Slot games are quite popular these days. For example, Social Casino has been big for a long time, and no one can say that its popularity will start decreasing anytime soon.
That’s why we’ve decided to deconstruct one of these games to learn more about the genre.
Deconstruction is a standard way to analyze games where they are being laid out into pieces, and then the reasons for their success or failure are examined.
As a subject of our game analysis, we have chosen Vegas Words – Downtown Slots by Playtika, one of the major players of this genre.
Playtika is an international company with the HQ in Israel and worldwide offices in Australia, Argentina, Belarus, Ukraine, Canada, Romania, USA, and Japan. Last year Playtika has been purchased by the Chinese consortium for $4.4 billion.
Deconstruction will be performed by Vasiliy Sabirov, Lead Analyst at devtodev, and Alexandr Shtachenko, Product Owner at Panther Gaming, blog author at Progamedev.net, and a noted specialist in the game industry with a lot of experience in Social Casino.
About the game
Vegas Words – Downtown Slots (VW) is a slot game which has a unique progress mechanics - scrabble. In this game, when you’re playing slots, you’re earning points which you can then spend on letters and boards to play scrabble.
We’ve decided to choose Vegas Words due to the number of reasons:
- This is a game by Playtika, therefore we can explain the basic methods of the slot games by its example.
- The game is quite unique for the genre, and by looking into its differences, we can show its difference from the other games.
- According to AppAnnie, the game was launched in August 2015 and since then it has been holding its place in top-50 in Download Ranks and in top-40 in Grossing Ranks.
And here's another visual:
A few more words about this game.
It’s a cross-platform game: you can start playing it on a mobile device and then continue playing on Facebook without resetting your progress.
Target audience of Vegas Words is women over 40, located in the USA. According to the latest research by progemedev.net, they are the main audience of the social casino genre around the world, which is forming around 90% of the active players and the revenue.
This genre usually has several settings: from fantasy to pixel art. Moreover, the main focus is on setting, which is placing players into different game worlds.
As for the Vegas Words, its setting is a classic-looking ‘one-armed bandit’ without distracting extra features. When players launch this game, they dive into the atmosphere of the real casinos, where similar machines are widely represented.
It’s quite unusual, as there’s only one game from the top-50 grossing games in the USA that has a ‘standard’ setting. That would be Hot Shot Casino: Slot Machines.
Core Game Loop
Usually, in games of the Social Casino genre, game process is built around gaining experience for a number of spins, which is then converted into progress and opens new content. Originally, our game has another loop. The progress is radically different. The players think that slots are a secondary mechanics, and Scrabble is the primary one. Besides coins as a resource, there are also letters, which you can obtain from the coins out of slot. These letters are making words on the board, and for those words players receive coins.
Thus, core game loop of the game is as follows:
- Players are constantly shifting their attention from slots to scrabble and vice versa, exchanging coins for letters, composing words and getting more coins for them.
- There’s an additional loop in Vegas Words, where you can develop your board in scrabble: possibility to change theme, increase the size of the board, or change letters.
- As an addition, there are no return mechanics in the game, you can read about that further.
For those who’s not aware how the slots work, let’s make a small introduction.
Slot core is a set of rolling reels, which have Return to Player, or RTP.
RTP is always less than one, e.g. 0.92 is a percentage of coins in the machine. Without a doubt, it’s hard to understand that when you play one or two games, but that’s how casinos make money, including the brick and mortar ones.
In the web- and mobile free-to-play slots, you receive game currency which you purchase with the real money. You can spend it on the new content: new types of slots, or new game mechanics. This genre is called Social Casino.
Slot is only a way to receive letters for Scrabble, which is why there are almost no unique slot mechanics, interesting free spins and mini games. Even the skins of the slots look similarly.
There is a standard Playtika’s meta-mechanics of tournaments in the slots. It stimulates to play with high stakes and mostly for fun, as the awards in such games will be no more than 5% of the money spent.
The hints are really clear, as the publisher knows how to focus players’ attention. All the elements on the screen are explained.
Speaking about simple. If players are slow during the tutorial and don’t do anything, the invisible hand is moving letters on the board for them.
Here are several points that are still unclear after the tutorial:
- The connection between Scrabble and Slot mechanics. Players understand it a bit later, but thoroughly.
- Sometimes there’s a lack of call-to-actions on the screen. We think that, at least during the tutorial, every element and every screen must lead to the simple goal and every player at every moment must know what to do.
- Particularly, composing words LOVE and VEGAS, the player doesn’t see any CTA.
- Submit button is not always highlighted.
- When players start a randomizer on the slot screen, it’s not said that they can change their bets. Players will have to understand that in the future. However, there’s a chance that some of the players won’t see this button.
It’s also worth mentioning that during the tutorial and the first session, players extremely lucky in slots. That makes total sense.
That leads us to talk about the fair and unfair random in the Social Casino games.
In general, retention in games is one of the most important metrics.
When developers are coming to a game analytics company, including devtodev, 70% of requests are about the ways to increase retention.
When speaking to any of the investors, the retention rate of your game would be the one that they will be asking about.
Retention is a complicated and delicate process.
It’s necessary to start with the most clear and interesting first session for players (see the chapter about First Time User Experience). Then it’s important to retain players in your game for more time. Usually, the more days players spend in the game, the higher their conversion into payment on the next day and average purchase would be.
That’s why the company uses a whole lot of various mechanics. Let’s see some of them.
This game, as all the other good games, doesn’t just give its players short- and long-term targets, but it also manages them.
At first, players fight for game resources, facing their deficit. Then they master and conquer secondary mechanics. The same moment when players master the main content and mechanics, greater achievements become available for them.
Depending on a progress, the game changes the priorities of its targets. From time to time, players lack some letters, when for the same amount of coins players can play Scrabble less times. At some moments, there are enough letters, and players know that. Although it’s impossible to gain the necessary progress without paying, slot gives away less points. The feeling that players ‘almost got it’ stimulates them to make payments.
As any free-to-play game, Vegas Words retains players with its content. You can see different scrabble boards, letters and tiles on them. Also, for those who is bored by the same slot machine, the other options are available.
You’ll get plenty of notifications. They can be simple, reminding you to launch an app everyday.
And there are notifications that simply remind your that Vegas World exists, or that you’ve received bonuses (i.e. ‘Please come back, we love you’).
In particular, if you don’t play for a couple of days, and then launch the game, you’ll see four different welcoming screens with bonuses. We’re showing you only two of them, but there were more.
It’s amazing that for coming back we’ve received Triple XP! That’s really not bad, don’t you agree?
At the same moment, there’s a feeling, which is confirmed by our game experience and common sense, that if you launch an app via the click on the push notification, you’ll become incredibly lucky.
That makes sense, as players have already forgotten about the game, and now there’s so much joy for them.
That’s why here’s our recommendation to all the players. If the game, any game, not only VW, sends you a push notification, you’d better click on it, as the game will appreciate it and then most likely will reward you.
Monetization mechanics within the game are created according to the best practices used in other slot games that have been implemented by Playtika.
Let’s analyze the in-game store. You can buy packs there that consist of coins, tiles and points.
The cheapest pack costs $4.99, the most expensive one - $99.99.
‘Best Value’ and ‘Most Popular’ packs are separated and highlighted. This way Playtika wants to draw player’s attention to them, even if the ‘Most Popular’ pack is not the most popular one in reality.
Interestingly, VW’s store is on the server, which means that it can change its appearance depending on the players’ behavior. VW has a system of smart offers in their store. If the player has made a purchase once, they’ll get other offers tailored specifically for them. Moreover, for the same player, the store may look differently. Its appearance will change depending on whether the player has entered before or after the purchases; during the first days in the game or later; with the VIP status or without it.
Virtual currency packs are sorted in descending order, from the highest to the lowest value.
A minute of logic. What’s the best order of products: from highest to lowest, or vice versa? That’s an old question. In general, best practice is from highest to lowest, but let’s take a closer look at this question.
When there’s a descending order, players see the largest pack first, which can be sometimes intimidating. On the other hand, player’s psychology usually pushes them to choose something from the first part of the list, excluding the first option. In this case, descending order will be a better choice.
So what’s the best option? According to our experience, we can say that the descending order was working better more often. The proven way would be to solve with issue with the A/B-testing.
Here are the packs:
Pack price, $
Coins in pack
Bonus calculated in prices for the smallest pack
Total amount of coins per $1 spent
|4,99||350 000||70 140|
|9,99||800 000||99 299||80 080|
|19,99||2 000 000||597 896||100 050|
|49,99||6 000 000||2 493 687||120 024|
|74,99||9 500 000||4 240 180||126 684|
|99,99||13 500 000||6 486 673||135 014|
We can say that the half of the largest pack consists from the bonus currency. If the currency cost were the same as in the smallest pack, then the pack would have had only 6.5 million coins. In this case players receive the almost the same amount for free.
It’s also clear when looking at the table. When players purchase the largest pack, they receive almost twice more currency per $1 spent.
The main invitation to the store is a regular hourly bonus, which the players can get only there. Playtika has been using this strategy for already over 5 years. If players entered the game and are not ready to pay, then one way or another, they meet monetization mechanics in the very beginning of the game.
Here you can also find some of the best practices of the publisher. The game has a lot of different offers that are triggered by a number of various actions. These offers are tuned to convert all the types of the payers, make them addicted to the offers, and provide players with frequent opportunities to make payments. These offers will cover all the players, from those who purchase small packs only, to those who are used to pay more. The offers will also start according to the individual schedule of every player.
Besides all that, there are holiday offers in the game. You can follow the same theme on the store level, on the slot machine level, and on setting level that is temporarily changed.
By the way, we were writing this article during Halloween period. During that time, the store was changed and a new slot machine, where players could win additional bonuses, was added.
How the Game Changes After Payments
As any game that’s making money, Vegas Words appreciates good players. If you make an in-app purchase, or iAP, you’ll notice that you become incredibly lucky. Slot’s return will slowly increase up to 130%, excluding big prizes. In addition to that you get positive emotions from the Big Win.
Let’s talk about the separate part of the game: converting into payers in scrabble mechanics.
The game is quite high in the Words category. Its players are used to paying for extra letters.
In case if players don’t want to spin, they can buy a set of letters and continue to play. Instead of the usual purchases for the slot apps, progress, or letters, can become one of the first purchases. Such a first purchase is more natural for some of the users, rather than buying coins to spin, open letters and level up in the games. Also, it’s more comfortable for the players in the Words category.
One way or another, coins in game will accumulate and players will move to slots to spend them. They’ll start receiving letters for them and will get into the loop, where the deficit rules the process.
As we can see from the Chartboost data, such categories have cheaper traffic.
- Behind the seemingly simple genre of slots, which basically consists of pulling the lever, there’s a deep and worked-through mechanism that combines adapted random, uncommon secondary mechanics that becomes the main one (Scrabble), and intelligent application of all the familiar free-to-play principles.
- The game can have a low entry threshold: the fist session in clear and simple, players don’t need a lot of experience aside from Scrabble. You’re also more likely to need passion, which Playtika creates masterfully.
- Such a combination of core mechanics allowed the game to reach the top grossing ranks, which shows that you can make money when thinking outside the box.
- Traffic from the adjacent categories is always cheaper than in the Casino category. This game has shown how you can attract traffic from the Words category into the slot category.
- This is a good business decision for the company that has leading positions in every Casino subgenre. Today, Playtika is the leader in slot games, poker, and bingo.