Many suppliers have been tempted into ignoring casual players due to the “runaway feedback loop” that reflects the “outsized power position” they can give to a slot’s performance over just one or two days.
Speaking on a panel entitled High, Higher, Highest – is volatility spiralling in slots?, sponsored by Safe Affiliate Programs, Walton stated that there are two types of casino offerings for players.
She commented: “There are casinos who really specialise in looking after the ‘everyday’ casual player. Their entire brand position is built around fun, easy-going entertainment and low-time/low-spend players.
“For these casinos, there’s a real dearth of good quality titles aimed at their players – which of course provides an opportunity for the suppliers who can respond. Having said that, several of the ones I’m thinking of have their own in-house studios as well – so it’s not always easy for a third party to get those top positions. Nothing’s easy!
“There are other casinos where we as a supplier are asked to build high volatility slots with an astonishingly low RTP – their theory seems to be that the faster you burn through whatever the player has deposited the better. It’s not a model for longevity of player relationships or loyalty, but there’s the joy of a free market – we get to see which approach is the most commercially successful!”
“It’s not a model for longevity of player relationships or loyalty, but there’s the joy of a free market…”
On Walton’s panel, where she will also be joined by Daniel Guiffra, Brand Manager at CasinoGrounds, both speakers will be looking into the influx of high volatile games, the draw to streamers, VIP players, review sites, and casino managers, and asking if there is a limit to the volatility increases, and is we, as a sector, are alienating casual players.
Providing a little snippet for the session, Walton pinpointed the review site BigWinBoard and tasked us to “try and find anything enthusiastic” about a low volatility slot, or one that offers under x5,000 the max min.
“The games that their reviewers like are the high volatility ones – the bigger the better,” the G.Games Founder added. “And why not? If you’re a set of casino enthusiasts who like higher volatility slots – more power to your spin!
“But I think the focus of review sites on this type of game suggests a runaway feedback cycle where streamers, casino managers, reviewers and VIPs are all focusing on higher volatility slots – something which risks ignoring the everyday player and giving them a bad experience – too many losses in a row and too fast a burn on the bankroll.
“Standard deviation and volatility measures are up across the board – and the slots that gain the most attention are those which pump the volume on that ever higher.”
Looking into the influx of high volatility slots, Walton emphasised that, although every casino that she has come across talks “excitedly and sincerely” about its data-driven decision-making, and algorithms, every supplier will state that “a good relationship, some thrilling PR, or a high quality promotions campaign” will equate to a better position for a game launch.
She continued: “Better position means better numbers, and better numbers will influence the supposedly objective algorithm so that the game gets more time in a good position.
“My ideal is always to put the player in charge to play how they like to play”
“This virtuous cycle is one that everyone is always trying to influence – you can buy it with deep promotional pockets, but you can influence it in other ways as well – and one of the simplest is to build the kind of game that generates a buzz on review sites, among streamers and VIPs.
“Those kinds of players often prefer high volatility games because they are more entertaining to watch. A streamer can ‘grind’ through a dull base game or just buy the bonus game where that’s legal. They often aren’t playing with their own real money (nor are casino managers) – and so they don’t feel the misery of losing in a base game.
“It means that even if the market for very high volatility slots is over-saturated, the temptation to keep producing them in order to achieve a better launch position is huge.
“We’re not immune to that pressure – we’ve started putting in bigger max wins as standard in our games. But we are also trying to see if we can give players choice – we’re pioneering allowing players to select their own volatility through a ‘big bonus’ hunt feature, a volatility dial or a ‘booster’ feature.
“My ideal is always to put the player in charge to play how they like to play. And while players may not understand what volatility is, everyone knows if they are the kind of person who likes to win little and often or is only interested in the big prize. After all, the very first cashout games we ever created were about letting players make those choices.”
Pressed on whether the industry is witnessing casino operators/managers neglecting a whole genre of players via the over-saturation of higher volatile slots, Walton expressed that there are some casinos which take “a professional approach” by segmenting their audience “much more clearly” and offer a wider range of math models and feature set slots.
“The perfect game balances interest with a high enough win rate and a real sense of ‘meaningful’ wins being achievable”
Alternatively, she highlighted that there are also plenty of casinos where the mantra of ‘I enjoyed that one’ is the major reason for content launch and position.
“It’s true that high volatility players are often the more valuable VIPs – and a casino manager is right to focus on them – but not to the exclusion or detriment of the everyday player (who may also be more loyal),” she said. “The perfect first visit, first return visit intro to new content… crafting these stages in a player’s journey across the site should be taken extremely seriously.
“In general a slot where a player loses for a long period is a miserable experience for a new player or a converting/trialling player. Similarly though a high win rate that’s overly funded with sub-wins is equally disappointing.
“The perfect game balances interest with a high enough win rate and a real sense of ‘meaningful’ wins being achievable (we usually define meaningful wins as being 5-50 times your stake).”
Looking into the impact of slot streamers, who glorify higher volatile slot titles to chase big wins for their highlight reels, Walton pinpointed that a streamer “needs to entertain” and to do that within a slot is either a “thrilling feature or a big win”.
“A streamer can autoplay through hundreds of dull spins and then spend time on the bonus – or just do a bonus buy where that’s available,” she concluded.
“So, it’s not immediately obvious what the features are that lower volatility slots can use to offer entertainment value for streamers… at least, I hope it’s not immediately obvious. That’s because this is an area that we are working on intensively at the moment.
“I hope that you’ll see us launch a large number of features designed to offer a more entertaining experience to players in G’s games. And if the features succeed in entertaining players – then it should be entertaining for streamers as well.
“Finally, we’re also working on multiplayer – and if we get it right (even if we get it half right!) then that will be a new type of entertainment – one that I personally believe will blow standard slots out of the water for watchability.”