Although they are rarely the average casino customer’s favourite product, online slots still play a vital role in an operator’s product offering. Providing the customer with a diverse portfolio of games will always help to keep engagement levels high. During the first round of lockdowns, we saw an unprecedented online spike, which helped struggling operators to continue generating income when more popular products like sports betting were not readily available.
We spoke with Levan Kavtaradze, Head of Casino at Pokermatch.com, and core member of the education faculty at Gaming Operations Academy, to get a better understanding of what we can do, as an industry, to improve our online slots offering and whether the spike in activity we experienced during lockdown is a trend that will continue into the future.
How did the lockdown impact the popularity of online slots? Was it boosted by the lack of live sports and is this trend likely to continue in the future?
“When we talk about lockdown, we must take into consideration that this doesn’t happen often. People are often not prepared for such big life changes and this is a stressful situation for everyone.
Gambling is fun, even the most active gamblers tell themselves that they’re risking everything just for that element. The majority of casino users are these fun players, who will come to the casino or visit the online website when they want entertainment.
So, if lockdown is stressful and gambling is fun, in my opinion, Covid19 could not make people play more or begin to play for the first time.
From my perspective, the lockdown has made short-term customer relationship management functions. During the first stages of lockdown, online casinos have seen a very good natural reactivation number of churned players.
Of course, there were some products that stopped accumulating profit, like sports betting and offline casinos, and there were products that showed record revenues, like Online poker and some player-to-player games.
Online slots are very rarely the number one product for casino customers, as they usually have another favourite product where they spend most of their time.
Stopping of sports events and closing offline casinos – for sure brought some extra customers to online slots, but this trend was short term and it stopped very quickly. I do not see any perspectives of online slots growing because of pandemic factors, this product will grow organically for completely different reasons, not connected to sports betting, nor to lockdown.”
As the popularity of slot games continues to increase, how can operators increase the profitability of their slot’s products going forward?
“I would not say that all slot games and providers are increasing scientifically, the majority of slot providers are growing too slow or earn less due to the big competitive market.
Slot games continue to increase only if they are high quality and have good marketing support from the customer side.
Casino operators have the opportunity to get all the slot games and providers portfolio via different sale channels. If their management team would work properly, take a survey on current market trends and study customer behaviour, they may be able to sell slot games to players in a proper way.
Slot players are very special customers, they don’t like to make quick changes in their portfolios and will rarely invest real money in testing new slot games. If an online casino team receives a new and high-quality game with a perspective to become popular on market, they have to do quite a big marketing and CRM job to make customers enjoy the game.
Key factors for increasing slot game profitability are:
- High-quality slot visuals and mechanics
- Local and international trends of advertising the slot game and it’s potential
- Local CRM activity for letting players test the slots for free (Deposit offer with free spins on a specific game for example).
- Timing for getting results after several weeks or months.”
What growth potential do you think online slots can provide in new regions such as Africa where mobile penetration is growing fast but data is still relatively expensive? Are data lite games available for these markets?
“Online slots are a very difficult product for understanding and adopting, especially for markets which do not have a big gambling history and have low technological standards. Usually in such markets, the first products are classic gambling offers live, virtual roulette, sports betting and some easy card games or bingo. And only after passing a few development steps, the operator can think of bringing a full portfolio of online slot games, and over time, have it as a major income maker.
Online data cases are the most important one, especially mobile data. Major income from gambling products like sports betting, casino and online slots are already coming from mobile phones and this trend will just grow and never stop. If the target market has expensive mobile data services, it will for sure bring big problems for low deposit customers, but it won’t seriously affect customers with medium+ depositing ability – they will always have enough data and technical instruments to enjoy gambling.
Online slots are not a kind of product where you need to have all players together, like in poker, I do not see a serious problem with online data for those companies that are going to target regions like Africa with online slots, sports betting or casino products.”
What new innovations in the online slots sector are you most excited about?
“Online slots are changing day by day, and even when I am answering your question, maybe they have published some new game that can change the market.
We see that there are 3 kinds of changes and only 2 of them are effective:
- Some providers are issuing new games with old mechanics and RTP – this is a waste of time
- Some providers are working on bringing new mechanics and ideas for slots, like, Big Time Gaming, Red Tiger, Yggdrasill, ELK, Play’n Go – they are doing good and because of them, the online slot market is growing up.
- Some providers just copy paste what others have done – this is not the best way for a slot provider
While monitoring some local and international markets, I have observed what will not work in slots anymore:
- Huge Jackpot systems with a very small chance of frequent hitting – the new generation just don’t trust them
- Classic Fruit games with old fashioned design and Medium volatility.
- Old developed games with bad visuals and not effective mobile client support.
- Slots with bad sound background.
- Slots with slow play modes.
Some days ago, I decided to try out my new notebook with amazing tools and downloaded Grand Theft Auto V (GTA V), which is one of the hardest games from a technical point of view. Last time I played a video game was maybe 15 years or so ago; I still remember how difficult it was for me to pass some missions and I had no choice but to skip them – all of this took a lot of energy. While playing GTA V I noticed that after 3 failed mission tries the game offered me to skip the mission and move to a new one – and I was very pleased and shocked how the game has changed.
Slot players are adults that are enjoying endorphins while playing risky video slot games. In the majority of cases, this profile wants satisfaction from playing slots as they did it when playing video games or any other games. Players want to see what is happening in the next round, see what the potential of the game is etc.
In online slot language, this means:
- Make slots where players can buy a bonus and try different types. This helps them see the potential of slots.
- Make powerful visuals and try to make the game less classic but not too difficult.
- Make games with the perfect sounds so that the customer can feel the slot atmosphere.
- Make slots with the potential of higher than average wins, new customers like to see good wins.”
Editor’s Note: Levan clearly understands that the online slots market is a crowded space. It evidently has potential for growth but not at the same astronomical levels we saw during last year’s lockdown. Nevertheless, the potential is solid, but still not as fast-paced as some of it’s more traditional product counterparts eg. Live Casino.
Levan believes the growth will only come with high-quality games and strong marketing support from the customer side. There are, however, many ways to go about this as has been briefly outlined above. If you want to know more about great ways to improve your online slots strategy, then be sure to join one of Levan’s comprehensive workshops as part of the Gaming Operators Academy Network. Click here for more details.