For anyone with more than a passing interest in online slot games – including players, developers, casino operators and affiliate marketers – there has been one stand out trend in 2018.
High variance games are in vogue.
For those unfamiliar with the term, variance is a classification that expresses the deviation from the normal payout pattern expected from a slot game. High variance games are unpredictable – they pay out irregularly, but with much higher prize value potential. This makes them riskier than low variance games because you can spend a long time wagering with little return before you hit pay dirt.
At The Slot Buzz, we publish a great number of new slot game reviews each month and we have watched with interest this year as one by one, big game developers have brought new high variance titles to the table that look to out-maneuver their rivals with better headline features and bigger jackpots,culminating in the release of a branded slot called Who Wants To Be A Millionaire in November 2018, with a published maximum payout of £1,000,000.
Who Wants To Be a Millionaire was the final release of the year for Big Time Gaming (BTG), an Austrailan game studio who have led the charge with their Megaways™ game engine that is also the motor behind slots like Bonanza and Extra Chili. The huge popularity of these titles has led others to follow suit, with Quickspin,Pragmatic Play, and Red Tiger Gaming amongst others all getting in on the action with slots that boast massive top payouts – usually in the region of 20,000x the stake or more.
This development has breathed new life into an industry which has been short on genuine innovation for a while now.
So, what are the reasons behind this trend?
Aside from the influence Australian game studio BTG has had, another reason for the attention high variance games are now receiving has been the influence of the slot streaming community on the industry.
Slot streaming, where gamblers live stream their gameplay on You Tube and Twitch.tv channels, is still a cult and a relatively niche aspect of online gambling, but has nevertheless made its mark to such a degreethat when BTG released the uber-high variance White Rabbit game in 2017, the privilege of the first ever live, real money spin was given to popular streamer, LetsGiveitaSpin, under the sponsorship of online casino operator, LeoVegas.
This canny PR stunt was the pre-cursor to a record-breaking first week of wagering.
Streamers are big fans of high variance games because they make such a great spectacle for their viewers. The common characteristic of games like Bonanza is that they load up the win potential into bonus, or Free Spins rounds, where players are awarded a number of free plays. Unlocking these rounds requires a lot of patience, but once the free spins come, usually with tricks like progressive multipliers applied to each win, and special bonus symbols that add more spins to the players’ cache when they land on the reels –the prize money can start stacking up quickly and dramatically.
This is what streamers, and their avid followers, are hungry for – blockbuster payouts matched with noisy, wide-eyed celebrations.
It’s no coincidence that so many of the ‘big win’ videos posted on You Tube by slot streamers feature BTG slots.
In 2018 high variance games have also been bolstered by a feature called Expanding Reels. This was first used by BTG in their Megaways™games where the number of symbol rows on the reels increases or decreases atrandom on each spin to create more potential win lines.
Bonanza uses this concept to good effect to create headline-grabbing numbers like 117,649 ways to win – the number of paylines available on any spin when every one of the six reels expands to seven symbols high.
And the fever is catching.
Even the once staid game developer, Red Tiger Gaming,known only for the relentless Oriental themes of their slots, has got in on the action. First they got one up on BTG by releasing Laser Fruit, a game that offers not 117,649 but 60,466,176 ways to win by expanding the reel set to 10 wide by six rows of symbols high when free spins are in play.
Following that show-stopper, Red Tiger have followed in the footsteps of rivals Blueprint, and signed a licensing deal to build games on the Megaways™ engine, something that BTG CEO, Nick Robinson, says will be happening a lot more in the future:
“We already have a great deal of interest from leading suppliers in the field wanting to upgrade their offering withMegaWays™. This is a very successful mechanic and we believe it will eventually dwarf the standard 5×3 format of recent years.”
Other game developers to join the high variance race have been Quickspin – who mixed Russian Fairy tales with high risk slot betting in Ivan and the Immortal King – Play n Go – who brought Henry VIII and his six wives back to life with a game called Battle Royal – and Push Gaming – who re-worked a high variance classic called Fat Rabbit for Xmas and called it …. Fat Santa!
This fresh feature-led approach to high variance game development has been a winner all round – it’s great for players hungry for new thrills, game developers who are given a new lease of life, and slot marketers like ourselves who have something new and exciting to talk about.
We fully expect 2019 to offer plenty more of the same and the high variance train to keep on rolling.
Author Bio: Mark Smith is editor of The Slot Buzz, a fansite for slots players, publishing reviews of slot sites and slot games, news and promotions enjoyed by slots fanatics, thrill seekers, free spins hunters and anyone else who’ll listen.