Has NetEnt Nerfed Dead or Alive?


Players question NetEnt, claiming Dead or Alive has changed, NetEnt says it has not. The debate raises concerns regarding lack of transparency

NetEnt is currently in the process of converting their games from Flash to HTML5, a necessary step as support for Flash Media is coming to an end. Other game providers are in the process of change as well, with Montezuma, Immortal Romance, and Raging Rhino being examples of games converted to the new format.

Making changes to slots is a sensitive subject and some players within the gambling community worried game providers would seize the opportunity and “nerf” the games. Players have been complaining over negative effects in terms of both visuals and playability. Raging Rhino and Zeus III are two big titles that have had issues, irritating players with long win count-ups as well as removal of stop spins. In the updated version of Dead or Alive, 2 Scatters can sometimes be seen only one symbol apart, giving the impression it’s possible to land 2 Scatters on a reel when in fact it’s not.

Frustrating as some of these changes may be, the visual changes are nowhere near as serious as changes possibly made to the mathematical models. Dead or Alive, being one of the most iconic online slots ever to be released, has been at the center of attention ever since it went through its own HTML5 update, and the internet debates surrounding this issue has now reached a peak.

Old Flash version of Dead or Alive, still available on Casino Heroes.

Suspicions were raised as soon as the new version was launched, with players claiming Dead or Alive having been “nerfed” and not playing the same way. These claims were in general dismissed as tin foil hat theories and not taken seriously, especially given the then small sample of games (spins and bonuses).

It has to be said that looking at gambling forums, many players will claim everything to be rigged and screaming foul play when they’re losing. When on a winning streak, however, these types of accusations are usually nowhere to be seen. But still, it can’t be denied that there is a huge sense of distrust towards the iGaming industry amongst players in general, and to be fair, they do have good reasons, very much due to the lack of transparency.

For example, it has quite recently come to light, at least to a wider range of players, that some, if not most, game providers offer different RTP settings to operators to choose from, something that can prove problematic with games licensed in Curacao where there are no demands to display the actual RTP (under the UKGC the RTP always has to be available).

This has sparked further concerns and players are now asking what other types of changes can be made to games without informing the players. For example, providers appear to offer operators max caps on the payouts, and while changes to the RTP needs to go through a whole new audit by independent organizations, it seems changes in terms of max caps or changes to variance are not affected in the same way. In fact, game providers seem to be allowed to change variance as they please, whenever they want.

Game providers are in general quite secretive, and they have to be for competitive and safety reasons. Please correct us if we’re wrong here, but iGaming representatives are not under oath and they can deny changes to variance however much they want without facing consequences from regulators.

Claim: the variance on Dead or Alive has changed drastically since the conversion from Flash to HTML5

For those of you who don’t know what variance is, please read our casino school article. Dead or Alive is known as an extremely high variance game, meaning most of the times it will give only small payouts and low paying bonuses, but with potential for huge monster wins. For this reason, Dead or Alive has often been excluded from play with bonus money as it’s capable of awarding monster wins on quite a regular basis (compared to many other high variance games).

Many players now claim that the variance has been evened out and flattened. This basically means the winnings will be more evenly spread with more smaller wins and fewer monster wins. In other words, fewer wild lines, which is the reason most of us bother to play this game.

A couple of communities have actually been in contact with NetEnt regarding this issue, and in all cases, NetEnt has denied any changes having been made to the mathematical model. This doesn’t mean it has put an end to the discussion and those players who feel certain the game has in fact changed, refuse to take their word for it.

Normally a claim like this would be easy to dismiss as another tin foil hat theory, or to claim that there are not enough samples to prove anything, but as it turns out, a fairly large sample of data has been collected by individual players which have now been compared to data collected by the Slot Tracker. While this data does not prove anything for certain, it may indicate that it is not totally unlikely that the variance might, in fact, have changed.

The statistics to support this claim comes from a member over at Casinomeister who has collected data from 1528 bonus rounds from playing the old Flash version. Out of these, 15 were 1,000x wins or larger, which gives a 1 in 101 chance of a 1000x+ win. The Slot Tracker, on the other hand, has collected 4,934 bonus rounds (avg) with the new HTML5 version with a result of 18 wins over 1,000x, which gives 1 in 274 chance.

These samples when compared show an almost 300% reduction in 1,000x wins, and together with the fact that many casinos have recently removed Dead or Alive from the list of bonus excluded games, is another factor used to argue the case.

A small sample, yes. Could it be an indication of change? We will let you be the judge.

The point is, however, that as long as there is lack of transparency there will always be room for distrust amongst players, and who can blame them when all we have is the word from the iGaming representatives. Changed or not, it’s just not good enough.

Is it really too much to ask for the RTP to always be displayed (without having to search for it), together with some simple stats displaying max exposure, average bonus frequency, and volatility index? The online casino industry is constantly evolving and, in our opinion at least, getting better and better. Let’s make sure the iGaming industry follow suit.

Update: in August 2018, a NetEnt representative denied all allegations of the game being changed saying: “We HAVE NOT changed the Math Model on DoA. Really, WE. HAVE. NOT. We are looking at the DoA game itself (outside of the math/server) to see what we can do to it to make it truer to the original Flash version.”

Update: Dead or Alive 2 announced due for release on the 23rd of April.

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