahead with what we really believe in. Our goal is not to follow and launch what is already on the market, but come up with new, interesting things by, as said, keeping players’ interests in mind. And this is exactly how we think we can make a difference and stand out of the crowd. We want to create products and experiences that the players want and look for.”