The incredibly fast development of online gambling has completely transformed the world of risk-taking. Gambling has become more accessible; and in a way, more affordable too. Nowadays, it is just several clicks away from the average player! Maybe in the future, historians will finally come up with an answer to these simple questions: “How and why did gambling become one of the fastest growing segments of the world economy at the beginning of the 21st century?” and “Why did online slots turn out to be the engine of this development?”
Online gambling is steadily growing at a rate of 10-12% a year; and it is estimated that in terms of total revenue, the milestone of $60 billion has been already reached. And this progress is pretty much down to online slots! Land-based casinos have reported that over the past 15 years, the proportion of revenue they have generated from slot machines has decreased to about 30% or so. But online casinos are still seeing a real boost to their revenue from their exciting slot game options! It is quite difficult to reliably estimate the numbers; but it is safe to say that online slots generate 50-60% of the total online casino uptake.
Bearing all these figures in mind, together with all the impacts, influences and implications involved, you should not think of online slot gambling purely in terms of fun, amusement, entertainment, gaming, risk-taking or anything else like this. Because the truth is, online slots have actually become an increasingly important segment of the world economy. But the question still is: why?
Well perhaps, at least one part of the answer can be found in the slot game itself – how it is designed, developed, and built.
Some slot games are quite sophisticated, and require up to one year of development. It is worth mentioning that the development team generally consists of 10-12 people. This includes game designers and testers; programmers and front-end developers; visual artists and graphic designers; sometimes even a sound engineer; and of course, a project manager to run the whole process.
Yes, the game they work on is a project requiring a full array of distinct project management activities and efforts, including marketing. Even though the slot machine games are certainly not developed from scratch and many standardized solutions have already been applied, creating a game still means a lot of work for the team. But what makes this work really different is the creative side!
In the beginning, there is a lot of work to be done in terms of market research, analyzing the target groups of the players, statistics, and demographics, and then the direction of any further work to be completed by the creative and product specialists. There is always a lot of creative brainstorming as the team develops some concepts, such as slot content, game design and themes, web components, and indeed the general direction of the process of game development.
Modern slots are deeply bound up with themes. Theme selection is one of the first things to be done: such as whether the game is going to be centered around architecture, history, ancient, medieval or modern period, past or modern life; or maybe a futuristic or fantasy concept of worlds yet unseen. In a way, it is a kind of world-building exercise; one where the world of this particular game has to be created. So this element relates to what they are going to show. Another important question is how they are going to show it: the tone, the mood, the atmosphere, the kind of emotional and visual associations they are going to evoke.
This entire process of world-building, and the consistent and economical manner in which it is accomplished, surely represents one of our biggest clues to help us understand why some of the most successful slot games have been able to win such a wide and devoted audience. For once this imaginary world has finally been built, the gamer can get involved in a very specific kind of storytelling activity, which is framed by this specific world – even without knowing that the story is actually just being told by the gambling reels! Because after all, this is how human perception really works: often enough, by the suspension of disbelief!
The variety of slot games currently available for online players is so broad that you can pretty much always find a similarly themed slot game that is already on the market. But the question of how to deliver this theme to the players, in order to gain an advantage over the competing gaming product and to attract the attention of the target group, is a very hot topic. And it’s getting hotter by the day! But ultimately, when all’s said and done, it’s the creativity of the team that is truly decisive: because if the team are indeed truly creative and gifted developers, then the particular game of chance the team are working on is sure to have much better chances than most!
The mood of the game is closely related to the theme, and it largely contributes to the unique character of the gaming product being developed. The moods also vary a lot, as the styles selected for the game can be very different: cartoon-like, funny and entertaining, more realistic or artistic, or of any other kind of graphic design and art that is applicable to such games. But apart from all this, it is also very important to pay due attention to the “semantic charge” of the imagery that is used for different bonuses. I.e., the bonuses should all have clear symbolic significance, with each example bringing to mind an exciting array of feelings and associations.
Bonuses are a very meaningful and entertaining part of the gameplay of online slots. There have been many slot game developments that have diversified the bonuses quite a lot; this includes numerous exciting twists and turns, such as initiating free spins, bonus rounds or unlocking specific features. The developers generally try to tie associate the function of each bonus to the design of the corresponding images the players are eagerly awaiting; because as soon as you see one of these images, your chances of winning are about to improve dramatically!
For example, the old concept of wild, i.e. the symbol that is able to replace the others in order to create a wider range of winning combinations, has been developed further; bringing, in turn, a much wider diversity of functions. So now we have many kinds of wilds, like expanding, multiplying, duplicating, staking, sticky, spreading, etc. Spreading wilds can move across the entire board, sticky ones remain stacked up for a certain time just where they land, multiplying ones multiply the wins, and so on.
The vast range of bonuses out there does oblige developers to create an appropriate graphic design to help make the image intuitively comprehensible, while still fitting in with the more general visual theme of the game. The wild category is just one example of how complicated and highly integrated the development process for online slots has become over time.
The same relates to scatters – the symbols triggering bonus spins. They greatly increase the player’s chances of winning. And in modern slot games, they are also designed to a very high standard; especially in the premium segment of the market!
Branded games represent a serious challenge for developers. Such games are specifically “topic-bound,” and the topic itself is the main element of the technical design specification. For example, you might see a game related to such brands as a certain movie or TV show, a cartoon, popular music or a musician. All the imagery, styles, visual and sound effects and functionality of such games must be closely related to this particular brand.
The development team don’t just need to make a close study of the particular cultural product their game is based on – they also need to really master this material and understand its important nuances, in order to create a relevant game plan that the players are definitely going to appreciate. The fans of this specific cultural brand – film, show or music – are the target group, so the game developers do need to know everything about this brand, every bit as much as the fans. Because only by doing this, can the team ensure the branded game they are working on will be a real success!
Slot games have already been around for a long time; and a lot of effort, creativity, and analysis have been used to help us better understand what makes a particular slot game successful. However, there is still no simple answer to this question.
Since the very beginning, online slot machine development has resembled a race. Developers have been trying to offer a better product to compete for the attention of the players. So they are always trying to release more and more appealing games, in order to ensure that the players will play for longer, return to the game they played once, and share their positive gaming experiences with each other. This, in turn, has led to the introduction of more sophisticated and visually appealing games.
But in the end, the money a specific game generates has ended up being more a matter of its long-term popularity, rather than its complexity, or the richness of its design features. Both simple and more complex games can be equally popular. And same applies to the risk variance level – high, medium and low-risk level slot games can still get their dedicated players!
The explanation to this is that perhaps the diversity of the categories of the players who are shaping and segmenting the market. The demand for a certain slot game is something that is very difficult to plan for in advance. In most cases, this is simply a factor that builds up as the game is offered more and more to its target groups; and yet, even within a certain group, there can be considerable differences in terms of how the customers respond. It is not possible to fully and accurately predict whether the risk-takers are going to appreciate this particular new slot machine or not. Quite ironically, this makes slot game development a risk-taking adventure, too; especially given the level of competition, which is obviously growing over time!
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