Frank Floor Talk: Perceived Persistence games dominate the slots

April 22, 2024 8:00 AM
Photo: Shutterstock
  • John G. Brokopp, CDC Gaming Reports
April 22, 2024 8:00 AM
  • John G. Brokopp, CDC Gaming Reports

The slot machine research and development breakthrough that gave the industry persistence-style games stimulates more than the sight and sound sensory powers of players.

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In the wake of analyzing a research paper authored by two Rutgers University psychology professors in last month’s column, which provided scientific basis to persistence outside of gaming, this time around we continue our journey by gleaning additional insight from two gaming industry authorities.

Dan Schrementi, president of gaming at Incredible Technologies, and Brendan Moore, slot analytics manager at Eilers & Krejcik Gaming LLC, bring balance to the topic by sharing information and opinions about persistence games from their respective fields of expertise.

The Rutgers study, which revealed that perceived control influences neural responses to setbacks and promotes persistence, essentially means that persistence-style games have the ability to influence the manner in which our brains process game play.

“Perceived Persistence has changed the course of slot game design,” Schrementi believes. “It is a powerful tool that needs to be managed appropriately. In my eyes, the industry has a duty in educating and managing persistence in games. The perception of the feature needs to realistically map with the frequency of the event and not over-project the expectation of ‘luck’.

“While a more extreme example, we watched ‘near miss’ enter and exit the business for appropriate reasons years ago. We want to continue to bring players these persistence features that they enjoy. To do so, the industry will need to stay educated and aligned on where the trend goes.”

The application of visuals that give slot players the illusion they are closing in on a bonus is arguably the most powerful game force ever devised. Not only is time on device extended, also an increase of credits per spin by players who perceive a bonus is coming and wish to derive the max value

Eilers & Krejcik’s Brendan Moore observed in a report he wrote in July of last year, “Not All Persistence Games Persist”, that the highest-level games in the persistence category, True and Perceived (also referred to as “metamorphic”), differ measurably in concept and long-term results.

True persistence games were all the rage in 2021. The accumulation of on-screen equity increased time on device for players who saw in real-time how the more they played, the closer they were coming to triggering bonuses. It didn’t take very long, however, for this novel perk of game play to lose its broad appeal.

Moore wrote: “We found two interesting takeaways: 1) True Persistence games hit below zone average after only five months on the floor. 2) After eight months on the floor, True Persistence games did worse than the average new core video.” (Eilers-Fantini Game Performance Database which tracks almost 400,000 slots internationally).

“True Persistence is saturated,” Moore said when this columnist reached out to him for an update. “The number has sat at around 10 percent to 20 percent at any given time in the last two years and has not broken past 20 percent of the Top 25 games.”

Noting at the time (July 2023) that among the exceptions were Aristocrat’s Buffalo Ascension, a True Persistence game that enjoys a broad following, Moore is clear in revealing that just because a game employs a persistence-style mechanic does not guarantee it will become a goose that lays golden eggs on the slot floor.

Enter the other high-level style in the persistence category, Perceived Persistence, which Moore defines as purely persistence cycles that are supplemented by audio/visual indicators with no change in return to player (RTP) from spin to spin.

Very soon, the persistence “magic” that took slot floors by storm again continues to rage.

Pulsating cauldrons of coins waiting to erupt and cascade into a bonus avalanche, strings of sizzling firecrackers igniting in an upward journey to bonus heaven, pigs swelling to the bursting point until the bonus is triggered, all incorporate an element of “perception of control” that veils randomness and makes leaving the machine a very tough decision.

Continuing, Moore wrote in his article: “Contrast this with a True Persistence game where players can mentally calculate their ROI and whether it is worth it to stay on the game – and oftentimes, it is an easy decision for a player to cut their losses.”

“At the time I wrote the article, 68 percent of the Top 25 new core games had Perceived Persistence elements,” Moore said. “As of February 2024, the most recent date I have cataloged, it was at 88 percent.

“If you look at the trend, it just continues to grow. Core games with Perceived Persistence elements have hit the high 80 percent and into the low 90 percent of the Top 25. Obviously, it can’t go over 100 percent, but almost all of the top new games have it nowadays.”

Incredible Technologies’ Dan Schrementi acknowledged that the vast majority of successful games in the industry now either include some sort of perceived or actual persistent mechanism, adding “players have come to expect that the wonder of the spin is now followed by the wonder of an after-spin event that could trigger a jackpot or bonus game.

“Think about progressives, or better yet, ‘must hit by’ progressives, the most logical and obvious form of persistence,” he continued. “Yet now, the presentation is simplified with progressively larger graphics like sparkles, or fire, or coins filling a bowl and players attracted to these features more than numbers. They are seeking these game mechanics out.”

Moore reasons that the popularity of the Perceived Persistence genre of persistence games is created because they are paired with a number of pots to chase, each one of which can trigger a bonus.

In many cases, the bonuses can be triggered simultaneously (“Feature in Feature”). Moore pointed out in his article: “It may not be the persistence mechanism itself but rather its symbiotic relationship with the pot chase”.

He concludes with the theory that Perceived Persistence games derive their success from their ability to deliver excitement to the player in exchange for time on device without sacrificing additional RTP. He predicts that while True Persistence games may dwindle in numbers, Perceived Persistence games will continue on a roll.

“There are two metrics going on here,” Moore said. “First of all, if it is in the Top 25 list you know it is high performing and resonates with players. There is a high demand for it from the player side which we can see from the performance.

“On the supplier side we can see that designers are picking up on it. We know they are incorporating Perceived Persistence into games because they believe they will achieve higher performance. So, there is demand for it and there is also supply for it.

“As for other forms of persistence, I think where we’re going is to see the development of innovative entrepreneurial ways of Perceived Persistence. A really good recent example is IGT’s Prosperity Link, which has that traditional pot of gold that the players fill up throughout succession time on device. But the bonus it awards is unique to other games.”

As for the future, here is what Moore had to say after gazing into his crystal ball:

“Developers are going to continue to look for ways to make the games more enjoyable for players in ways that have not been done yet. There will be more Perceived Persistence, but perhaps not always just triggering a bonus. They will continue to search for innovations throughout the game play.

“Perceived Persistence may become a component as common as cash on reels or hold and spin. It is part of the storytelling now, and I can see it sticking around for a while.”