The Dynamics of Gambler Selection and Online Slot Prospects
The world of online casinos has evolved considerably over the last two decades, with many of its different elements having taken many sophisticated strides forward, leveraging advancements in technology to do so, therefore increasing the quality of player experience.
One area in particular that has borne witness to change is that of online slots, arguably the most popular niche in the industry from a user perspective.
Compared to two decades ago, live online casinos offer games from more software providers than ever before. This has led to fresh ideas on how to adapt, some software providers have become specialists at creating certain types of slots and have developed a reputation for doing so. Meanwhile, some are considered to be boutique and, as a result, are smaller in size, which leads to a quick turnaround.
Online slots are played by millions all around the world in multiple countries, though there are some slots that are more popular in certain markets, while cultural preferences often have a lot to do with this as well. Of course, there are software providers that are based in many different countries - Scandinavia in particular proving to be a magnet for the iGaming industry.
As such, we take a look at what players now prefer from an online slots and how this can impact not only their experience but also their decision-making process.
Slot Symbol Values in Online Casinos
Of course, symbols are the fundamental ingredients in an online slot; essentially, they cannot function without them. However, from a player's perspective, for those who really understand how online slots work they may pay a lot of attention to how many symbols there are and, crucially, what the payouts are.
It is often the case that slots have low-paying and high-paying symbols - usually between four and five each.
For low paying symbols, these are usually depicted as either royal playing cards (10, J, Q, K A) or the four playing card suits (Hearts, Diamonds, Clubs, Spades). The requirement is often to get five of a kind of these to trigger a payout. However, some slots have payouts for three or more of a kind. Because they are low-paying symbols, it is common for these to have a low payout, usually no more than 2x your stake.
High-paying symbols are often in line with the theme of the slot itself, and there isn't necessarily a limit; the median amount for the highest payout of these symbols generally tends to be around 15x your stake for getting five of the most valuable ones.
However, what appears to be the case is that symbol values are linked to slot volatility levels. Slots with a lower volatility level, which means frequent payouts for lower amounts, will usually have lower-value symbols.
This can be great to keep a player's bankroll steady until they can unlock the slot’s bonus features; however, the amounts that they win won't make much of a difference.
For more seasoned players, there is a suggestion that slots with higher-paying symbols and, therefore, a high volatility level are more attractive. It is common to come across slots that have a payout of 20x even for lining up five low-paying symbols and upwards of 100x for matching five high-paying symbols. It is easy to see the attraction.
Do Bonus Features Make a Difference?
Every online slot has a bonus feature of some type. There are those that have just one (these are either older or designed for novices), while there are others that have a series.
In virtually every slot, the bonus features are the attraction for players - especially those that have a low volatility level. Bonuses come in all forms, though the most common are free spins. Often times the way to trigger these bonuses is to land three scatter symbols at the same time on reels one, three and five - this hasn't really changed for a number of years.
Some online slots offer free spin rounds, they have variables depending on how creative the game is. It could be anything from landing a wild, which activates a payout of 2x or having the chance to unlock a bonus game where you can win a jackpot.
There are some slots that can payout as much as 20,000x your stake during a bonus round for winning the ultimate or progressive jackpot, though even free spins can make a difference. It could be the case that during a free spin round, you only need to line up two matching symbols for a win, or all the payouts for winning combinations are tripled.
What appears to be the case now is that more experienced players, at least, prefer slots that are more creative with their bonus features because this can lead to higher winnings.
Role of Themes and Gameplay in Online Casino Slots
For even some of the more experienced players, the theme of a slot will certainly play a part because this can be a contributory factor as to how much they enjoy playing. A lot of players usually choose slot games based on their interests, and some software providers have built up a reputation focusing on a certain type of theme, such as movies.
Slots where there is a central protagonist, are also favorites with slot players. As such, the protagonist might be embarking on a quest of some sort, and as the journey or gameplay progresses, it leads to being able to unlock new features or higher payouts when you achieve a task in the form of some kind of winning combination.
In line with this, getting winning combinations could mean you collect a series of icons that are central to the game's theme, and this can become addictive for players as they are focused on getting a full collection.
Slots that are based on a particular theme have a certain draw to them because they increase the level of excitement that players feel while they are engaged.
Also, for those players who are new to playing online slots and, as a result, do not know too much about symbol payouts or bonuses, the theme can play a big part in drawing them in and keeping their attention.
Will Gamification Start to Play a Part?
Already, we are starting to see software providers innovate further, introducing new and exciting elements to the slots that they develop. Gamification in casinos is certainly one of those features that software providers have recognised as key to continuing to attract but also retain players.
Gamified slots are already proving to be popular, with it including elements such as leaderboards so that players can see where they rank against others in terms of the progress they make in the slot and the winnings that they accumulate. There are slots that include this, whereby prizes are offered to players who are top of a leaderboard at the end of a week or even a month.
It is likely that slot gamification will become even more important to players moving forward, especially to the next generation of slot players, and the marketing possibilities are effectively endless.
While there is still some way to go from a gamification perspective - certainly until it becomes a lot more widespread, we are already seeing considerable traction in this new type of niche.
Evolution of Online Slots over the Last Two Decades
Initially, the first slots that were developed by software providers, were limited - technology often having an impact on how advanced that they could be. It was common to see many online slots designed around a basic framework, which depicted a classic slot (fruit) machine. They would effectively use all of the same symbols, such as cherries, bars and 777s, while bonus features would be considerably limited.
As technology moved on, this has increased the capabilities of how slots can be designed, with HTML5 software now being the industry standard, which has a lot more flexibility around it.
Advancements in mobile technology have also meant that software providers can be a lot more creative with how they develop slots and the types of features that they can implement.
Every software provider also now adopts a 'mobile first' approach, so there is now a lot more emphasis on the graphical elements of slot development.
Stake levels have also become a lot more flexible as a way of attracting more players. There are now slots that allow players to gamble from as little as $0.10 per spin and up to as much as $250. As a result, it takes into account players of all experience levels and budgets.
Technical aspects such as RTP (Return-to-Player) rate and volatility levels have also become a lot more flexible, again, to cater for different abilities. With an increase in lower volatility slots available now, it means that this is often more attractive for those who do not have as much experience, and these are usually linked with lower stake levels.
Ultimately, due to the ever-increasing size of the online slots market, it is likely that we will see online slots continue to evolve to cater for player demand over the next few years. Software providers will invest more in market research and analytics to measure the popularity of the kind of slot games that players like and then act accordingly when it comes to creating new slots. What is for sure is that what players look for will continue to evolve.