Slots are arguably one of the most popular online casino products on the market today. Considered to be highly engaging with game studios placing significant focus on each title’s audiovisual content, it’s becoming increasingly difficult to stand out in what is now becoming a very saturated market.

So how do you keep slot titles engaging for new and existing players? In a word, ‘mechanics’. 

Hannah Farrugia, Head of Product at AvatarUX, walks us through the development of two new mechanics – ZapReel and StickyPop – explaining how AvatarUX plans to build upon its existing successes using these mechanics before telling us how the supplier plans to stay ahead of the curve on changing player demands.

CasinoBeats: Thanks for chatting with us! So we’re a few months into 2023 – how has the year been for AvatarUX so far? 

HF: It’s definitely been an interesting start of the year so far. In Q1 the team has taken a deep dive into developing new mechanics and mechanical frameworks to enrich our portfolio and give something different to players. We’ve learnt so much from this and thanks to the amazing talent we have in house we always manage to push one step forward and go to the next level.

CasinoBeats: Tell us about your new mechanics, ZapReel and StickyPop. What do these entail? And how do they differ from other mechanics on the market?

HF: ZapReel was introduced in our recently released game LooneyPop. This mechanical feature is a horizontal reward reel that is positioned on top of the standard grid, carrying a set of three random rewards that are drawn at the start of every spin. Each reward enhances the winning combinations that are formed by increasing the win potential in various ways. 

I personally think it’s something a little bit different from other mechanics on the market because of the reward diversity on the reel and the actual potential it carries. Landing a good combination of ZapReel rewards, with even a low pay win on the standard grid, can still land the player a 1000x win, so it’s packed with potential. 

Stickypop mechanic is a framework that works by awarding players with respins as well as expanding reels. So, at every spin where a winning combination is formed, the player gets unlimited respins until no new symbols that form a winning combination land. 

On top of that, each respin expands the reels to give even more ways to win and more potential symbols that can land and form this combination. This means that players can extend their winning combinations to be able to land bigger wins. 

Like ZapReel, the uniqueness in Stickypop comes from its win potential. This mechanic was inspired by PopWins, and it gives the players more and more opportunities each spin to land more wins, in a unique sequence of sticky respins and increasing ways. 

CasinoBeats: Looking at ZapReel to start off with, how is this creating a “fresh new layer of excitement to every spin”?

HF: The magic of ZapReel is the many combinations and ways that the reward combinations can impact your win. Not only do the actual rewards determine how your win outcome, but even the order in which they appear. For instance, by landing a “Sync Both Ways” reward at the center of the reel, the reward creates three reels in the middle with synced symbols. That’s not the only thing it does in this case however. It also syncs the rewards across the ZapReel and increases their area of impact. 

So, if you’ve also managed to land an “Expanding Wolf” reward on the ZapReel, this reward will also now apply to all three reels, instead of just one, thanks to the “Sync Both Ways” reward. That means that the results of the ZapReel can really and truly feel unpredictable because of the many many combinations it holds, it never gets old!

CasinoBeats: For Stickypop, how will this mechanic enable AvatarUX to evolve, and build upon, the enhanced player experience that we have seen with your PopWin series of titles?

HF: Stickypop goes to show that the original PopWins mechanic is something that can flexibly transform into new variants. There are many variations of PopWins that we’ve tried in the past. Stickypop showed a potential to attract players that enjoy the anticipation of forming large combinations in ways games and progressing to more and larger combinations while the win is forming. So we’ve changed the player flow a bit from the original PopWins that way. It’s a brand new mechanic, and we’ve had a positive player response for it so far. 

CasinoBeats: From a game developer perspective, how do you ensure that your mechanics are engaging and enhancing the player experience without bombarding the player with too many moving parts? 

HF: During our development cycle we reach different parties for feedback, gauging the interest in our new mechanic. We do take great attention and go into a lot of detail when it comes to visual flow and timings of our game. 

That being said, there is a level of subjectivity to it too, where some players enjoy complexity, deep mechanics and moving parts, whilst others prefer simplicity. Once our game is launched, we then get much more feedback and assess the overall appetite for this, taking this feedback into consideration for the next games in our roadmap and also staying true to our brand.

CasinoBeats: Do you think that as an industry, mechanics will continue to form an integral part of the gameplay experience? Or could we see other elements, such as design, audio etc, play a more important role? 

HF: The inevitable thing is that future player needs will continuously change, and in essence, we want to develop what will keep them feeling entertained and excited. Looking at the movie or other online content industries for example, it’s a good indicator of where games in general can head towards. If attention spans are getting shorter, produce shorter content in bursts (Youtube Shorts, TikTok). 

Brand loyalty is now more important than ever (Are you a Marvel or DC fan?), which means retention is paramount, so focusing on exceptional content that delivers value and resonates with its users is key. Another trend that seems to be picking up traction is interactive content. While slots are already interactive, there’s definitely a huge potential to increase that in the future. 

Now getting back to slot elements, outstanding visuals are an excellent way to attract players, especially when looking to target a particular segment. For deeper engagement I feel that mechanics play a key role here, but audio and animation flow also contributes to this. What I found works well is having all the elements in a game that are working together in sync, but also balanced without anything overpowering the other. It creates a better and smoother gameplay experience .