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Relax Gaming: 99 per cent RTP

By - 19 August 2021

In May, Relax Gaming launched an industry-first slot offering a 99 per cent RTP. In a straight-talking interview, Simon Hammon, Chief Product Officer at Relax, explains why higher RTP slots are more profitable to operators than ‘normal’ slots and that it is the responsibility of regulatory bodies to help educate players.

Could you tell us more about Book of 99?

Book of 99 is a unique take on a familiar game flow of which there are countless variants available. At surface level, we diverted away from the more traditional Egyptian theme and explored a well-loved ancient Greek route.

Mechanically, we retained the familiarity of variance and high volatility that players grew to expect of ‘Book of’ games but turned things up a notch with a double trigger mechanism to Free Spins including a collection feature, as well as market-leading 99 per cent RTP potential.

What was the inspiration for creating a 99 per cent RTP slot? How was the idea received by the team?

Relax has a very localised approach to game provision, with Book of 99 we set out to target regulated markets, with a particular focus on the Swedish players. Naturally, the players’ likes and dislikes were the inspiration of many aspects of the game.

In the absence of bonus systems and more traditional acquisition tools, operators are often less able to attract and engage new and existing players, so they have become more creative in their offering to players. Differentiation is our solution to bringing something unique to the table, even if the foundations are laid in a well-known structure.

Offering higher RTPs while we’re seeing much of the industry veer towards lower RTPs was a new move for us and one we were keen to explore. We wanted to create a classic game that was familiar but offered the appeal of exciting RTP opportunities in a way that could inject new life into it. The team was completely behind this concept and we worked tirelessly to flesh out the concept to the best of our abilities.

When do players feel a change in RTP? Do they actively search for high RTP slots?

Return to player is a number balanced after numerous game simulations. Ultimately, RTP is an empirical value that plays over time. If games ran every round at their RTP level then there would be almost no enjoyment for a player due to their predictability.

This way, they can experience totally different spins and enjoy the element of variance. Players can feel a change in RTP because winning potential or frequency are the calibration tools of game maths, but often this is misinterpreted due to how volatile a game can be.

Players can and do search for game content that will give them the highest theoretical edge as it can give confidence that their winning and losing scales are balanced in their favour.

Do players always know when RTP is in their favour? Do players truly understand volatility?

Players are becoming more knowledgeable in this area and the growing number of forums and affiliates explaining this has helped increase their knowledge. That being said, very few people outside the game’s developers have insight into its mathematical make-up.

Volatility is a feeling ultimately based on the number of rounds played. A game may not be volatile but a player might perceive it to have a high volatility rate due to their personal experience. One can try and guess what is in their favour, but this is also part of the enjoyment of slots. Without volatility and variance it would lose the thrill and anticipation linked to the unknown.

Do younger players have different tastes and tendencies regarding RTP?

I don’t believe age is a factor here. The general industry has moved away from low volatile games largely in response to increased competition and also with the visibility of more big wins through streamers and the like. Nowadays, players want to play a game that they feel they can hit big on, but are more accepting of the ‘trade-off’ on hit frequency and varying wins.

Undoubtedly, 99 per cent RTP is appealing to players. On the other hand, RTP is where online casinos make their revenues. Unlike land-based casinos, they have no other means of making money through hospitality. What is the incentive for online operators to go live with a 99 per cent RTP slot?

In a highly competitive space, it will be stickiness and engagement that will ultimately generate benefits for operators and suppliers alike. Any game that stands out from the crowd and performs well will be a hit for both. Of course, it is true that the house edge defines margin and revenue, but again, you need to look at the RTP construct and how it settles and balances over time.

As a result of the collection feature in Book of 99, for example, the game can generate high revenues and operationally the game will fluctuate. From a profit perspective, Book of 99 is actually far more profitable than a ‘normal’ RTP game.

In an interview with G3 last year, a Managing Director of an online casino told G3 there should be an industry-wide standard of RTP of between 95.5 and 96 per cent to help face the myriad of challenges facing the industry, especially with regulated markets. Do you share these concerns?

Relax and I have always been advocates of a higher RTP strategy both to players and operators. It is our firm belief that a fair playing experience is also a more profitable one. Given the competition in the market, there has now been a trend to vary RTP and lower RTP, which can bring fair gaming into question.

A good game will always generate large revenue potential regardless and I feel suppliers should be focusing more on that than squeezing a few per cent on a weak product.

However, the landscape is changing. In Germany, we now see a TO tax of 5.3 per cent – this makes the current games at a 96 per cent average, for example, unsustainable and operationally not viable. Moreover, with this level of TO tax, games would (in theory) need to be 94.7 per cent without making any profit.

So, while I completely agree with the MD in their view, the answer depends upon harmonisation in regulation, which we have seen very little of in recent years. The main issue at hand here is always going to be centred around fairness and transparency. I believe that a player should know the product and have the facts at hand to make an informed decision.

Is it in the industry’s interest to educate players on RTP and other aspects of games?

To only discuss RTP would in many respects only serve to confuse – or worse, mislead – players. If properly executed, I believe it can be healthy, however, a certain level of discretion needs to be maintained in order to retain the exciting element of the game, showcasing too much risks losing this crucial aspect of gaming experiences.

I feel it is perhaps the certifying and regulatory bodies’ responsibility to help educate. One of the key areas surrounding this is the visibility of information, players should know where to find paytables, rules, RTP and other related information to make the right decisions for them.

Will we be seeing more ultra-high RTP slots from Relax in the future? Is Book of 99 a one-off in this regard?

Book of 99 is an innovative twist on a frequented model, it has certainly been well received so far so we’re not opposed to creating more. However, market demand will ultimately dictate our roadmap in some respects as we centre our productions around our audience’s feedback as much as we possibly can.

Our goal at Relax is more about standing out from the crowd and driving differentiation to player choice and casino lobbies by listening out for what players really want and catering to those specific demands.

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