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Play’n GO: Off the Grid

By - 19 October 2023

Grid Slots have become one of online casino’s fastest growing segments in recent years, and the undisputed champion of the genre is Play’n GO. G3 sits down with the studio’s Games Ambassador, Magnus Wallentin, to discover how this unique type of title is built.

How do Play’n GO’s Grid Slots work?

For us, Grid Slots are about delivering a different type of gameplay experience compared to a standard 5×3 or similar. For the player, it’s less about paylines and more about building wins by creating clusters of matching symbols. It’s really something quite unique and not easy to replicate.

We’ve been producing Grid Slots for a few years now – including some older 3×3 games like Queen’s Day Tilt, our recent hexagonal title Honey Rush 100, and of course the stone-cold classic Tome of Madness. The specific mechanics differ, but the general approach of cluster building matching symbols is what gives the games that particular feel players love.

How different is the design process compared to traditional titles that use a payline system for wins?

Grid Slots have become a huge trend in online casino, and you can trace the origins of this back to the global success of Candy Crush. Many have tried to jump on the bandwagon, but the truth is that Play’n GO Grid Slots are so beloved because it takes an immense amount of expertise to build these games.

Each of our titles has one-of-a-kind game mechanics combined with unparalleled storytelling, and everything is brought together in a way that is intuitive to the player. That’s not easy to do.

It’s also not enough to simply copy what others are doing. We’re always looking to push the genre forward; we recently launched our first cluster pays game which is also a Grid Slot, and it challenges players to match six OAK symbols anywhere to create a win, with no alignment or adjacency needed. It’s this sort of out-of-the-box thinking that has made Play’n GO the market leader in Grid Slots.

Prior to going live, how confident were you that the Grid Slots formula was going to be a success?

I’d firstly say there isn’t necessarily a formula here. If there was, building these games would be simple. There’s always a degree of experimentation when you are creating new types of mechanics, but we always had confidence these games would appeal to players. We’ve wanted to explore the very corners of what a casino game can be, rather than just repeat what has worked in the past.

Could you tell us more about Play’n GO’s first Grid Slot?

That would be Energoonz, which was our first grid game with cluster pays mechanics. It also marked the inception of our hugely popular Toonz series. Energoonz didn’t have any cascading mechanics, but instead increasing win multipliers where 3 OAK formed a win, which in turn left behind a wild. By clearing symbols, the player could reveal letters; reveal the entire word B.O.N.U.S to enter the free spins round.

How was the new concept received by players and operators? Was it an immediate success?

I’d say the concept was appreciated, particularly among slots fans, but it took a little while for the genre to really gain widespread popularity. The release of Reactoonz was probably the tipping point. This was a title where the game mechanics had been reworked and refined to make them even more engaging, and it very quickly became a classic.

What has been Play’n GO’s most successful grid slot to date?

That’s a tough one. Reactoonz, Moon Princess, Rise of Olympus and Tome of Madness have all been extremely successful. Moon Princess and Rise of Olympus both received follow-up games in the 100 series, underlining just how popular they are. But if you made me pick a single title? I’d probably go with Tome of Madness.

Why do you think this game captured players’ attention more than the rest?

I think what the game captures is that completely original brand of storytelling, where our fearless adventurer Rich Wilde seeks to unlock the secrets of the cult of Cthulhu. It’s inspired by the writings of H.P Lovecraft and the world-building is just amazing combined with fantastic gameplay. It’s a masterclass in slot design.

Are Grid Slots more popular than traditional slots across the board, in certain markets, or not at all?

They are more popular, but it varies a lot from market to market. Some markets are a close 50/50 split, others see Grid Slots dominate 70/30 or even 85/15.

Has the Grid Slots concept been mercilessly imitated like other mechanics and game themes? Have pale imitations been to the detriment or betterment of Play’n GO?

It’s nice to see others building around these concepts and generating even more excitement. Play’n GO has certainly been a leader in this space, but we understand we need to keep innovating to stay ahead of the field, and to that end we have some surprises in the pipeline already that we can’t wait to share.

What license do you take in terms of iterating upon the Grid Slots formula? How far can you go in terms of evolving Grid Slot’s fundamental elements, such as math?

Grid Slots owe their very existence to left field thinking, and things are evolving. We don’t want to stand still here, so we’re always pushing for the next breakthrough. It’s in Play’n GO’s DNA to try new things in search of great games.

Several Grid Slots have received sequels including Honey Rush and Sweet Alchemy. How did you build upon the original titles?

We essentially took the most important mechanics and re-worked them to make them even more engaging and entertaining. A great example is how well all the parts of Honey Rush 100 work together, with wins feeding the charge metre, wilds increasing win multipliers and transforming symbols to reach the next level. If we’re going to make a sequel to a game, we know it can’t just live up to expectations, it needs to exceed them.

Has the Grid Slots mechanic proven strong and distinct enough to be the launchpad for other ideas?

Absolutely, and Temple of Prosperity is just one good example of this. It’s a grid title where we’re creating a completely new mechanic of scatter pays, combining them with instant prizes and then increasing multipliers. Maybe I’m biased, but it’s a blast, and just the start of the type of innovation that can grow out of Grid Slots.

What is the future for Grid Slots?

We can’t give away our secrets quite yet! But rest assured, we have a full pipeline of games that are once again going to redefine how people look at – and play – Grid Slots. Stay tuned!

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