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Hitting the jackpot

Insight | Analysis

Katya Machuganova, product owner at Silverback Gaming, explores the industry’s relationship with the coveted jackpot and how the operator is aiming to reinvent the jackpot experience for a new audience.

The first jackpot slot prize was awarded about 36 years ago, and shortly after progressives became a must-have addition to any land-based casino gaming floor. Now that casinos are moving online in a growing number of US states, the demand for online jackpot slots is increasing.

What makes them so popular? The big cash reward up for grabs, in addition to the gameplay experience provided via the volatility, bonus features and RTP are all crucial elements.

Many players are also relieved and motivated by the fact that their non-winning bets feed the jackpot prize and that even though that spin resulted in a loss, the jackpot prize is still in play. This second bite at the cherry brings its own anticipation and excitement.

We’ve looked to take this to the next level by making it as easy as possible for players to hit our jackpots – there is no minimum bet requirement and no in-game triggers.

Online vs land-based

In the US, online progressives still have a very long way to go to catch up to the experience offered by their land-based equivalents.

Up to now, igaming has not rolled out across the US as quickly or as broadly as we would have hoped. This, combined with the state-by-state nature of regulations, makes it tough to develop jackpot slots with the life-changing prizes that players are seeking.

Of course, as more states regulate, and solutions for intra-state jackpot liquidity are brought to market, prizes will get bigger and bigger.

Overcoming this challenge and unlocking the true potential of jackpot slots has been one of the hot topics at the big industry conferences I have attended this year.

A challenging environment

The challenges being faced by studios cover all game types, and the US is more prohibitive when it comes to gambling than Europe.

Following the repeal of the Professional and Amateur Sports Protection Act (PASPA) back in 2018, we are seeing a growing number of states embrace regulation and licensing. Sports betting has been the main focus to date, but online casino is slowly catching up even though it is legal in just a handful of states at present.

This means that the online casino market is relatively immature, and this is reflected in player preferences when it comes to the slots and table games they want to play.

This has been influenced by the pandemic and the closure of land-based casinos, with many players trying online for the first time either in regulated states or via simulated gaming. This actually allowed players to try different types of slots and, in most cases, they liked what they had to offer.

This has led to online casino operators looking to stock their lobbies with more innovative content – both in free play and real money formats. Jackpot slots are a great example of this. Players are eager to move away from the traditional jackpot games and towards those with different triggers, features and payouts. At Silverback, this is a key area of focus for our design and development teams.

Of course, the state-by-state nature of the market makes it difficult for studios to produce progressive titles with the life-changing prize pots that players want to go for. That said, we are working on a solution to this and expect to bring the first intra-state progressive jackpot slot to market in the coming months.

Claiming the jackpot

We are looking into wide-area progressives as the way they are designed allows operators to offer life-changing prizes while still complying with state regulations.

The slot provider manages the game directly, which is licensed by the operator with the profit generated from the game shared between both parties. These games can be played across multiple casinos in different states.

Aside from making our jackpots intra-state, we want players to actually be able to win them. Our first jackpot slots will feature ceiling progressive jackpots – mini, major and maxi – with a must-win level of $100,000.

We will use the slot series to introduce our progressive jackpots to the US market, featuring a clear, readable and intuitive jackpot interface design with bright and fresh colours to make it as simple as possible for players to understand how they work and enjoy the thrilling gameplay – and big win potential – they provide.

Katya Machuganova is an igaming and digital media professional, games producer graduate and an ISTQB certified quality assurance specialist. She has a bachelor focused in electronic media and communication and a Masters in Digital Media and Video Games.