A lot of people are of the impression that new slots are “hotter” when first released, only to turn stone cold dead later on. Is there any truth to this? Are online slots designed this way intentionally?
Maybe you’ve experienced it too? The slot everyone’s been talking about finally hits the casinos. It quickly becomes the most played game in the community and big win screenshots are uploaded daily on the forums you frequent. You’re not doing so bad either and find yourself playing it on nearly all your sessions. Fast forward two months and it’s now a completely different game. Nothing seems to hit, and you just cannot believe your eyes how terrible it plays. In your head voices tell you it’s all a conspiracy, they’ve rigged the slot!
If you feel this way about certain slots, or about slots in general, you’re not alone. There seems to be a common consensus shared by players that new slots are intentionally set to pay out more frequently as part of a strategy to lure people in. Such claims are usually dismissed as tinfoil hat theories by those who have a connection to the iGaming industry or by players who like to think of themselves as more rational and knowledgeable.
What we want to do here is to take a step back to look at it from a balanced and analytical perspective. We do not claim to have the definite answer, nor do we have any real insight into how online slots are designed, tested, certified, or operated once released. That is pretty much kept a trade secret. We do, on the other hand, eat, breathe, and sleep slots and personally know many of the game provider representatives. In the end, however, as long as there’s a lack of transparency, and to a degree, there has to be for both competative and precautionary reasons, people will always speculate.
So what could possibly make an online slot turn cold, or is it all in our heads? Before any slot is launched and allowed to go live, it has to go through some tests to become certified. A slot is only guaranteed to be certified if you play on reputable and accredited casinos. You can read more about certification of online slots here. What these independent test labs look for are inconsistencies and irregularities in order to make sure it’s, in fact, a game of chance.
For some people, their scepticism starts here. In their view, the agencies that are supposed to keep the ‘evil, greedy providers’ at bay are in reality part of an allegiance made out of the providers (those who produce slots), online casinos, and even the regulatory authorities (the UKGC for example). This is a popular opinion that is very hard to refute due to the fact that there is indeed a lack of transparency, and because, let’s face it, these organisations could benefit potentially benefit from working pulling in the same direction.
Rationally thinking, however, isn’t it very likely that we would have seen an anonymous whistleblower come forward after all these years? Is it really possible for thousands of people to keep such a huge secret for so long? We’re not saying it’s not possible, but it would seem to be an unreasonably high risk to take in a business where the ‘house edge’ is all it takes to guarantee profit. We touched upon the subject in our article about ‘How to Beat Online Casino Slots‘ to make people get an understanding of how randomness works without having to be rigged. Randomness is an aspect that can be hard for the human brain to fully grasp.
Since we don’t actually know how online slots are designed mathematically (where not too proud to admit that), we too, have to speculate a bit. Something we suspect has a big impact on our perception of slots and how they perform is something known as selective memory. It’s, for example, not unusual for gamblers to become overwhelmed by long, cold spells which then triggers the brain to look for patterns, something the human mind is very capable of.
With all that said, surprising details have indeed surfaced, one such thing being related to the payout percentage. The RTP, or Theoretical Return to Player, is what decides the ratio of the house edge. A slot set to a 95% RTP is programmed to ensure the operator of a 5% profit in the long run. All games of chance have their own RTP, even table games. Simply speaking, slots share the same fundamental mathematical structures that also govern physical Roulette tables.
A couple of years ago, a casino representative openly confessed to the fact that online slots produced by Play’n GO allow for operators (casinos) to choose from one of several RTP presets. Officially it was explained as necessary to enable operators to adjust for certain markets. It has since been uncovered that many (if not all?) other providers do this as well – Novomatic and Pragmatic Play being two other examples. This is why we always encourage our readers to check to see which version they’re playing.
A game provider cannot change the mathematics of slots on the fly as it would require the slot to be tested and certified as an entirely different game. We have no reason to doubt this fact and all the representatives we’ve talked to have been very firm on this – ‘we do not, and cannot alter the maths’. So what could possibly make a certain slot perform worse over time if none of the above factors were to be involved? If allowed to speculate, and that’s all we can do at this point, it might not be unreasonable to suggest that new slots get more play time, which, in turn, could possibly lead to the slot going through its RTP cycles (open to interpretation) at a faster pace.
Then there’s also variance and hit frequency to consider. In slots, hit frequency is used to describe how often a slot stops on a winning combination. Just like RTP, it is usually given a percentage. If the hit frequency of a slot is 10%, it means the slot will stop on a winning combination 10% of the time. Slots can also be high or low variance, something that ultimately dictates the nature of the game, where a low variance slot will pay out smaller wins more frequently as opposed to a high variance slot which pays less often, but gives higher wins.
In the end, both types of slots may have the same RTP, but lower variance can make it harder for the player to stay ahead of the casino because of the small wins it generates. The point here is that these are factors that, just as is the case with the RTP settings, could possibly be changed without having to make any core edits to the mathematical design. This is something that can actually be observed in slots that allow you to alter the number of pay lines, where a decreased number of pay lines equals higher variance.
We’re aware of the fact that such theories and speculations might further encourage naysayers in their holy quest against the ‘corrupt casino industry’. It’s not our intention, but an unavoidable consequence. However, putting pressure on the developers and casinos is not necessarily a bad thing and hopefully helps the industry move in the right direction. Over the years we’ve seen much improvement regarding fairness and player safety, a positive progress we hope will continue for the years to come.
So, what is the final verdict? Do new slots pay more than they do further down the line? Possibly, but if big wins become less frequent it’s more likely related to ‘natural’ causes rather than being rigged.
What do you think? Do you work in the industry? Do you know something we don’t? If so, please share your story with us in the comment section below.