Jackpots are a reliable acquisition and retention tool, with significant wins being at the very core of the online gaming sector.
But without innovation, even the most effective products can stagnate with time. We spoke to some of the biggest names in jackpot development to find out how they are keeping their jackpot offerings fresh and exciting.
We speak with Simon Hammon, chief product officer, Relax Gaming, Arcangelo Lonoce, head of business development at Habanero, Stian Enger Pettersen, CEO CasinoEngine at EveryMatrix, Andrew Crosby, chief commercial officer, Kalamba Games.
What are the challenges in developing a modern jackpot product that resonates with players?
AC: The main driver behind introducing a jackpot is to help ensure recurring play. Big Time Gaming released its Megapays jackpot product in 2021 and has been adding top titles to it on the back of its success since. It was developed with the capability of adding in multiple game developers and offering a millionaire-making progressive jackpot with an expected fallout of £1m, which is unique to the market and has reportedly already made three to four millionaires.
Elsewhere, Relax Gaming has released Dream Drop, a product that brings more innovation to the progressive jackpot landscape, boosting its Mega and Major Jackpots every two wins with prizes from €500,000 up to a staggering €10m. It was introduced with the sequel to its popular Temple Tumble game, which maximized the initial impact. At Kalamba, we have devised a jackpot system that works more on an operator level of promotional functionality. Our operators can choose the level of jackpot offering specifically for their own players and then our Bullseye RGS does all the work and pays out the players accordingly.
SH: There’s a lot of choice on the market ranging from daily jackpot prize giveaways, local jackpots, and also global offerings. One of the main challenges is to define what product and player segment is being targeted and to ensure the delivery stands out from the crowd.
In a market where there’s a lot of content being released, securing a degree of long-term stickiness is essential to the jackpot offerings as they require key liquidity gains to ensure effective fallouts.
Players no longer want to wait for a jackpot to seed over a long period of time, they want to quickly understand where the hottest potential lies as soon as possible.
AL: The first thing to understand with jackpots is that effectively, a whole horde of players are competing for the same prize, but essentially there can only be one winner, unlike on our Jackpot Race™ where we precisely challenged this convention. Jackpot Race™ provides an example of innovation on a pretty conventional formula, where the operator can configure as many winners as they please – sharing different percentages of the pot – on a multi-game must-drop jackpot campaign.
We’re also looking at the challenge of jackpot developers creating games that are not mathematically strong and only work on the provision that they deliver a massive win. What makes a jackpot special is that you have players who like to play and win, and therefore have a chance of triggering a payout. Conversely, this means we end up with a situation where the product is diluted to ensure it provides big wins – which is unfortunately a route many developers take.
Regulation is another key test for game providers, especially in the case of networked jackpots. Regulators are becoming increasingly unamenable to a situation where a player’s money is accrued in another jurisdiction, which is easily understandable in places like Europe. This of course means that the jackpot can never reach the fabled numbers we used to see in the pre-regulation days.
SE: With so much competition in the market, it is important to create jackpot products that fulfill the needs of both operators and, most importantly, players. In many jurisdictions, acquisition costs for operators have become so high that jackpots have become a crucial way of retaining players and keeping them loyal to a brand. Instead of offering big bonuses, when created in the right way, jackpots can act as tools that create a perceived value far greater than their costs for operators.
Achieving a jackpot prize of the size that matches the huge numbers seen in the past years is increasingly challenging, given regulatory requirements, which can act as a stopper when pooling player money across various jurisdictions. However, we have worked hard on creating a series of new roadmap items within our JackpotEngine product that we believe will mark us out from the competition by revitalizing the way in which players think about jackpots.
Do you believe that jackpot products are stuck in a rut when it comes to innovation? If so, what forward-thinking features could change this?
SH: In essence, yes. I believe that while there are well-established and trusted jackpot systems on the market, they are based on game mechanics that haven’t moved with the times. Local jackpots struggle for visibility and are open to potential abuse; daily jackpot systems have become somewhat predictable, and global jackpots have high periods of inactivity and low periods of seeding and fallout.
There’s a lot that can be delivered in this area. The key, however, is ensuring that there is a high frequency, lack of predictability, and keynote prizes that feel tangible.
AL: From where I’m standing, I’m not so sure that they are stuck in a rut, since they offer plenty of entertainment for players. And if that isn’t enough, operators can also increase the number of opportunities for a jackpot to achieve certain parameters or features during gameplay or indeed take measures to gamify the entire jackpot experience, which is very hot right now.
At the end of the day, we need to remember that most players know that it is very unlikely that they win, but they still play slots with jackpots on the small chance that they win – as that’s an added bonus to the gameplay they are enjoying, which is why they come in the first place. Jackpots have been working in favor of players for some time and will continue to do so for the foreseeable future.
SE: There is an argument to say that this is true and with JackpotEngine, we are seeking to move things forward. Our product acts as a separate transaction on top of any given game, with the size of the bet determining the chances of taking the prize pot. It is a gamification tool, as opposed to a conventional jackpot that sits inside a game, and we believe that it is more powerful in terms of engagement and retention for this reason.
With JackpotEngine, operators can decide which games are part of a particular jackpot, instead of being limited to a particular provider. We can add player segmentation, offering particular jackpots to certain player profiles. We also have a set of developments on our product roadmap that we believe will further change the way that players think about jackpots. These include personal jackpots that can only be won by a particular player, and the community wins where players get a cut of a prize won by another player.
AC: There are many jackpot systems available in today’s market, offering wins ranging from the astronomical to the more standard daily versions, which can pay players tens to hundreds of Euros. These daily variants have become very popular but the contributions can be expensive for the operator. I believe players are always looking for a balance booster while playing their favorite games. Large multi-million jackpots are hot around their respective fallout values but generally are not top-performing games around the non-hot time of the game. Developing top-performing titles and then adding jackpots by utilizing promo features makes our RGS a great way of engaging players. Adding a jackpot that is formed during a promotional period by utilizing the RTP of the game is a proven way of retaining players and increasing GGR.
How important is a diverse games portfolio with major jackpot prizes?
SE: First and foremost, the most important aspect of any slots portfolio is the quality of the games themselves. Players are more discerning than ever, so it’s important that they are provided with varied and high-quality content. As an industry, we are now competing in the entertainment sphere for time and attention and an offering must be compelling in order to capture the player’s interest.
Conventional, progressive jackpots that create large prizes continue to be in high demand in Europe and I expect this to continue. Looking to the US market, which is far more immature when it comes to online games, it is more difficult to predict how things will play out. But if you look to the land-based sector and the draw of jackpots there, it’s hard to believe that progressives won’t have a major role to play as the market grows.
AC: With varying levels of jackpot amounts, it’s a good idea for the operator to offer as wide a selection as possible so there is always a game in hot mode. It’s then on the operator to make sure the hot games are always represented and promoted during these times to their player bases.
SH: In the past, a jackpot product could stand independently with its own jackpot pool and be successful, which was largely down to a lack of competition.
In today’s marketplace, it will be only linked game offerings that will, or could, command the higher levels of liquidity needed to fund a jackpot offering. Players don’t like skins so why would they accept the same with a major jackpot prize? Games need to be diverse in flow and uniqueness to keep the excitement and underlying momentum in the liquidity.
AL: The most important thing to establish first is a diverse portfolio of products! There are thousands of operators out there that aren’t interested in diminishing their margins – the very margins on which local jackpots’ mechanics sit so that the games’ maths are untarnished – to deliver jackpot-orientated marketing campaigns that may not deliver the goods. Marketing has become a science at this point, with operators fighting over the fine margins that can make or break a product by as little as a percentage point which in turn has made margins extremely important and see significant resources sunk into it – as it’s all about the numbers.
With this in mind, we can assume that it is the diverse portfolio of those games (which drive the margin), that is essential for a company’s long-term success, and that offering prizes on top should never come at the cost of diluting the quality of the products. Players will always come to your casino because of the games on offer, and the gameplay that comes with it – we are after all, in the entertainment business.
What types of jackpots are proving most effective with players nowadays?
AL: Well, of course, we’re happy to go on record to say that Habanero’s Jackpot Race™ is proving incredibly effective with players nowadays. Our proprietary jackpot format is both easily configurable and infinitely scalable, meaning that marketing promotions in particular can be custom-built in line with what we offer.
If I were to put my 15-year operator veteran hat on – I would say that offering, for example, a huge sporting event themed jackpot would be a fantastic opportunity to generate buzz and attract players on-site at key traffic times. The premise would be simple, launch a tournament-based jackpot during the sporting event and ensure the pot reaches important levels via focused marketing campaigns, then using Habanero’s Jackpot Race™ have a top winner who scoops, say, 20% of the pot and then cascade the remaining 80% across the other participants. This would guarantee an incredible return, and easily adapt the concept of tournament-based poker pots for slots and other casino formats.
SE: In general, my experience from an operator’s perspective tells me that many jackpots naturally go through cyclical periods, where they can suddenly become mature and really hot – particularly the big global ones, where the theoretical payout point has been reached and this message gets pushed out widely by providers. The promotion of ripe jackpots is highly effective in terms of acquisition and reactivating existing players.
I believe that online gaming will continue taking cues from social gaming. These games are a competitor in terms of a player’s leisure time, and we will see many aspects of this universe continue to arrive in our own, such as collectables and creating value in logging in on a daily basis.
AC: As mentioned, daily jackpots have become very popular and are featured by nearly every operator. Megapays has also become extremely well-liked and will continue to be a favoured jackpot mechanic in the future when more and more top new titles are added by BTG. At Kalamba, we have launched our first jackpot challenges and they have proved immensely popular, with some operators reporting a doubling of turnover on participating games. We will continue to roll out our jackpot promotions in the coming months and hope that it becomes a go-to promo tool for our operators in the future and that players continue to enjoy the allure of those big wins.
SH: In my opinion, global jackpots with big-ticket prizes are offering the most effective and rewarding experience to players. Games that are unique and exciting, but present the opportunity of life-changing wins are always going to stand out in terms of potential.