Following the huge success of Megaways in the online casino space, the “All Ways” genre of slots has inspired many other developers to experiment with game mechanics that differ from the traditional fixed paylines model and offer thousands of different ways to win from a single spin.
We asked Pawel Piotrowski, New Games Manager at Yggdrasil Gaming, Rob Procter, Content Specialist Director, Digital at Scientific Games and Robert Lee, Commercial Director at Realistic Games, their thoughts on why this format is so popular with players, the complexities in developing such a game, and how “All Ways” slots could evolve in the future.
Q: Just how popular are slots that feature hundreds or thousands of paylines in today’s marketplace? What is it about the mechanics that have attracted and maintained the interest of players for so long?
Rob Procter (RP): Players really do find the All Ways genre appealing, mainly due to its simplicity. No matter how many lines there are, if you have corresponding symbols on the first three reels and beyond, then it will always trigger a win. Traditional paylines can often be confusing to first-time players, particularly as not every supplier’s paylines are the same. All Ways slots present us with an opportunity to be innovative and think outside the box as to how wins are awarded.
Historically, Scientific Games has always been at the forefront of the All Ways genre, going back to the original release of Raging Rhino that offered thousands of ways to win. We were producing these games before they became mainstream, with Megaways really pushing the All Ways vertical forward. In fact, we took it even further with games such as Pillars of Asgard, which offered an unprecedented one million ways to win through our DynaReel™ engine.
Moving forward, we’re releasing more games that really go to new levels of depth, with cutting-edge gameplay that keeps our players safe with the integration of responsible gambling tools. We’ve got a new release coming later this year titled Spirit of the River, which has got a new mechanic called Dual Ways Pays™. Not only does it pay from left to right, but also from top to bottom. It’s really the evolution of the traditional ways left to the right model, bringing something new for this genre of game.
Robert Lee (RL): I think you only have to look at an operator website to see just how popular these types of slots have become, and that has not only been since the launch of Megaways titles. I remember launching Thunderstruck 2 when I worked at Ladbrokes over ten years ago, which offered the 243-way pay structure, and since then, the games have become more and more popular with players, in particular as games have moved away from the traditional 5 x 3 format, with the increased reel sizes lending themselves perfectly to offering the All Ways style mechanic. If this area was indeed lacking initially, Megaways has certainly positioned this type of game firmly at the top of the tree.
Pawel Piotrowski (PP): We can clearly see the increase in the popularity of the ways slots. Players appreciate it due to the simplicity and how easy it is to follow what is happening in the game. There is no need to check the game rules for available paylines and memorize them. This allows players to strictly focus on the symbols and the features that the game has to offer, which creates a more immersive experience.
Q: From a development perspective, how complicated is it to create such a mechanic, particularly those that offer thousands of ways to win from a single spin?
PP: There’s not a huge difference from the development perspective between the ways and the payline games. Ways games frequently feature taller reels which work great on mobile devices in the portrait mode. More symbols per reel mean symbols being smaller, so they require a slightly different art design than the classic 3-high slots. There are many differences in the math design, but the design complexity is very similar.
RL: From a development perspective, there really is very little difference between creating an All Ways game to a standard 10-line game – both rely on a maths model to make them work! There are added complexities, of course, but that is no different from adding extra complex features to a standard slot. Tweaking the payout structure is always important – you must find the right balance that keeps the players both happy and engaged for a long period of time. It’s also very interesting to see how the perception has changed – can you imagine offering a player half of their stake back for a six-of-a-kind win before Megaways came along?
RP: Of course, developing these types of games can be a complex project, which is why we’re seeing a mix of providers acquiring the Megaways license or creating something similar in-house. Megaways certainly gives a developer a firm platform to build from; as we know, players will be receptive to a game that features the core elements of the mechanic. From a Scientific Games perspective, we want to be part of that genre given its success across multiple markets, but we also want to be innovative and develop a new All Ways mechanic that could be the next Megaways.
Dual Ways Pays™ is a great example of this. It’s a very interesting mechanic that we’ve been working on for some time now, but we’re already thinking of how we can introduce it into more releases than just Spirit of the River. Other developers do this really well by making small tweaks and releasing it again, almost like a conveyor belt of new content.
Q: Do you think the “All Ways” format has a long-term future within an online casino? What are the possibilities in taking this mechanic forward and bringing something new for players to enjoy?
RL: I think the mechanic has significant longevity and growth ahead of it still. We already see more complex versions increasingly, with additional features hitting the market every week. It’s like anything. Once the initial concept is in the market, other suppliers will look to build on that and try and take it to the next level. That always makes for an interesting competitive journey where ultimately, the players benefit from the additional exciting games that are made available.
RP: I’ve thought for a while now as to when the Megaways bubble will finally burst, but the reality is that the mechanic is still going as strong as ever. Whenever a batch of new Megaways games gets released, inevitably, one or two will make a strong impact because of its familiarity, as well as the way in which a developer has tweaked the mechanic. I think the likes of Megaways and other All Ways mechanics do have a very long-term future within online gaming. Players have taken this genre as the norm now, and so it’s here to stay. Given the saturation of these games in the market, it’s clear, though, that was rather than sticking with a model that works, it’s important to add a little extra to each new game.
From our perspective, we’re constantly striving to find the next All Ways mechanic that can have a similar impact to what Megaways has achieved, keeping responsible gaming at the forefront of development at all times. We have the brainpower and experience within our team to build something new that will really resonate with players.
PP: We’ve noticed a growing popularity of the games where players can unlock a larger amount of ways during the gameplay, like in our Valley of the Gods titles.
In April, we released our first Gigarise title, Atlantean Gigarise, which takes the all-ways games to the next level. Gigarise is the latest addition to our Game Engagement Offering (GEM), which now features four of our proprietary mechanics. With Gigarise, players can increase the reel height of each reel separately by landing a special symbol. Landing a special symbol on the maximum reel height triggers a special feature. The layout of the game is saved between the spins and between the sessions, so there’s always an incentive to come back to the game and continue expanding the reels for the guaranteed bonuses. With 32768 win ways available, we expect it will have great appeal to players. Many of our future titles will be way games, and we will continue to develop the format.
Our efforts have been in placing big bets on a handful of proven innovative mechanics we know will work and refining them for excellence along the way. We are now offering our YG Masters partner the possibility to use our GEMs in their own game development as well. Each of our GEMs frameworks offers a unique experience while still hitting the mark on what our audience knows, understand, and love, and we are excited to share this exciting journey to success.