Classic titles vs new slots is the debate that many online casino operators conflict with when it comes to constructing their game portfolios. 

However, newer slots can bring complexities that make it difficult for a customer to grasp. This can be a make-or-break moment for operators retaining players in an age where engagement is vital.

Bringing simplicity to the next generation of slots’ was the first panel discussion of SBC’s Digital Innovation – Casino Day on April 17, sponsored by Soft2Bet, which discussed this topic and the argument of simplicity vs complexity in the slots landscape.

Moderated by SlotBeats’ Danny Lee, the panel featured Laura Petrauska, Head of Casino at Bet99; Steve Degiorgio, Director of Gaming Revenue at Enlabs; Matthew Curtis, Head of Responsible Gaming at L&L Europe; Mike Cini, Owner of ELA Games; and Hans Erland Ringsvold, Head of Gaming Operations at Norsk Tipping.

Simple vs complex

When Lee proposed the question of player preferences to the panel between simple and complex slots, Curtis argued that it is the former that has the biggest appeal and is the current leader in the market.

He stated: “The average gambler tends to stick with what they know, dipping their toes into something new, but more often than not, they seem to come back to playing what they played originally, what they know and love.

“The more complex something is, the harder it can be to understand or comprehend, and given the nature of gambling involving losses, I doubt many customers are willing to play enough of a new product just to simply build a comprehensive understanding of it. This point of a lack of understanding is relevant for the whole industry, from consumers to operators and even regulators as well. 

“In my opinion, simplicity seems to still draw the masses, especially when it also manages to be innovative.”

Curtis noted that new products tend to be more attractive during their inception, before slipping to a more realistic overview, giving an example of crash games as fitting that narrative in the online casino space. “Simplicity still reigns supreme ultimately,” he concluded.

Cini jumped in to offer a provider perspective, stating that established providers have “a lot more options” but those that are newer to the market are better off following the guideline of “keep it simple” by supplying games that are entertaining and engaging.

Petrauska highlighted the need for “balance” when it comes to supplying customers with simple slots they know and complex games to introduce something new.

She said: “You don’t want to have too many overly simplified games, but you don’t want to have too many overly complex games where experienced players don’t know what they need to look for, so I think you want to find that perfect balance where it is still simple enough to understand but offers exciting features.

“For a complex slot, the key element is education. If you offer new features, how do you educate the players? From the provider’s standpoint, you don’t want an intro screen with 10 pages to explain how the slot features work because no one has time for that. People want to play games to have fun.”

Degiorgio agreed with the balance element as well, noting that there isn’t a one-size-fits-all solution, as there are different types of players, markets and jurisdictions which need to be accounted for, but also complex slots do appeal to some customers.

He said: “I think it is important, especially from an operator’s perspective, to have that balance. You need a nice, varied portfolio of games to cater for a varied audience. 

However, Degiorgio also spotlighted that some customers do find complex slots appealing and these customers need to be catered for.

“We do see there is an appeal for complex games as there are various websites out there that have specific categories catering for these particular games and features, which there is demand for.”

Ringsvold rounded off the player preference topic by emphasising that a “diverse portfolio and a mix of products” is what is needed to attract customers to an operator’s online casino platform, before doubling down on Curtis’ point about new releases being hot on debut before usually simmering down.

“It’s quite hard to be a sticky, top-25 product. That’s certainly a benchmark for anyone to try and reach. A lack of innovation within the industry as such means it is quite hard to just do another game, another fruit machine or another simple slot.

“What we tend to see, in Norway at least, is that entertainment games and attractive visual games have a tendency to easily fall into the top-25, rather than just a copy of another game.”

Sustainable growth

Later on in the panel, Lee turned the topic of discussion to how operators can make sure they prioritise responsible gambling when they are curating an online casino platform that is going to be profitable. Can offering more complex slots lead to higher revenues than a portfolio of simpler slots?

Ringsvold responded by saying that if the industry is going to grow, it must look to grow sustainably, stating: “If we are to grow, I think we need to grow in a sustainable way, without necessarily impacting responsible gambling measures or KPIs in the wrong direction.” 

He continued: “We all know how much of our GGR comes from the top five per cent of our top-paying customers. Even with our loss limits, we see a fair share of this. Imagine what it would be like without any loss limits. 

“Innovation is needed, and I think complexity, as well as time played and entertainment factors as drivers for the market are some ways of growing without impacting RG in the wrong measures.”

Degiorgio expressed that “sustainable revenue” is one of the most important factors for an operator to prioritise alongside responsible gambling for “healthy business growth”, highlighting other methods that could be used such as portfolio positioning, loyalty mechanisms, as well as a vast and varied offering.

Curtis doubled down on Degiorgio’s sustainability message, to which operators can make sure customers are not dissatisfied with an offering and that he doesn’t see how operators with a complex offering can win out against a competitor which has “simplistic games that people know and love”.

Petrauska also highlighted the need for operators to have “balance” by monitoring player behaviour and providing customers with the tools they need to play responsibly and enjoy the offering.

“Platform and the content we offer is one part. The other part is education, offering players responsible gambling risk assessments, providing them with all the tools and also monitoring their behaviour for new betting patterns and average deposit amounts increasing without big wins.

“We want long-term players. We want players that stick around. We want for them to become retaining customers and enjoy the perks in the long run.”

Several other topics were discussed during the panel session, including player protection research, responsibility with complex slots and bonus buys.

To watch the full ‘Bringing simplicity to the next generation of slots’ panel, click here.