Successful slot machines make money because players play them!

Sunday, 19 June 2011

Here are some of the secrets behind having a crowded slot bar. It’s not about the drinks you’re selling, but, you got it, about the popular machines you have. Meet the Gaminator. He will be back!

The title sounds a bit like an open door, though I believe there is more truth in the statement than one would think. Why are busy bars busy and empty bars empty; even if they are in the same street and serve the same drinks? I dare say that busy bars are busy, because there are people inside. If you have the choice between entering an empty bar or a full bar; which one do you choose?

I remember taking part in the execution of a player survey in the Midwest of the United States years ago. We spent a day asking Gold Cards holders of a group of casinos all sorts of questions; emphasis was put on trying to find out what would make a player try to play a machine he or she never played before. Was it the graphics that appeal, the –attract- sounds, the shape of the machine, the top-award on the top panel of the machine or was there another hidden attraction we didn´t think of? The most frequent answer was that players were most likely to try another machine if they had witnessed another player winning on the machine of choice. Logic tells me a player can only win if he plays; therefore chances that someone will try a machine for the first time are bigger if someone else has been playing this machine before (and won). This partly explains the advantage for suppliers of slot machines who are the first supplier to enter a country; the effect of being the first supplier in a country can last for years (but not forever).

The most popular machine in Romania for the last couple of years has been the Austrian Gaming (or Novomatic as most people call them) Multi Gaminator. Walking into a casino with banks of Gaminators you always see people win. There are many reasons for this; let´s try to analyze this phenomenon a bit:

The early Gaminator and Hotspot games had 5 or 9 lines, yet players were allowed to play 100 credits per line. Other manufacturers in those days did not typically allow players to play 100 credits per line and only few games had 5 or 9 lines. Because of the 100 credits per line bet, Gaminators could be installed with a lower credit value than other machines and still have the same or even higher maximum bet. As a result the Gaminators typically had a lower credit value than the machines of the competition. A low credit value in combination with 5 or 9 lines allows smaller players to play much longer on those machines than on machines with a higher credit value (and more lines). If a player has 100 RON to spend and he plays a nine line game with one credit per line and a credit value of 0,05 RON (5 BANI) he can play for a very long time. Much longer than when he plays a machine with 21 lines and a credit value of 0,10 RON. Note that the maximum bet on the Gaminator with 9 lines is 900 (times 0,05 RON equals 45 RON), which is still higher than the maximum bet on the 21 line game with a maximum bet of 210 credits (times 0,10 RON equals 21 RON). I can´t blame slot managers for putting the credit value on the Gaminator machines lower than on the other machines.
As a result, the Gaminator produced much more games per day. If players play more games, it happens more often that they have a win and therefore chances that players who have never played the game before will try the game. Remember that I am talking in the past; I know times have changed and that there is a big variety of games out there that allow higher maximum bets (and therefore lower credit values). But it surely helped the Gaminator to become the success story it has been and still is. But the message is: successful games make money because players play them.

Unlike most of the others games available, Austrian Gaming did not allow Slot Managers to install their games with Player Return Percentages of less than 92%. Actually, most casinos installed 94% versions of the games (which meant some of games on the Multi Gaminator returned a whopping 96% to the players); unheard of in these days. Believe me when I say that a Time On Device Player, the bread and butter of most casinos, will ´feel´ the difference between 90 and 94% player return. I read the –sometimes very good- articles about the effect of lower player return percentages on the win of the casino; lately the trend is to proof mathematically that lower player return percentages have a positive effect on the income of the casino. That might well be true for machines that do not attract Time On Device Players, the opposite is true for machines that attract Time on Device Players. A player who plays a 0.05 RON nine line game with one or two credits per line will feel the difference between 90 % and 94%; not in his head, but in his wallet! For argument´s sake, let’s look at the impact of the Player Return Percentage on the playing time a player has when he enters a casino with 50 RON in his wallet. On the 90% game (0,05RON, 9 lines, 1 credit per line) the player can theoretically play 1.111 games with his 50 RON. Even on the toughest game these are enough games to win the bonus games a couple of times; so we do not have to factor in that games do not return 90% all the time. (On some games the Player Return Percentage is not more than 60% as long as you don´t win the bonus games; but that topic is for another article, where I want to introduce my theory of the Peppers….). If the player with his 50 RON plays a 94% Return To Player game with the same bet, he can play 1.851 games. That is a staggering 66% more games for the same money (and therefore 66% more playing time). If players can play more games for the same money, they are more likely to have bonus games. Other players see players on gaminators win bonus games frequently and as a result it is likely they will want to try this game as well. Successful games make money because players play them.

Austrian Gaming –to my knowledge- was the first of the leading suppliers to equip their machines with an ´auto-start´ button. As a result the player -who likes to win free games- can play one machines with two credits per line, or (for the same money) two machines at the same time with one credit per line. Playing two machines with one credit per line increases the chance to win free games twofold. Walking through a casino with a large quantity of Gaminators, you will see that some machines are ´spinning´, but the player is elsewhere. Only when the player wins the free games will he return to the machine in ´auto-start mode´; this is his moment of glory. Players will always be behind their machine during the free spins, but not always during normal play. Other players see players on gaminators win bonus games frequently and as a result it is likely they will want to try this game as well. Successful games make money because players play them.

It is not a topic for discussion in this article, but apart from attracting the Time On Device Players, the Multi Gaminator Games also attracted (and attract) Gamblers. These players are not interested in Time On Device, but in the volatile elements within the various games. Getting emotionally involved (read: getting into financial ´trouble´) and then having elements in the game cycle that get them out of trouble (read: free spins or other volatile elements) is what makes the Gambler ´tick´. The fact that the same suite of games appeals to both the Time On Device Player and the Gambler is at the basis of the success of the Multi Gaminator series of games.

There are lessons to be learned from the success of the Austrian Gaming Gaminator Games. Obviously the Games have appealed to players for years and I know players who have played them for years (and still do), that would not have happened if the games themselves did not have a mathematical concept that appeals to both Time On Device Players and Gamblers. What attracts Gamblers to the Gaminator (and more specific the Multi Gaminator Games) is a topic for my next contribution, the lesson of this article is that THE SLOT MANAGER has the obligation to make new games on the floor successful. New games will only be successful if players play them; that won´t happen if you just stick a new game on the floor without giving it a proper launch.

Too often players find out that there are new machines on the floor by accidentally passing by; this is not the way new products should be introduced. Ask yourself the following questions before installing new equipment:

  • Does your staff know the features of the new game and can they explain players?
  • Will players notice the new game on the floor?
  • How will players be encouraged to play the new game?

For all of the questions above, the supplier also has an important role to play. After all, success of a new game is equally important to the supplier as to the operator. The goal is not to make the new game as profitable as possible, but to make it as POPULAR as possible. Profitability is important, but it should not be the leading parameter when installing new games on the floor. Remember, successful games make money because players PLAY them. It is about popularity (which is really the number of games played).

First and foremost, make sure the minimum bet is not too high. Minimum by my definition is all lines played with 1 credit (which is something completely different then the credit value). If the minimum bet is too high, you will never generate enough games to make the game POPULAR.

If the new game is connected to a progressive prize (or progressive prizes), makes sure the value of the bet to win the progressive prize (or prizes) is affordable for your players. The majority of players on a progressive game should play the bet required to win the progressive prize; if not, the –usually- maximum bet is too high.

Minimum and maximum bet have a very big influence on the popularity of games!

Once you have decided the minimum bet and the maximum bet (for progressive games), you should make sure your staff knows the game inside and out. In Romania, where you have to wait for Government approval before you can activate a game, this is easy enough. Your staff can play the machine before it gets the official approval. Put 1.000.000 credits on the credit meter and let your staff play (during the quite hours of operation). Allow your players to play too! Disconnect the cash-out button and allow staff and players to play for free! You´ll be surprised how effective this little trick is to familiarize your staff with the new game AND create interest from players. If players can play for free, of course they will play maximum bet.

If they maximum bet they can win phenomenal prizes (but not cash out!). Players will see other players win big prizes and guess what; successful games make money because players play them!

If technology allows you to award player points to players; award quadruple points on new games (and communicate this loud and clear!).

If technology allows you to give promotional credits; award promo-play on new games (and communicate this loud and clear!).

Create a mystery jackpot only on the new games for the period of introduction of the game (and communicate this loud and clear!).

The slot manager together with the supplier is responsible for making a new game popular! After this, the game has to proof itself; and frankly, if the slot manager does not believe the game will survive after the initial period, he should not purchase the game in the first place.

If you feel the urge to respond to this article, feel free to mail me at

Author: Editor

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