If you have been playing online slots for more than a few years or so, you might have noticed a change in the way some of them play.
By that, I of course mean ‘how long your deposit lasts’.
Players in the know have been complaining for a while now that developers are getting the balance wrong, and that casinos are stretching their greed to the limit, but what exactly is going on?
I have certainly noticed that some developers and casinos (not all) have been moving the goal posts, but the more it happens, the more likely that these lower standards will become the new normal.
The only way to fight it – assuming you want to of course – is to vote with your feet, but the only way to do that is to know what is happening, and how to spot it.
Here’s what I think.
Are Online Slot Games Getting Worse?
In terms of graphics and fancy new features, absolutely not!
If all we look at is the themes, visuals, sound effects, and innovative new ways to win etc., then we can safely say the online slot industry has never been better.
However, regardless of what we see in front of us, it’s the mathematical model behind the game that ultimately decides on the experience we have from a financial point of view, and that’s the bit that not a lot of people think too deeply about… probably because it’s really bloomin’ complicated.
It’s fairly common knowledge that 96% is a good benchmark for the sort of RTP a game should be playing at. Anything more is very welcome of course, but anything less starts to make us think the game isn’t worth playing.
However, a lot of occasional slot players don’t really know what they are doing and will just click on anything that looks attractive and spin until their money is gone, they might not even know what an RTP is.
I do though, and I don’t know about you, but I have started to notice a fair few games being released closer to the 94% mark, let alone 96%.
So what’s going on?
Different Versions of Online Slots with Different RTP
Whereas games used to come with the stated RTP and that was that, now, some providers give casinos a bit of a range to choose from.
The model the game runs on has been tweaked, and the casino can choose to host a less generous version of the game if they wish.
This obviously boosts income for the operator (and the developer depending on the share structure they have in place), but it leaves the player short changed.
What’s worse, is that a casino can change the RTP level of a game on their site, and so long as the stated RTP buried in the game info is correct, they don’t have to let players know.
So I could be playing my favourite made up slot, “Mr Casino’s Underpants”, for years, and then all of a sudden the RTP changes, and I don’t notice until a few months later when I start to wonder why it’s not as good anymore.
We don’t tend to check the RTP before every single session do we? But maybe we should start to.
Equally, you might read a review of a game and see the RTP stated, only to find a casino hosting the game with a different RTP.
On top of this, and as a brief side note, the amount of the overall RTP made up of big wins seems to have changed over time, so that the majority of the players see less of it, but one or two very lucky people get huge wins.
So as a very rough example of what I mean; if a game needed to pay out say £100,000 to balance its RTP, it might give one player a £75k win and spread the other £25k among lots of players winning much smaller amounts. Whereas in the past, perhaps a game in the same situation would have given out a £20k win to one player and spread the other £80k out.
The above numbers are totally made up, it’s just to demonstrate the point.
Why Did the Demo Slot Play Better than the Real Money One?
Firstly, it’s important to say that any noticeable change in the way a game plays and pays could quite legitimately be down to variance and your luck on the day.
It could also be a psychological thing. There are biases for everything and our brains love finding patterns, especially in gambling, so we could perceive a significant difference between a demo slot and the real money version where none actually exists.
However, there could be another reason.
Whenever a new game is released there is a demo game to go along with it. It’s the same game, but you get to play it for fun money or in demo mode (however you want to express it) so you can experience the game before spending your hard earned pennies on it.
Try before you buy; it’s a good idea.
What tends to happen though, is the demo version is released at the maximum RTP.
So if a game was available to casinos as a 96.5% RTP, a 95.5% RTP, a 94.5% RTP and a 93.5% RTP, the demo will probably be programmed at 96.5%.
However, if the casino is hosting the 93.5% version of the game, your demo play has more chance of bearing fruit than your real money play.
That’s why it’s super important to check the RTP of any game at any casino before you play.
The point of this blog post was mainly to raise awareness of what is going on, so that players are best equipped to make decisions when choosing games.
It’s frustratingly difficult to get any hard facts or data on it though.
Since there are so many different providers and operators with various different deals and ways of operating, it makes the claim hard to verify, but a huge number of experienced players are making the same complaints.
That can’t be a coincidence.
And the one thing that absolutely can be proven is the number of slots being released with lower RTPs; you just have to look at a list of new releases to see what I mean.
In this area, casinos are really pushing their luck to see what they can get away with, and they will only pull it back once players stop playing the poorer value games.