Building Profitable Games: Creating Content for the Player & Operator
Igor Samardziski, chief executive of online game studio True Lab, took to the stage at iGaming NEXT: Valletta ’21 to discuss how recent challenges had led his business to consider how it delivers content to operators.
Samardziski used simulated data and examples to show how, while many players think a game’s return to player (RTP) rate is of crucial importance, RTP can be reduced from higher levels without having a negative impact on the user experience, while bringing big advantages to operators.
When considering costs such as bonusing or high tax rates, it is important to consider how the products delivered to operators affect their bottom line, he said.
Samardziski introduced the idea with a story – of Jane, a customer with the operator he was working with at the time, and Rory, a mathematics expert from the supplier side.
Jane won on 3 Royal Flushes while playing Jacks or Better Video Poker, all within the space of a few days – leaving the business down £75,000, approximately its entire monthly income.
Samardziski took the problem to Michael Shackleford – the so called ‘Wizard of Odds’, after the game supplier’s mathematician, Rory, repeatedly told him the wins were within variance, and completely plausible.
After some research, Samardziski discovered that Jane had been playing the game with a royal flush strategy – which decreased the odds and increased the chance of winning a high-rated hand exponentially.
Shackleford explained to Samardziski that the only problem he had regarding this customer was to decide whether or not he should allow her to continue playing – and that this was a purely commercial decision, not a mathematical one.
He did, however, offer some advice. The game, he said, currently offers £0.50 in revenue to the operator for every £100 wagered – but exposes the operator to the risk of losing 1000x the bet amount. He asked, therefore, why the operator was offering the game in its portfolio.
At this point, Samardziski said, it dawned on him that he had the choice of which games to offer to customers. Operators today are spoilt for choice, he said, with a much greater variety of options available.
This is a lesson he has carried forward throughout his career, and the first thing he said to his mathematics team upon joining True Lab.
He then introduced the core of his session’s message, relating to RTP and variance.
“Everything we do for the player is based on the RTP – which is arguably much more important for us than it is for any individual player – and the variance, or the DNA of the slot – the way RTP is distributed.”
However, he went on: “the way the variance in a slot is built is much, much, much more relevant to the player and the player experience than what RTP the slot operates at – and I’ve proved it.”
Samardziski then shared data from simulated games, showing that for most players, the difference in outcomes between different versions of the same slot game with a 96%, 94% or 92% RTP is negligible or non-existent – and can only be found tangibly at much higher bet values than the average.
“If you consider this from the RTP perspective – Germany’s 5% tax actually isn’t that painful,” he said.
“It is definitely painful and definitely should not be implemented, but we have a lot of leverage here, and I would argue that it’s more cultural than factual, the decision to keep our games at high RTP.”
“It actually serves no benefit to the player. If we were looking at the highest volatility slots, you will still have fractional differences in player sessions at median and lower play levels.”
Delivering games with a lower RTP can, without negatively impacting the player experience, have an enormous impact on bonusing costs and turnover, Samardziski said.
Samardziski concluded that at True Lab, games are designed to offer the best return to operators without sacrificing the customer experience. That is carried through aesthetics, which carry the game dynamics, he said.