With slots content more immersive and engaging than ever, the bonus journey approach which has been established and proven in the UK is now gaining momentum and mass market appeal across Europe, argues Blueprint Gaming managing director Matt Cole.
A new breed of slot game has evolved from what was an easy-to-play product simply delivering a result, to becoming one of the most engaging gaming experiences available on the market.
They are a far cry from the basic free spin models which had been a common theme for so long after the switch from mechanical to digital across the pond in the US land-based market.
Not that the US hasn't seen massive innovation and R&D investment, but currently the European online market for game delivery is competitive and fast moving, broadly resulting in a very high quality of game and exciting level of risk in game design and innovation.
The diversified thinking from smaller game studios is often leading this creative push.
Innovation, however, is the easy part. The harder piece comes with making such new mechanics easily accessible to players, while having the depth that gives games the longevity of appeal and commercial success.
Add in the need for all the other game elements and it’s clear, science and art combine.
In a market where over 500 games are released a year, and established firm favourites absorb much of the play, there are more similarities to the social market than to the traditional land-based in terms of the dynamics of success.
Where the multi-bonus category fits into the rapidly evolving landscape is that it’s consistently proven to be a formula that resonates with the player base over the longer term.
With so many new games being released, the traditional style free spin games are struggling to compete. These maths models need significant player investment to understand the return and this is more difficult in a mobile first, high-volume release climate.
As such, established legacy games seem likely to be here for the foreseeable future, while new similar games are finding it hard to become established.
One key factor for the success of the UK market has been the way in which games take the user on a journey, through a storyline of multiple bonus rounds.
This level of depth doesn't exist in other game categories and throughout the industry the game style has been established and proven in the UK, but is now gaining momentum and a following in other areas of Europe.
The Northern European markets’ demand for a combination of high production value and engagement, combined with a core gambling experience is proving a strong fit for the category.
From a segment perspective, there are a variety of bonus games that fit better in bingo vs. casino vs. sportsbook, but the general appeal is across the board of the lower staking player base.
With a backdrop of heightened focus on AML and source of funds, the mass market, not higher value players, is the place where it makes sense to be, and to make games for.
For a period, there were fears among designers that HTML5 technology would limit the output within the bonus category and have a negative impact on the gaming experience.
The phased switch from Flash to HTML5 was a painful period for all suppliers, but once we entered a HTML5-only world, capabilities accelerated at an extremely high rate, and it has now become a more-than-viable language for designers to create high-value production games.
The results have seen the level of excitement these games offer increase several degrees, which is proven in the depths of gameplay in slots such as King Kong Cash.
A brave new world
Our first ever online launch with Viz back in 2009 was built on the principles of player interaction and humorous content, a model which proved highly successful in the UK land-based sector.
This game still performs today, but as we approach version 20 of the model much has changed. TED has been a perfect storm of a proven game mechanic moved on a step. Essentially, a relevant brand with that humorous element that was present back in Viz.
The popularity of online slots is at an all-time high. Advancements in technology are driving a more immersive user experience, while the creative minds behind the game design are ensuring the new releases are appealing to a mass audience.
With an appetite for games full of multiple features and engaging content from players across Europe, now is the time for operators to bank on bonuses.
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