Booming Games: innovation happens from multiple anglesBy William - 15 May 2023
Founded roughly eight and a half years ago as the iGaming industry shifted from Flash to HTML5, Booming Games has seen the sector evolve significantly. To compete with existing game suppliers releasing more content and new suppliers entering the market, CEO Max Niehusen cites the creation of new game ideas and concepts as crucial to continued success.
In a nutshell, what are 2023’s slot trends?
I believe the future of the iGaming industry is bright. Online slots are constantly evolving, innovation does not end, and new trends and features are always emerging.
Next to innovative features and mechanics, the use of advanced graphics and animations means the general presentation of slots are becoming more and more creative, and gamification elements provide a seamless experience for players. I believe all of this will continue in 2023. I also look forward to new markets opening to the iGaming industry.
How has the sector evolved over the last eight and a half years?
The sector has evolved massively. Existing game suppliers have grown and released more content, and new suppliers successfully entered the market and grew their presence. Together, they started flooding the markets and casinos with a ton of content.
So, it has become more and more important, and also difficult, to stand out and offer the best possible variety of games in the most entertaining way. One of our key drivers is the creation of our game ideas and concepts. We sit down and brainstorm innovative game ideas in a round of up to 20 people constantly and then execute these ideas in the most creative way possible.
What have been the most meaningful innovations in the market during this period?
Innovation happens constantly and from multiple angles. New device technology drifting towards mobile gameplay was one of our first important steps to fully develop and execute our game concepts with a mobile-first approach.
New slot mechanics and features have become an important trend in recent years. This made it crucial for us to closely watch industry trends, follow them, combine them with our own trends, add the Booming Games touch, and create our own entirely new mechanics and features.
How have new technologies changed the way slots are developed and played?
Technologies are flexible. Since the ‘mobile-first’ approach, they have not really changed the method by which we come up with new game ideas. The mass of content, though, has created the need for more variety in casinos, and it has changed the way we engage with players.
While simple game mechanics with just a few features worked very well back in the day, nowadays, player demands have become more diverse due to players constantly being able to check out the latest games from anywhere and at any time from their mobile.
Therefore, the amount of work that goes into developing the ‘perfect’ game becomes extensive as it includes the mechanics, the maths, the theme, and the presentation of the game. Additionally, marketing tools, gamification, jackpots, and tournaments became very important for player engagement.
What games have you taken the most pride in seeing succeed, and why?
We’ve seen that seven of our recently released titles are doing exceptionally well, which makes us very proud and happy that our efforts are successful. One of those games is TNT Bonanza, which is a massive hit due to its fantastic theme, appealing graphics, and features such as scatter pays, cascading reels, random multipliers, and unlimited Free Spins.
We also have games that became successful after the release date and are still performing exquisitely – titles like Burning Classics, Cash Pig, Buffalo Hold and Win, The Wild Wings of Phoenix, and Flaming Chillies. I believe the variation of content is very important, and those top-performing slots are the perfect example, as they are each very different, ranging from classic slots to games with much more complex and innovative mechanics and bonuses.
How has the methodology driving the creation of game portfolios changed?
The methodology has evolved significantly over the years. In the past, online slot suppliers would create games based on popular themes or ideas, and they would release them as individual titles. However, as the industry has matured, suppliers have shifted towards a more strategic approach to portfolio creation.
To curate product roadmaps, suppliers use data-driven insights, constantly scan the market trends and release not only quality-driven but also quantity-driven information to identify player and operator preferences and trends. This helps to offer a greater variety, satisfy different player desires, and to create games that are tailored to specific markets and player segments.
We don’t only offer a greater variety of games to suit different player desires, but we also work in cooperation with our casino partners for a more cohesive and targeted portfolio of games that are more likely to resonate with their players.
What game themes have remained popular, which have blended in the background, and have any new themes come to the fore in recent years?
Themes that have always been super-popular are still being produced and enjoyed by players. Chief among these are fruit themes. This trend first appeared in 1907 when Herbert Mills, a Chicago-based developer, created a machine called Operators Bell.
Back then, gambling was still illegal in most countries, and the fruits gave the impression this was a chewing gum vending machine and not a slot machine. Other themes that will always be around include classics like diamonds, gems, mythology, jokers, gold, money, and leprechauns.
New themes we’ve seen a demand for include animal-themed slots, adventure themes, seasonal games, sports, branded content, and space. This again is about diversity and understanding players. Younger generations might be more focused on the modern approach – lots of features, bonuses, revolutionary mechanics – but we also still have a lot of players who enjoy three-reel classics the most.
How have features and bonuses changed?
The features of online slot games have evolved over the years to provide players with a more exciting gaming experience. Bonus games have become a key feature of online slot games and are designed to provide players with an additional chance to win big and have more excitement due to more variety in the gameplay.
In the past, bonus games were relatively simple and usually consisted of a basic pick-and-win feature or free spins. However, in recent years, the importance of bonus games, more features and features mixed together, has increased significantly, and suppliers are constantly trying to come up with new and more complex bonus games.
Many modern slot games have multiple bonus games and features and new ways of triggering them, adding an extra layer of excitement and engagement for players. Again, I don’t believe this is the only direction, as we still have players enjoying games with a straightforward approach. It’s all about building a balanced, comprehensive portfolio.
How has RTP shifted – and have these changes been to the advantage or detriment of players?
In general, RTP has increased slightly in recent years to the advantage of players. One of the reasons for the increase in RTP is the introduction of new features, bonus games, and free spins.
To make these features exciting for the players, they require a substantial amount of RTP. You cannot simply take it away from the base game, as this would make the base game unappealing, and players would leave the games.
The RTP split in a slot game is essential for its success, the more variety the maths of a game offers, the more surprises and excitement it creates. In addition, some regulators have introduced rules that require online slot games to have a minimum RTP, which avoids suppliers or operators offering ridiculously low RTP games for their own gain.
Are mechanics as engaging as they can possibly be?
Online slot mechanics have come a long way in recent years and have become much more entertaining than they were in the past. However, innovation never ends, and suppliers are constantly looking for ways to enhance the gaming experience and entertainment levels.
As the online slot game industry becomes more competitive, developers are under increasing pressure to create new and creative mechanics and set new trends that keep players engaged and excited.
How do you assess the increasingly fast churn of games hitting the market?
Fast churn can be both a positive and a negative thing. On the one hand, it means that players have a greater variety of games to choose from, and suppliers have more opportunities to experiment with new features and mechanics.
On the other hand, it can lead to a lack of innovation and a focus on quantity over quality. This can result in a saturation of the market with very similar games that do not offer players anything new or innovative. Therefore, balance is very important.
The fast churn of online slot games can also lead to a lack of longevity. Some games may be popular for a short time but quickly lose their appeal as players move on to the next new game. However, we still have a great success rate of games sticking and players returning to them for many months or even years.
Furthermore, the fast churn of online slot games can also drive suppliers towards greater creativity and innovation as they constantly strive to create games that stand out in a crowded market.
Have games become increasingly narrow-casted, in that they are created to appeal to a very defined player, as opposed to a more general player type?
A comprehensive portfolio is key for any game provider. I believe this is the most important strategy, as in reality, hardly any slot will be loved by all players in all markets. Once you have a theme and title, you are already targeting certain demographics, age groups, and genders.
This is one reason why slot games become narrow-casted. Another thing is the market size and your relationship with the operator. If a provider notices that there is a demand for a certain slot type or theme in a top-performing market, why not take this route?
It’s the same with the partnership with operators. If a top-tier operator, on whose sites our slots have been performing outstandingly well, asks for certain criteria, we would cooperate.
Finally, how do you see the online slots industry evolving over the coming years?
The quality and quantity of existing content will make it more and more difficult for new studios to enter the market. But endless room for innovation also opens the doors to new trends, like mini-games or crash games in evolving markets.
The competition is strong but slot providers that understand player desires and industry trends and have a strong focus on these new trends and enough diversity in their portfolio offering, will have the ability to come up with new mechanics, modern trends and themes, marketing tools and other ways to increase player engagement.
So, I see this trend continuing. I feel we’re living in a golden age of online casino games, and we can expect more diversity and innovation.