Building anticipation with every spin

By | June 18, 2024


Katya Machuganova, Product Owner at Silverback Gaming, talks about how studios are taking their games beyond spinning and winning to deliver the thrilling entertainment experiences players now expect.  

There was a time when players were happy to hit spin and then sit back to see if they would win or not. That alone was enough to generate the anticipation and thrills that make playing online slots such as buzz.

But now it’s different with players demanding more from the slots they play. They want to be engrossed in themes and narratives, interact with characters, have greater control over the outcome of the spin and ultimately be entertained to the same degree as when watching a movie.

Studios are also competing with other entertainment options such as mobile and video games, and these offer rich experiences that keep players engaged and coming back for more. Slot developers must compete with this and simply being able to win money is no longer a strong enough draw.

One of the key reasons for playing online slots is the anticipation of the win – this can sometimes be more exciting than the win itself. As the symbols drop and align, players find themselves on the edge of their seats waiting to see if they can land the right combo.

Studios have been upping the ante here with many now using cluster wins and cascades instead of standard win lines. This not only builds the win anticipation to a much higher level with each cascade bringing new win opportunities, but it also delivers more value from a single spin.

Cascades on their own are not enough to provide the action-packed experience that players are seeking so the pay system needs to be combined with the right combination of features and bonuses, with the whole game packaged up in a striking theme.

This is something we have done with our latest game, Banana Blitz Deluxe. It takes a zany theme – monkeys and bananas – and wraps it around the cascade mechanic. The team has then built a flow of bonuses that enhance the anticipation built through the cluster pays.

This includes the ever-popular free spins – triggered when at least three Scatters land in the base game – and expanding wilds. This is triggered when the monkey throws a banana peel onto the reel and sees the palm tree wild symbol cover the entire reel.

It’s important to ensure bonuses tie in with the theme of the game, so Banana Blitz Deluxe also includes the Banana Bonus. This comes to life when scatter symbols land on reels one and five. The player must then pick banana symbols to reveal multiplier prizes.

Once the collect symbol is revealed, all of the picked multipliers (they range from 2x to 100x) are combined and applied to the win.

This is a great example of how to give players some control over the outcome of the game – the picking of the banana symbols is done by them which means they have some say in the multipliers that are revealed before the collect symbol is hit.

The challenge for studios is ensuring that bonuses click together and allow the overall gameplay to flow. Developers also need to be mindful of the market or markets the game is destined for as this will impact the complexity of the features included in the game.

We have been heavily focused on the US for some time now, and the themes, mechanics and bonus combos that hit the mark with players in the likes of New Jersey and Pennsylvania are very different to Norway and Portugal, for example.

In the US, players are still finding their feet with online slots so while it’s important to create games that excite and entertain, the gameplay needs to be easy to understand – players are often unwilling to spend their balances on learning new slot mechanics and features.

This is why we look to use tried and tested mechanics but combine them in a way that builds the anticipation and energy that players love to experience, even if they are relatively new to playing slots online.

One of the most effective bonus features is the progressive jackpot. Players instantly understand what it is and, most importantly, how they win. It also provides the big win potential that attracts players to certain games over others – the great thing about jackpots is that they appeal to casual players just as much as seasoned spinners.

The Banana Bonanza Progressive Jackpot can be won at random from any base game spin. The prize pot is made up of a 4% contribution from every wager with the jackpot amount always displayed on screen – it increases in real-time with every bet.

This itself is really powerful when it comes to building anticipation as players can see the size of the prize increasing second by second. Of course, as with most progressives, increasing the bet per spin value increases the player’s chance of triggering the jackpot.

Getting the right balance with theme, mechanics and bonus features is easier said than done – especially in new and emerging markets where player preferences are not quite as advanced as those in more established regions like Europe.

But all players want to be entertained and one thing’s for sure – just hitting spin and waiting to see if a win lands no longer cuts it.

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