Quality vs quantity: ‘players will decide at the end of the day’

As slot developers and providers continue to release a seemingly never ending volume of new content, the constant cycle of developing new ideas, designs, branding and gameplay continues to revolve.

However, it leaves a question as to whether these innovations are attracting new player demographics, and if so, what scope there is for the localisation of certain slot titles to cater for the differing tastes across global markets. 

As part of a panel session entitled ‘Diversifying the slots audience through design’ – sponsored by BetConstruct – on the first day of the CasinoBeats Summit, panel experts delved into what is being done to attract new player demographics via design, branding and gameplay. 

Moderator, Aideen Shortt, founder and CEO at Lilywhite, asked the panel’s thoughts on issues regarding slots – to which Helen Walton, CCO of Gluck Games, responded by explaining how difficult it is to persuade developers and suppliers when a new audience is needed whilst still making money and continued revenue growth. 

She explained: “There’s always a problem in any industry, if you are becoming ever more reliant on a smaller group of people it leads you into the classic innovator’s dilemma where you’re doing incremental innovation based on that highly valuable audience – but that audience is shrinking. I honestly believe that that’s what we’re seeing in online slots, even though it’s being disguised by the fact that retail is moving online.”

Following on from Walton, Jan Urbanec, CEO of Endorphina, acknowledged that “there is still a lot of room in providing a standard and reliable service” as he put it down to quantity versus quality, noting that “players will decide it at the end of the day” adding “I’m sure that there is a very good niche right now that can go into mainstream”.

When asked about the expiration of the popularity of online slots, Lloyd Purser, COO at Funfair Tech, explained that after seeing the types of games being played in the market by non-slot-players, it came to light that the audience was younger and looking for a different experience. This led to the integration of multiplayer, community-driven video gaming experiences rather than the design of traditional slots. 

He added: “If you think about the younger gambling audiences coming through, they’ve really been exposed to social collaborative, online video gaming experiences for their whole life.”

In contrast, Walton noted that there are players who prefer a simple traditional slot in which there’s no need to disrupt that by adding additional features, however, she also acknowledged that “that is a relatively small part of the population.”

She concluded by reverting back to Purser’s point in that in order to attract new slot players, it comes down to “what are the different games, what are the different features that appeal to that non-traditional not yet a slots player?”

Pressed on how the need for tradition is matched with the need for innovation, Urbanec explained that by doing the aforementioned of enticing new players with designs inspired by high-budget video games that can take years to develop “they are aiming from point X to point X plus million”. 

He continued by explaining that while these games entail the player making active decisions, there are people out there with high-pressure jobs who prefer the simple traditional slot titles where the only decision they have to make is their bet size. 

He concluded: “I’m 100 per cent sure that there is always room for people that want a random chance of winning without them putting in extra effort. It’s human nature.”

Purser added that with the simple slots, “the excitement and the entertainment is in the gamble itself”. 

Following on, Walton noted that “One of the things that I think slots has been quite bad in the past is segmenting its player base. We’ve just seen people kind of go, okay, there’s low volatility, there’s medium volatility and there’s high volatility and then maybe there’s thematic segmentation as well, which is a rotten way to segment your customer base. 

“We should be looking at behavioral segmentation much more than socioeconomic – whether it’s that someone wants to relax or whether somebody wants anticipation, somebody wants to compete, or somebody wants to be entertained. And certainly we have data that shows us that exploring some of those segments more fully could be extremely profitable.”

Moving onto the longer term plan of a game, Urbanec explained that “you need to know where you are right now and obviously you have to behave in a way that your current customers expect you to behave because some kind of predictability is a very good business plan. But at the end of the day, if we stay put where we are, we are going to die.”

He added: “It’s small things that we are focusing on right now because unfortunately the slots’ success locks you in some place and it’s very hard to make a big jump somewhere else.”

The panel also discussed working alongside operators to make new ventures work, finding the right point at which to do a launch and the challenges of selling niche and innovative games. 

The CasinoBeats Summit 2021 conference and exhibition on 14-15 July takes place in an innovative integrated live and digital format. A select audience of senior executives will attend in person at the InterContinental in St Julian’s, Malta, while a global audience of industry professionals will participate in the event online. 

The conference agenda focuses on the next generation of slots and products, key established and emerging markets around the world, leadership in igaming, and marketing and affiliation. The programme also includes the inaugural Game Developer Awards ceremony. 

Register for a free online pass for the event at the CasinoBeats Summit website.

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