Mechanics are “the most important part of why a game is good or bad”, according to Jack Anthony, Head of Product at Eyas Gaming, who discussed his belief that slot studios are consistently “competing for people’s free time” at September’s SBC Summit Barcelona.
Contributing to the ‘Let’s Talk Mechanics’ panel, Anthony described the monotonous state of recurring slot mechanics, stating that he feels “less and less excited” about the abundance of Megaways titles pitched to him “every week”.
When questioned by moderator Jessica Welman, Editor at SBC Americas, on the saturated state of the slot market, Eyas’ Head of Product questioned whether there was any innovation left.
He stated: “I’m getting pitched a Megaways game every week from a new provider, and I don’t know about everyone else but I’m getting less and less excited about them, because what else is there left?
“I’m waiting for the next big Megaways mechanic to come along, or the next advancement on Megaways, because there is still a market of people who will only play Megaways content. Probably a quarter of my site at the moment is Megaways content.
“We’re competing against not just other gaming sites, we’re competing for people’s free time”Jack Anthony, Head of Product at Eyas Gaming
“It cannot be a simple 1 in 300 bonus round with cascading reels and increasing multipliers. I just don’t think that is going to cut it anymore. Even if the theme is fantastic. I think we just need a bit more innovation and something that can build on that existing great brand.”
As Welman further pressed on Anthony’s disregard of seeing the same branded mechanics, he added: “We’re working in entertainment right? We’re competing against not just other gaming sites, we’re competing against Youtube, against TikTok, against going out for dinner, to the cinema or to see your friends. We’re competing for people’s free time.
“I think for your average player, and certainly for the regulated markets that I work in, I don’t think that the limited entertainment and budget that people have will do. I think there needs to be a shift to a more entertainment-based approach.”
Anthony continued: “I would love to see improvements on original proven mechanics. I think a great example of this is Fishin’ Frenzy, a fantastic game. It’s been performing fantastically for donkey’s years and then they released The Big Catch which now has just one tiny improvement in the bonus round, it creates that extra bit of something to game for.
“If you can improve on an already proven mechanic, I think that is the best way to innovate, rather than trying to create something completely new from scratch. It’s risky for us as operators to invest so much in that.”
Alongside him onstage was Asko Heiskanen, Head of Game Studio at Veikkaus, who compared the art of making slot mechanics to that of making music, stating that there is “no formula” for this process that can take “one day or five years”.
Heiskanen repeatedly highlighted the importance of knowing your customer base when it comes to designing new mechanics.
“It is more or less becoming a category within the slots world”Asko Heiskanen, Head of Game Studio at Veikkaus
“The key element is that you have a certain vision of how you want players to feel when they are playing the game. So that’s a starting point,” he commented.
“It’s more actually understanding your customer and basically trying to figure out what the key moments are, for example, in the game flow where you need to support players, encourage them to press one more time, one more time. What are those moments?
“What are they looking for in their playing experience? Mechanics is one of the many elements that will contribute to the game and create that gaming experience that players are looking for.”
He continued by suggesting that studios and developers are at an advantage when it comes to catering slots to specific audiences, thanks to the abundance of AI and technological solutions that can farm and analyse player data, helping companies to “really understand what makes our players tick”.
Upon being questioned on the potentially saturated market of branded slots, Heiskanen claimed that using previously established mechanics can be a “door-opener” due to getting “awareness with the brand”, which gives developers “a better chance of catching the audience than doing a game with no branding at all.”
On that note, Heiskanen responded to Anthony’s disregard of the rising megaways influx, saying: “It is more or less becoming a category within the slots world. It’s not something that is going to fade away, it will stay there and it will stay there very strong.”
He added: “From our studio side, it requires challenging our mindset of how we can improve that gaming experience, particularly keeping in mind who we are targeting.”
In a focused discussion on why the industry has turned to a slew of copycat and branded mechanics, Heiskanen was quick to explain that the efforts needed to revitalise the industry are uncertain, ambiguous and cannot guarantee success, simply stating that “The creation of mechanics is always a stab in the dark.”
“engagement is at a different level when you do something other than just pressing the button to spin”Asko Heiskanen, Head of Game Studio at Veikkaus
Both Anthony and Heiskanen were questioned by Welman on their attitude towards crash titles, which are making waves in the igaming scene with an abundance of new releases. Heiskanen stated that crash games were a “great example” of an innovative mechanic.
“It’s a very bespoke, standout mechanic,” he stated. “When you begin to drill down the players who play crash games, what is actually driving them? It’s the perceived control of the game, so they want to be involved.
“When they are successful with the bet, it’s all about the knowledge and the skills. When they lose, it’s all about that luck. It is very, very rewarding for the player.
“The profound thing there is that the connection between the cold game and a human being is filled when you interact with that. Basically, the engagement is at a completely different level when you do something other than just pressing the button to spin the reel you feel that you’re actively influencing part of the game.”
However, Anthony highlighted the importance in knowing which market is fond of these rising mechanics, and which could not care less. He said: “I think we tried a few crash games in the UK, and that pretty much crashed.
“It’s players who want a feel of control over the outcome. That is perhaps a new brand of player that we are seeing and market localisation is something that’s so important for mechanics.
“What works in Finland will be completely different to what works in the UK, and over the border in Sweden and Norway. Tailoring the approach to the market is one of the key things we can do.”