During the SBC Summit Barcelona in September, Eyas Gaming’s Head of Product, Jack Anthony, shared his thoughts on slot game mechanics. According to him, it is “the most important part of why a game is good or bad.”
In the Summit’s “Let’s Talk Mechanics” panel, he noted that slot-machine studios are invariably “competing for people’s free time”. This frustration led him to express his annoyance with the number of titles he receives that are centered around the bombardment of mechanic titles “every week.”
The panel’s moderator, Jessica Welman – Editor at SBC Americas, asked Eyas’ Head of Product how to maintain a competitive edge in a saturated market. To which he had noted that copycat mechanics titles were making him “less and less excited” about games these days.
He remarked: “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 Eyes 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.”
When Welman continued to push Anthony on his failure to recognize the identical 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 Tik Tok, 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.”
Asko Heiskanen, Head of Game Studio at Veikkaus, compared the artistry required to make slot machines to that involved in creating music, saying that there is no set timetable for this process, which may take anywhere from a day to five years. Heiskanen emphasized the significance of understanding your customer base when developing 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 remarked.
“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 said that game makers should be able to harness the technology available today in order to better understand players and their preferences, enabling companies to “really understand what makes our players tick”.
Heiskanen argued that reusing established mechanics can be a “door-opener” for new games—since gamers will already know the style of gameplay they’ll expect providing developers “a better chance of catching the audience than doing a game with no branding at all.”
Heiskanen acknowledged the increasing presence of megaways in his response to Anthony’s disregard by stating, 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 discussion dealing with the reason why so many games are now imitating each other and using similar game mechanics, Heiskanen quickly pointed out that while revamping the gaming industry might seem like a good idea to some people—it’s actually quite skeptical, unclear and cannot assure success and remarked 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
This innovative mechanic—the crash game genre, which is making waves in the igaming scene with an abundance of new releases—was mentioned favorably by Heiskanen when Welman asked them about their attitudes towards crash titles.
“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 emphasized the importance of knowing whether or not your target audience will respond to such mechanics. He told: “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.”
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