2008 Global Gaming Expo, part 2

16 December 2008

Among the things that make slot machines go, volatility is one of the most important.

If a game that had its odds and pay tables set to return an average of 93% of money played ALWAYS returned 93%, no one would ever play. Why play a game that you know is going to keep 7% of your wagers time after time after time?

That's not what really happens, of course. Sometimes your machine will be ice cold, and you'll get back much less than 93% or whatever the targeted return is on that machine. Sometimes you'll have a short burst when the machine pays more than 100%. And sometimes you'll hit a big jackpot, and for that session the percent payoff will be in the thousands.

At the Global Gaming Expo that concluded its three-day run Nov. 20 at the Las Vegas Convention Center, major slot machine manufacturers showed games that drive home the meaning of what volatility means to players.

Volatility is partly about HOW money is returned to players. A big top jackpot usually means less money is being returned on smaller, more frequent hits, while small-jackpot games concentrate more of their long-term returns in the little victories that keep you going.

Manufacturers and casino operators understand that some players want a high volatility experience, with a chance at big instant wins, and some want a low volatility experience, with a chance to make their money last longer for more time on the game.

One of the trends at this year's G2E came in games and bonus events that allow players to choose their own volatility.

Atronic, manufacturer of the popular Deal or No Deal slot machines, showed a variation on the theme called Deal or No Deal: The Experience, with some nifty special features. There's a two-level progressive jackpot, and in the Experience bonus the player has a chance to win one or the other — or something in between.

The player has the option of taking a guaranteed bonus between the two amounts. If you decline the offer, then you'll get either the high or low. When I tested it at the show, I refused the offer, and got the low. I was told that most players in casinos were keeping to the middle of the road and taking the guarantee. But at the expo, no money is at stake, so why not gamble and see what happens?

That comes down to a choice in volatility. If one progressive is at 1,000 credits and one at 500, I can take the more volatile road of chasing the thousand at the risk of winding up with 500, or I can take the even-keel, low volatility route of settling for 750.

Here's another example. In the IGT game Jolly Roger, when pirate flags fly over the reels, players can choose how many free spins they get, with bigger multipliers for fewer free spins. When the bonus was triggered at the show, choosing five free games multiplied winnings by 10, 10 games were multiplied by five, 15 by three and 20 by 2.

Again, that's a choice in volatility. Does the player want a low volatility experience, with more free games likely to bring more winners, or a high volatility experience, with each winner worth more, but with fewer free spins increasing the likelihood of being shut out?

Speaking of volatility, Bally Technologies adds a little extra in Power Strike, the first game in a new Power Platinum line. It's designed for casinos that want to include a car or some other big-ticket item in the jackpot.

Giveaways of cars and motorcycles have long been part of the slot director's bag of tricks. In the past, the casino has had to balance the game's payback percentage and jackpot frequency against the value of the prize. Is the game still profitable with a car as all or part of the top jackpot?

Power Strike makes it an easy calculation. The math of the game includes the value of the item in the top jackpot. And flexible graphics bring a picture of the prize right into the pay table.

Does that mean fewer small hits, or lower paybacks on small hits, to account for the value of the prize? Of course. Games with big jackpot values have always returned less to players between jackpots. It all goes hand in hand with our old friend volatility, and if you'd rather get more in the smaller pays, you need a game that ties up less of its return in the top award.

Related Links
Global Gaming Expo (G2E) 2008

This article is provided by the Frank Scoblete Network. Melissa A. Kaplan is the network's managing editor. If you would like to use this article on your website, please contact Casino City Press, the exclusive web syndication outlet for the Frank Scoblete Network. To contact Frank, please e-mail him at fscobe@optonline.net.