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Slot players’ consumer habits have changed in recent years, a fact that has been “blindly ignored” by many game development studios.

That’s according to James Curwen (pictured right), the CEO of slot developer and aggregator Yggdrasil. 

In conversation with NEXT.io, alongside Yggdrasil commercial director Jose Kadala (pictured left), the executive explained why today’s slot players want something different, but many studios have failed to sit up and take notice.

Super volatile is so last year

According to Curwen, one trend that has come and gone over the past few years is a tendency towards extreme volatility in slots, meaning big jackpots but a smaller number of more achievable prizes for players.

“The market has changed – so the time of super high volatility, only big wins, 400 spins into a bonus round – those days are over,” he said.

Understanding consumer trends and what players want is key to developing the right entertainment products for the market, he explained, adding that Yggdrasil has undertaken extensive research to get under the skin of today’s slot players.

“The post-Covid research we did on customer behaviour shows that millennials, who are now the highest spending age group, live for the moment,” he explained. “They’re travelling more, they’re saying that they want to work remotely – they’re more demanding of their own time. 

“So they splurge, and what that means is that they’re looking for short bursts of entertainment.”

That tendency towards short-form content in entertainment and media has also translated into the world of online gambling, Curwen suggested.

“The behaviours we see show that they need an equal mix of achievable prices and aspirational prizes. Achievable prizes are actually now high up on their list of reasons to play, because you can get lots of wins all the time.”

Cut to the chase

Indeed, there are plenty of good reasons why game developers should aim to make their slot games pay out to players with a relatively high frequency.

In the past, Curwen explained, “a new game would come out, and people would give it 200 spins to see if they liked it. But now, they give it 50. 

“If you cannot grab a customer’s attention within the first 50 spins, you haven’t got a game that’s going to stick. 

“And that’s the number one fundamental change now, and it’s something that we’ve discussed at length. We need to look at ‘stickiness’ within 20 spins, because customers play for such a short period of time now.”

With bite-sized entertainment becoming increasingly ever-present across traditional and social media, the competition to capture consumers’ attention is fiercer than ever.

It should perhaps come as no surprise then that customers no longer want to spend hours on the same old slot game before it pays out its first prize.

“I think the players have changed and the way they consume content has changed,” said commercial director Kadala on the matter.

“You’ve got to grab their attention pretty early on, and show them the opportunities that are in the game and hopefully get them engaged in the right way. 

“So the entry level to the game is crucial and I think that first 25 to 50 spins is really important to get rolling.”

Better by design

In order to best serve customers’ needs and deliver the experiences they want, slot games must be meticulously designed down to the smallest individual detail.

“Because of the choice they have now, players can be far more selective,” Kadala explained.

“For me, the process actually starts at the casino lobby – a lot of it starts at the thumbnail and having a ‘curb appeal’ to draw the player in, to click and get into the game.

“Even pre-spin one, we do a lot of work on our games. We look at the loading times, and all the key information we want the players to be aware of before they press spin for the first time. 

“Then we look at that first 25-50 spin sequence and think: how can we grab the player’s attention? How can we inform and educate the player? How can we keep them engaged and involved? How can we make it fun? How can we tease some of the key features in the game, so they understand the value proposition?”

Driven by data

Of course, slot development studios may constantly ask themselves how they can continue to improve their work, but ultimately they need to measure the results if they are to identify which games are most successful and why.

For Yggdrasil, Curwen explains: “Data is key in everything that we do – not just looking at our in-game data but also for analysing the way that we work, how efficient we are in our work, how efficiently we build content, how efficient our engineers and the commercial team are, data is at heart of all of those things. 

“And if you’re not looking at it, you’re falling behind, because you won’t see the problems until it’s too late.”

The failure of some game developers to effectively track and interpret that data could easily be their downfall in the future, Curwen suggests.

“The customers have changed and this is the most important data that I can share with you,” he concludes. “This has been blindly ignored by lots of studios, and the reason why is because they’re not operator-facing.”

When it comes to delivering products that will stand the test of time, the age-old saying continues to ring true: the customer is always right.

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