Fruit-themed slots have long been a firm favourite for players, and in 2022 there is little sign of that changing. But what is it about these titles that makes sure they stand the test of time?
Well, for Tom Horn Gaming COO Peter Vozar, the answer lies in the simplicity and clarity of these titles. Fruit-themed slots will often feature between three and five reels, with three to four rows displayed simultaneously. The supplier’s latest game release Frutopia is no exception.
“The average slot player doesn’t look for a complicated, multi-level shooting bonanza, a strategy video game, or an empire-building simulation,” he told CasinoBeats. “The slot player looks for a game with a clearly defined result and this is what fruit slots offer.”
Launched at the end of 2021, Frutopia is a three-reel video slot that offers up to 125 ways to win and a maximum win potential of up to x3,190 the bet.
While simplicity is a key factor in their popularity, game producer Samuel Žido believes that it is the “firm roots” of fruit-themed games within the slot vertical as a whole that makes them more appealing to players.
He commented: “The fruit slot association is firmly rooted in the history of the slot vertical. First slot games were fruit games. That’s why I think fruit slot games are still the most played games. The power of association is stronger than the power of novelty.”
This view was echoed by Head of AM James Costantini, who believes that fruit slots have – over time – earned the status of a ‘classic’ title, made ever more popular by the capricious history of slots and gaming.
“According to legend,” Costantini explained, “the first slot machine was invented in 1894 in San Francisco by Charles Fey. They became popular in saloons.
“Instead of liberty bells and playing cards, they added pictures of fruit. From there the trend spread to the UK and Europe. I would say the classic always endures over time, it is so for cars, clothing, etc.”
The art of balancing the new with the classic
From the outset, it may then seem that adapting a player-favourite would be extremely difficult. As the old saying goes, why fix what’s not broken?
However Tom Horn’s Frutopia has not set out to revolutionise how we see fruit-themed titles, but rather offer a twist while also delivering a gripping gameplay experience.
To do this, the supplier has introduced a range of new features, mechanics and game logic to the title to ensure that Frutopia remains fresh and attractive to players.
Vozar noted: “We implement new features, new mechanics and game logic into modern graphics. For instance in 2017 we introduced low poly graphics in 243 Crystal Fruits and now we’re bringing another super contemporary graphic style in our latest game Frutopia.”
When quizzed on developing new ideas, Žido highlighted the efforts made to achieve a balance between classic and modern. “In our game development we always try to achieve a balance between classic elements and new features, mechanics or visual representation,” he said.
“In the case of fruit slot games, less is sometimes more. The classic slot player knows what to expect from fruit slots and that’s why they play them. Introducing some overcomplicated, flashy features might prove counterproductive in the end. In fruit slots, simplicity is the ultimate sophistication.”
Alongside balancing new and classic, Costantini pointed out that suppliers must also place an emphasis on meeting the needs of market demands. This, he shared, is the key to success for titles such as Frutopia.
He said: “I think that innovation is a word widely used in this industry and rarely comes as such. A quirky modern revamp of anything belonging to the past also likely leads to success.
“The trick here with slots is to feed the market needs when it comes to features and graphics, and that is exactly where Tom Horn tries to focus the attention on. Besides that, creating the right math is not easy, but when it also comes together, the magic happens and we have a blockbuster.”
Are fruit-themed slots here to stay?
Discussions soon turned towards whether there will ever be a time when fruit-themed slot titles will no longer be a mainstay within the slot sector. And you guessed it, the Tom Horn team gave us a resounding no.
Vozar was adamant that fruit themed slots will never disappear from the forefront of the industry, and “will always remain the centerpiece of the slotsector, just like evergreen hits are for the music industry”.
Despite not drawing comparisons between the golden oldies on the radio and slots, Costantini agreed that fruit slots are here to stay for the long term – and may even be adapted to suit the technological advances that we’re seeing today.
“I don’t think fruit-themed slots will disappear, at least as long as slots are the mainstay for a casino,” the head of AM said.
“I mean the new technology is taking us to something which we will probably call the Metaverse. I don’t see why a virtual casino shouldn’t have fruit slots there for all the reasons I already mentioned.
“It would also be amazing to have the crystal ball and foresee where the gamification trend will take the industry, but still, I think I will love to collect some apple symbols from my virtual garden.”
Žido also reflected on the technology advances in the industry, expressing his belief that in order to ensure that fruit slots remain relevant for new generations of players, tweaks and adaptations need to be made.
He continued: “This time might potentially come. Especially, with the new generation the trend is to treat them to something unusual, surprising, shocking even. On the other hand, even the millennials love nostalgia or connection with the past.
“Therefore I believe that fruit slots will always be popular with this demographic as well. You might just need to add an extra wee bit of something novel and exciting!”
With technology in mind, we pressed Tom Horn Gaming on how the company plans to bring fruit-themed slots to the new generation of players within the online gaming sector. To keep gen Z players engaged, Costantini noted, slots must feature a “true narrative” and an element of progression within the game.
“I’m sure that anything about creating a true narrative and progressing within the game is what gen Z wants,” he said. “How we will allow them to socially interact and share their achievements is the key to future games’ success. We are working towards this direction and you will see very soon our contents spiced up with a real twist.”
Žido shone a light on creating “something unusual” for players to keep them engaged and entertained, however Vozar doubled down on the idea that fruit slot games will “always find a stable player base in every market and every age group”.
He added: “Fruit slot games will always find a stable player base in every market and every age group. The reason is simple.
“Players want to get what they look for and expect from the game. A video game player playing games on a playstation is different from a slot game player.”
Looking to the future
Fruit-themed slots have often proved to be very popular in the UK market. So when it comes to replicating these successes in other regulated gaming jurisdictions, what are Tom Horn’s plans?
Vozar is confident that the universality of fruit-based slots will help contribute to Frutopia’s successes in global markets, drawing parallels between these titles and a universal language understood by all slot players.
He continued: “The beauty of a fruit-themed slot game is its universality. Common language, a so-called esperanto of slot games. Did you know that the very first slot game in the world was a slot featuring cherries, plums, watermelons, bars and bells?”
But for Costantini, the recipe for success is to continue being in tune with the wants and needs of clients. This, he said, will ensure that fruit-themed titles will remain a firm favourite among slot players.
Costantini concluded: “I believe listening to our clients and catering to the right demographic is the path forward here. I have to say there are other markets like Italy and Germany where ‘classic’ is definitely a synonym of cool and in general nobody dislikes a modern and fully-fledged fruit slot.
“I see north of Europe a bit out of this context as there, probably, fruit-themed games are considered a bit more old fashioned. However, our roadmap is well balanced and we are proud and still delighted by the never-ending success of our Hits 243 Crystal fruit and 81 Frutas Grandes, the latter released last year.
“Regardless of the markets, I see fruit-themed games to still remain a significant part of our production at least for 2022.”