Slot feature buy-ins have had a turbulent relationship throughout the slot landscape, with the UKGC warning operators in January 2020 to check that its games meet transparency and safety standards required by the regulator.
Despite its concerns, feature buy-in have long been a valuable part of the user experience as many high-profile developers include the option to trigger a slot feature at a ‘buy now’ cost to the player.
The question on the lips of panellists at CasinoBeats Summit, in a session entitled: Trigger happy: Is there a future for feature buy-in? – track sponsored by Betsson Group – is there a middle ground for buy-in features to coexist in harmony among both players and regulators alike.
Kicking off the panel, Aideen Shortt, founder and CEO of Lilywhite, moderator for this panel session, questioned the existence of buy-in features and how it can be labelled innovative when the product itself is already in the title to begin with.
Responding to the question, Anthony Cabrera Boulet, head of gaming for LatAm, Maintain, said: “I think it’s important for the future to have feature buys because it allows players to skip the steps of spinning 100 to 200 times to get to the feature of the games. That for acquisition is a very good tool and also for the excitement for the player, each player is different and some of them like the rush and to have the potential to win bigger amounts going straight into the feature than slowly working towards it.”
Though feature buy-ins can be more enticing to the high roller player, Shortt raised the question on how buy-ins impact the player who enjoys the slow-paced approach to slots and naturally triggering the bonus mode.
Boulet added: “Some players prefer the old school way of gaining the feature by themself and grinding, I think those players will enjoy the visibility of what they are getting. If I buy the feature for say 100x the regular bet amount do I have a higher chance to win the bigger amounts in the game.
“It also depends on the volatility of the game. Feature buy-ins work really well for higher volatility games as to get the feature the normal way takes quite a while. Some other games which have a lower volatility, where you can get the feature more easily, they can be less of an appeal for the players to participate.”
On the back of Boulet’s comments George Olekszy, head of slots at Eyas Gaming, expressed his approval of feature buy-ins yet stressed “one of the only cons” he noticed is the transparency related to them.
“I like where in some slot games there’s multiple bonus rounds, they often explain the rounds where players may receive larger but less frequent wins and in the other option they’re saying players will receive smaller more frequent wins.
“Maybe a more transparent breakdown to the customer and why you may pay more on some games than others.”
Shortt then questioned Olekszy if feature buy-ins have the same positive or negative impact on the type of slot title, branded for example, and asked if players are more happy to go on the journey or does the buy-in work better.
“I think it largely depends on the profile of the game. There are particular games, for example, I was looking at Chaos Crew by Hacksaw Games, and the production quality of the game is really good -the music, the graphics. I think on a game like that which have a feature buy option, there’s a few multiplier reel modifiers in the base game and you feel like you’re going on a bit of a journey and it’s quite an immersive journey.
“It feels like an achievement when you get to the bonus round and enjoy the process of getting there whilst I think on some games where the feature hit-rate is really far out and there’s not much action in the base game then the feature buy is more useful.”
Rewinding back to the start of the panel, where Boulet referenced feature buy-ins as a good acquisition tool, Shortt asked why is it so good?
Toni Kolehmainen, head of VIP at Rootz, responded: “For example, a player would know a specific game. From an acquisition point of few you can provide a certain bonus – deposit x amount and you can get to the bonus – there’s already that marketing side you already have direct acquisition with direct bonus feature buy.
Adding to Kolehmainen’s point, Boulet noted: “For acquisition it’s good as from a marketing perspective, many casinos are doing the passport bonus where they will allow customers to jump straight into a feature of a game, which is the most exciting bit.
“Also, one of the acquisition channels which many casinos use are streamers. The streamers tend to play feature buy-ins over and over because it shows the players who are watching the features straight away instead of showing a streamer spinning 100 times which can get quite boring.”
The panel went on to discuss the impact of streamers using the feature buy-ins and the effects on the brand, social elements created from the buy-ins and how feature buy-ins can exist within certain jurisdictions due to regulation.