This Q&A session is with Magnus Olsson, Head of Sales and Account Management at Play’n GO. Magnus speaks in-depth about flexible RTP and transparency whilst also busting one or myths along the way.
Bigwinboard: Hi, Magnus. First of all, congrats on the hugely successful Reactoonz 2 release. We’re curious to know, are your grid slots equally well received in all markets across the world, or are there particular ones where the demand is higher? Here in Sweden, both Reactoonz instalements are ridiculously popular.
Magnus Olsson: Thank you! Reactoonz, and gridslots in general, are huge not only in the Nordics but also in the rest of Europe. It seems that operators who market our grid slots effectively get a very good return on our content. There is a growing market for them, and it is clear that certain operators are capturing that audience. As for the popularity of particular titles, it varies from region to region based on different factors, so we have a wide selection of popular titles around the world.
Bigwinboard: Speaking of markets, many of them have undergone quite drastic changes due to regulations. While a lot of good has been achieved in terms of responsible gambling and safety, many also feel it’s had some negative side effects. For example, we’ve seen the theoretical return to player (RTP) drop at several online casinos. Why is this happening? What is forcing casinos to lower the RTP? You can’t blame players for thinking it’s all about greed?
Magnus Olsson: First of all, regulation is a good thing. You want to play in a safe and monitored environment, and you want to know that there is a regulating body overseeing all aspects of the operation. The future is regulated, and that will carry some additional cost, but also a lot of additional benefits. All parts of the chain need to build a resilient business model that can manage the costs and deliver a fun, exciting, safe and trustworthy experience to the players.
Secondly, market forces will ultimately determine the right way forward, and the distribution of the costs for the regulation. This is not a symmetrical environment; depending on player preferences, they will end up with different games, different operators and different transactional tools. This is a normal progression and to be expected in the industry.
Lowering the RTP is one of many tools in an operator’s toolbox. We as a supplier can provide the tools, but the final say in how an operator is managing their balance sheet is naturally out of scope for us.
Bigwinboard: Like an increasing number of providers nowadays, Play’n GO slots come shipped with a range of different RTP presets for casinos to choose from. Many players are surprised to learn this, but it’s something that’s been around forever, both in land-based and online, right?
Magnus Olsson: That’s correct. We certify all games (except Video Bingo Slots that due to some inherent math complexities always are at 96% RTP) for five different levels, 96, 94, 91, 87, 84. Also, some games are certified for 98% in specific jurisdictions as well. The RTP varies slightly, but we aim for these numbers, never lower (for example, our most recent launch, Holiday Spirits has the following RTP levels: 96.29%, 94.22%, 91.21%, 87.26%, 84.25%). Land-based is typically lower, but variation is significant. The Swedish popular scratch ticket “Triss” has an RTP of 50%.
It is important to understand that we carry a significant cost for certifying all games on all five levels in all jurisdictions (currently 16). This means that each game has to go through 80 certifications, and each has a cost for us. Our help file in every game always displays the RTP so that any curious player can check.
Bigwinboard: Might there be any consequences for you should an operator decide to go for the lowest possible setting? Isn’t there a real risk that it could end up harming your brand in the long run? Do you ever intervene? Do you have any say at all when it comes to RTP?
Magnus Olsson: Many Jurisdictions have minimum RTP requirements, so in most cases, you will see 94% or 96% being used, and it would be against regulation to go to the lower settings. We discuss RTP with them from time to time; there are several reasons to change the RTP. For example, if you want to add a progressive jackpot that has a “cost” of 4-5%, you might want to lower the in-game RTP to accommodate for it. This means that the end RTP for the player can be higher than 96%, but in-game RTP will display a lower number.
For the lower RTP variants (91% and below), if operators use this, it’s usually because they have promotional material or jackpots added on to this. The lowering of RTP won’t impact the gameplay of a slot, and when we do adjust to a lower RTP, we try to do so in a way that will not impact player experience – putting the focus on entertainment and making sure it’s still enjoyable for the player.
“The challenge, and it is a fun and exciting challenge, is to design a game that is rewarding at all levels”
Bigwinboard: From our understanding, the RTP may not be the only thing to differ. Different RTP version can also have different max win potential as we’ve seen with some of your competitors. Is this the case for your games as well?
Magnus Olsson: Volatility and Max win are entirely separate from RTP. You could design a game with any RTP but only have one win option with a massive amount. This would be a very boring game for all players (except one!). Conversely, you could design a game where you win 95% of your bet on every spin, except once in a while you win 99%. Not a very clever RTP distribution, but both these games could have the same RTP but completely different distribution.
The challenge, and it is a fun and exciting challenge, is to design a game that is rewarding at all levels, keeps some excitement and provides nice wins that are not too small to be insignificant and not too big so that max win doesn’t eat up all the RTP. When we adjust the RTP, we ensure the maximum win on our games is achievable on all levels.
Bigwinboard: Do you think providers need to become more transparent in this particular area, or do you feel that it is the responsibility of the casinos? Wouldn’t it be better to have the RTP clearly displayed in the top right corner for example?
Magnus Olsson: We have no problems being transparent about RTP, volatility or max win. We are exploring ways to provide even more information and data around these topics, giving more clarity about the player experience each game provides.
Typically, the RTP in the base game is different from bonus play. So, when you play a game, trying to get the bonus round, you get many small wins. In the bonus game, you can trigger big wins. But, what if most of the RTP is in the base game, and the bonus game RTP is significantly lower and, at the same time, you can buy your way to the bonus round? You would effectively be paying to get a much lower RTP, while the game would still be certified at 96%, you might effectively be playing at 50-60% RTP. However, when checking the help file, you would be led to believe you are playing at 96% all the time.
Another example is games with big jackpots (especially network jackpots, something we rarely do). The jackpot is built up by moving the RTP to a larger sum. That means that games with very large jackpots have a low RTP for everyone not winning the jackpot.
Any interested player should consider these two mechanisms (buy bonus and large jackpots) as well as taking note of the overall RTP, to get a full understanding of the bigger picture. It’s this type of transparency that is important, to keep players informed.
When we design games, we are aiming at offering the best digital entertainment experience in the world. The RTP is one factor, but it is more important how that RTP is distributed and how we design the volatility and max win (these are two different things). We don’t offer the possibility to buy your way to bonus rounds, because we want our game to be fun to play throughout. We want to take the player on a journey, learning the mechanics and the design as they play. Both base and bonus play should be exciting and rewarding.
We see a trend in the market with higher volatility games and huge wins. It’s exciting to watch, but for the average player, it means they can lose their balance much faster, or they must invest a lot of money to experience any of the features. We try to create our games with entertainment and player experience at the forefront.
“It is a good thing that the players want to understand how the industry works. For us, it is rewarding to engage with knowledgeable and interested consumers of our product”
Bigwinboard: Many players are suspicious of the industry, and there are plenty of conspiracy theories floating around. Is there something in particular you want to communicate to the readers in this regard? Many players genuinely believe games are “rigged”. Are they?
Magnus Olsson: It is a good thing that the players want to understand how the industry works. For us, it is rewarding to engage with knowledgeable and interested consumers of our product. Independent test labs certify all our games; if there’s anything weird going on, we have to report it immediately to the regulatory authorities. Failing to do so, or even worse, trying to “rig” a game, would immediately put us out of business.
Again, the most important thing is to provide outstanding digital entertainment. Playing the game from start to finish, experiencing the features, the sound and the storyline should be a rewarding experience. The chance of winning now and then is the icing on the cake.
“Being here and talking to you is one way for us to interact closely with our audience”
Bigwinboard: Over the years, we’ve learned that not all game studios are equally transparent. Some provide all sorts of documents, even certifications, while others barely even disclose the max win potential. We want to help our readers make educated decisions, so we’re always thankful for any info we can get our hands-on. What’s your policy on this?
Magnus Olsson: We share all relevant documentation to our partners. There’s also a lot of information in the help files. The responsibility to inform the player lies with the operators, but we assist with the information, we always have. My advice would be to play on sites you trust. I think Bigwinboard.com could, if they want, follow up this interview with a talk to one of the test labs, and let them explain what they do. You can also ask them to verify what we are saying in this interview and get a clearer picture of how we’re dedicated to creating a fun and safe playing experience.
We are also happy to discuss new initiatives to increase transparency. Being here and talking to you is one way for us to interact closely with our audience, we’d be happy to return at any point. We must find ways to convey relevant information in a clear and meaningful way; showing people something is not the same as explaining it to them.
When discussing volatility, for example, we might have a different view on what High vs Low Volatility means, compared to other suppliers. Hence, we make sure they not only understand the volatility but also what that means in Play’n GO terms.
And, if you are concerned about trust with regards to game suppliers as us, ask the operators to clearly display who made what game, making it easier for the player to choose a game from suppliers they trust. The bottom line is, we really want to talk about our games!
Bigwinboard: We’ll definitely talk to a testing lab at some point, that’s a great tip Magnus! Something that’s often discussed in the community is that slots appear to be more generous when just released, but eventually become “tighter” down the line. Is there any truth to this claim?
Magnus Olsson: Speaking only for Play’n GO, no we don’t design the games like that. Besides, it would be illegal in most regions of the world.
Bigwinboard: Where do you see iGaming in five years? It seems the industry is up for quite a challenge given all the regulatory changes. Recently we’ve seen casino streaming take a massive hit, forcing UK streamers to give up Twitch and age-gate their Youtube channels. Things can really change fast in this industry from one day to another.
Magnus Olsson: Regulation will drive up costs and will shield certain groups from undue exposure. This will continue, and it will require all links in the chain to step up their game. We welcome this, and we are also doing what we can to help our customers to adjust.
I would like to see regulation becoming more streamlined. The recent Letters of Intent between the Swedish and the Dutch, and the Dutch and the French regulators hopefully step in that direction. Ideally, regulators should focus on providing mechanisms to prevent abuse and promote responsible gaming (Spelpaus in Sweden is an excellent example) while not interfering with gameplay experience (spin time regulations).
When the regulation goes wrong, players move outside the jurisdiction and the risk increases. A harmonized, balanced regulation across many countries would be the best option for everyone, including the authorities.
In 5 years, we will have a mostly regulated industry. M&A will continue as costs go up. If the regulatory bodies do this right, iGaming will remain a safe and trustworthy way to be entertained. Playing together could trend up, casino streamers and affiliates will find ways to work with an audience that is compliant with jurisdictions; there are certainly more opportunities still out there.
Bigwinboard: Thanks a lot for taking the time to speak to us Magnus, this has been an epic interview and I’m sure all of our readers will appreciate your openness. Before you leave, do you have any juice inside info about any of your upcoming games?
Magnus Olsson: As your audience are slot aficionados just like us, I’d like to beat the drum a bit on two aspects of our portfolio. One is the next generation of slots that Gold Volcano, Honey Rush, Reactoonz 2 and Diamond Vortex represent. These games bring new mechanisms, new math and new gameplay to the world. In some ways, it is the future, inasmuch it shows that slots are not a static science but instead a form of entertainment that is evolving and still has so much more to give.
Secondly, I believe our music-themed games, Saxon, Testament, Helloween, Sabaton, House of Doom, Twisted Sister, Demon and Black Mamba are very strong games even if you are not a fan of the music. Try them and play them! We always want to create games that, even if they do appeal to a particular audience, are still accessible to any player looking to have a good gaming experience. In Testament, we’ve put in almost every feature and function we had in our arsenal, so that is an excellent place to start!
I personally like Feline Fury, where cats battle it out in a Game of Thrones like environment (this is what internet was invented for!) and Jolly Roger II, a pirate-themed game harking back to how Pirates were depicted pre- Pirates of the Caribbean. They are currently my two favourite games!