What’s in a Game? A Closer Look at Top Slot Theme Features

What makes a top slot theme? The experts at Eilers & Krejcik Gaming have analyzed hundreds of games and came up with a Top 25 led by IGT’s Regal Riches (left).

What’s in a Game? A Closer Look at Top Slot Theme Features

Each month Eilers & Krejcik ranks the Top 25 New Core Video Reel games in the market. If it was not already obvious, these rankings highlight how slot machines continue to evolve in ways that enhance entertainment and the player experience.

In the Top 25 New Games Report using January 2021 slot data, we see an interesting breakdown in innovation style from slot manufacturers with key trends persisting (see Table 1).

In Figure 1, we break these games to a primary mechanic. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the Hold & Respin function, a revolutionary mechanic originating with Aristocrat’s Lightning Link, takes the greatest share.

Though Hold & Re-spin takes a third of the top 25 spots, we acknowledge the diverse set of features driving performance including mechanics like Cash on Reels, Persistence (True & Perceived), and Free Games. While every game utilizes some combination of these tools, a primary mechanic is evident. The top three primary mechanics we notice are Hold & Re-Spin, Cash on Reels, and Free Games.

Table 1: Top 25 New Core Video Reel Games, Eilers & Krejcik February 2021 Game Performance Report (January 2021 Data):

Figure 1: Primary Mechanic of Top 25 New Core Video Reel Games

Hold & Re-Spin

Hold & Re-Spin mechanic is an undeniable player favorite. The player is given a certain number of free spins to collect credits on the screen. The total prize accrues with these credits but ultimately the player is trying to fill the entire screen to score the big jackpot.

Traditionally, this game feature is unlocked by scoring some number of icons in a spin. In Everi’s Powershot Prosperity, the player must earn three lightning bolt icons to unleash this hold & re-spin function (#8 in Table 1). However, Scientific Games, is shaking up this space and brings Hold & Re-Spin right to the base game. The success of Cash Falls Pirates Trove and Cash Falls Huo Zhu demonstrate the player preference for this game archetype (#7 and #12 in Table 1).

Aruze puts a twist on the Hold & Re-Spin feature with Fantastic Dragons Gold and Fantastic Dragons Fire by adding in a second set of reels unlocked by a bet up incentive (#14 and #18 in Table 1).

Not only do we see modifications in Hold & Re-Spin feature itself, but we also see variety in the number of icons need to trigger said feature. Some games require three icons to get into the Hold & Re-Spin while others require six. Other games, such as Konami’s Diamond Trails Safari Winnings (#23 in Table 1) require the players acquire four diamonds on the screen.

Needless to say, we anticipate seeing unique variations in the Hold & Re-Spins archetype in the future given its popularity among players.

Cash on Reels

While Hold & Re-Spin games typically imply Cash on Reels, we see examples that put this feature at the forefront of the game. Games like Aristocrat’s Cash Fortune Deluxe (#16 and #17 in Table 1) and Scientific Game’s Cash Burst (#3 and #4 in Table 1) flaunt generous conditional cash prizes.

In Cash Fortune Deluxe, the player needs to receive prizes in 3 reels to earn the reward. Meanwhile, Cash Burst requires that the Cash Burst icon lands in the orb to qualify. While the Cash on Reels appear to be the primary mechanic, these games are augmented with opportunities to earn free games and even bigger prizes on expanded reels.

Incredible Technologies’ Prize Pool Cactus Cash features a unique version of Cash on Reels by awarding credit prizes that grow with time on device (#9 in Table 1). This game mixes a True Persistence style with Cash on Reels.

Free Games

While some element of free games is available in just about any new slot theme released, a smaller proportion of themes boast free games as the primary mechanic. Aristocrat continues the Buffalo dynasty with Buffalo Chief (#13 in Table 1). Buffalo Chief maintains the fan-favorite free game feature that allows player to add 250 additional buffalo symbols as well as retrigger free games.

Konami contends in this space with Myth of the Pyramid Anubis Riches (#22 in Table 1) and utilizes a unique 6×5 reel structure.

Combining the Game Features

Although I segment each game into a primary mechanic in Figure 1, new games typically yield a suite of functionalities. For example, it is not unusual for Hold & Re-Spin game to also boast a Free Games feature. In Figure 2, we show the distribution of the top 25 new games in Table 1 with a select list of features.

Figure 2: percent of Top 25 New Core Video Reel Games with Select Feature

We see that 28 percent of the top 25 games use a True Persistence technique. IGT’s Regal Riches combines a persistence strategy of accruing guaranteed wilds in the base game and unleashing them in a free game feature. Meanwhile, AGS’ Red Silk combines a True Persistence function where the player chases coins with a Wild Reel feature.

Further, we notice other trends such as Asian themes (44 percent of top 25 games), Spinoff themes (32 percent of top 25 games), as well as Wheel features (20 percent of top 25 games). Examples of spinoff themes include Scientific Games’ iconic Fu Dao Le Babies returning with Epic Fortunes while Aristocrat continues the Buffalo legacy with its newest variation, Buffalo Chief.

The slot industry changed dramatically over the few decades. For example, we see the normalization of ETGs on the typical casino floor, and we see skill-based games begin to penetrate the market. Moreover, we observe changes in players appetite for volatility, bonus games, and progressives. Cabinets and sign packages are flashier and glitzier than ever. At the end of the day the goal is still the same: increase time on device and player satisfaction.

Articles by Author: Brendan Moore

Brendan Moore is slot analytics manager at Eilers & Krejcik Gaming LLC. Contact him at bmoore@ekgamingllc.com to learn more about participating in the Eilers & Krejcik game performance database.