Browse articles by topic

Way to lose

Insight | Analysis

The misconception that real-money slots players want to win all the time sees many new entrants try and tempt them with big wins and high RTPs. They need to stop, argues Guy Hasson

Do players want to win money in real-money slots? 

The answer is clear-cut and will probably surprise you: No. They don’t. 

In this article I will share with you how I came to this conclusion in the hope you will come to see it my way as well. After all, understanding our players is what leads to the best games. Misunderstanding our players is how bad games happen. 

Observation #1: What happens when players win large sums of money? 

When players win money, what do they do with it? Do they put it in their savings? Do they give it to their grandkids? Do they put it aside, to accumulate over time? No, they don’t. Chances are that slot players who win big go on to play and play until they lose their money. 

Sometimes it’s too much money to lose all at once, so they come back again and again until they’ve lost it all. 

The point of playing real-money slots is not to win. The players don’t want the money. The players want to play. They want to win in a game that’s set against them. So they want to win small wins in a pool of big accumulating big losses. 

Observation #2: You will never meet a player who says they want to lose

Some veterans work the casino floors on a regular basis, talking to players, hearing what they say. You will never meet a player who says they want to lose. All players say they want to win. Some players say they come for the free dinner, for the benefits, for socializing and so on. The reasons vary. You can’t paint all the players with the same brush.

Of course no one thinks they play to lose. But what people say and how they act are two completely different, sometimes even conflicting things. 

I was fortunate to see experiments in social slots that you can’t do with real money. In social, some companies gave more than 100% RTP to players, hoping to attract them. The players enjoyed winning but the next day left those games to play a game where the RTP was under 100%. No one says they want to lose. And yet, that is how they act. 

We, the designers of the games, should know what’s behind the players’ subconscious mind.

Observation #3: How would players behave if what they really wanted was money? 

If you want to make money, you choose an avenue that makes it likely to win money. Depending on your age and capabilities the possibilities open to you vary. 

But if you <really> wanted to make money, you would not play a game that you know, that everyone knows, will ultimately lose you money. And even if that was your only way, you would then collect your winnings and leave once you won big. But players do not behave like that. 

Despite what you may hear from players, the purpose of the game is not monetary. 

Observation #4: Players are not rational

Players (and humans in general) are not rational. You would think that you can’t expect them to act rationally, and so perhaps what I say is wrong. 

I’ll give you another example: I was asked once to consult for a company that had one game with a rate of exhaustion of above 2,000 (meaning you could take a week to lose your money). The rate meant it offered big wins and the losses were small every time. Therefore, it felt to the players like it had an RTP of over 100%. 

Here’s how players played the games: when players needed cash, they would go to this game, play it a bit, win a bit, then return to their favorite games where they lost that money. Only a handful took that money home.

In fact, when I worked for Playtech and there was a bug in one of the games that could be exploited by players, only a handful constantly played it to keep taking money home. The rest played the game regularly. (The bug was fixed quickly.)

In summary: why is this important?

If you think the players want to win, you’ll raise the RTP. But you’ll give the players too much–and that’s not what they want. They want the illusion of winning during a game that will eventually cause them to lose. They want that journey to be fun. So make it fun, not fiscally rewarding.

I’ve seen many new companies (not veterans) try to tempt new players with big wins and too-high RTP’s. That’s a mistake. The players need to lose regularly, not just win, in order to like the games. It is only within losses that the wins have any meaning.

Guy Hasson worked for Playtech for three years before becoming Playtika’s Content Manager, responsible for the content of Slotomania and Caesars Casino. He is now a social slot consultant, specializing in game popularity. His website: