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First lessons in slots: Lessons #1 to #3
Lesson #1 What’s in a Name?
My first education in slots was working for Playtech’s Content Unit for 3 years, where I created more than 80 slot game design documents. Everything I know about how slots work comes from there.
But sometimes there are surprising lessons.
As is done in all big companies, they had a few reskin games with the same exact math. But one of those games was doing so disproportionately better than the others – it was so popular that something strange was going on.
The difference, in this case, was in the name. The max jackpot win was in the winning line.
That was it. That was the difference. Even though all the other games had the same max jackpot win, the fact that players saw it in front of their eyes made all the difference.
That is a lesson I never forgot.
Lesson #2: The Meaning of the Symbols
We all know that the symbols in slots are important, but what is the actual meaning behind them? Why do players need specific symbols and not others? What do they mean for the players?
Quite early on in my career I sought the reactions of many of the players and in their responses I noticed a theme: Their experience is that they sink and lose themselves inside a world.
The reason they can play for 7 hours straight with the same 5 images around a theme and 5 Royals is that for them the images/symbols represent a world, and they feel like they disappear into that world and sink into it.
Remember that their experience is much different from your experience.
So there were two lessons from this:
1) Make sure that the symbols take as many aspects of the world/theme as possible and represent all its sides.
2) It is better to have the low symbols as thematic symbols than Royals (in most cases), since that allows the players to delve deeper into that world.
Lesson #3: The Meaning of the Royals
One of the shocking revelations that came through discussions with players was how they saw slots with Royals (A, K, Q, J, 10) vs. slots with theme-related symbols rather than Royals.
Players described the games without Royals as more graphically rich and liked them more. That is how I realized that slots without Royals allow players to sink deeper into the world of the theme and to disappear further into the meditative state while playing.
Since, classically, almost all slot games used Royals, making the change, and convincing companies to try and make the change, was usually rough. But it almost always worked, creating better retention.
That is not to say you should never use Royals. When you want your slot to feel truly classic, like a slot from the 80’s or 90’s, that is the time to use them.
In the next few articles, I’ll share some of my other lessons in slots.
Guy Hasson worked for Playtech for three years before becoming Playtika’s content manager, responsible for the content of Slotomania and Caesars Casino. He is now a social slot consultant, specializing in game popularity.