Slot Players, Pinball Players and Game Volatility

As I said in the last blog entry (see “Void in Pinball” article), some slot players play for entertainment, some play for both entertainment and to win, while others simply play to win. I am going to focus on the slot player who plays to win.

The thing that Sports Fans and Slot Players have in common is that they know that their chances of success in low, but the thrill of winning against long odds has great appeal. The typical sports leagus has around 30 teams, so the chances of your favorite team being crowned champion has long odds. The same thing is true about slot players. They know that odds are stacked in the casino’s favor, but the knowledge that any reel spin can win a Big Jackpot keeps them coming back.

A lot of money is made from both slot and sports fans. The Los Angeles Clippers just sold for two billion dollars. If I made an average of 33 thousand dollars a year, It would take me 60,000 years to make that amount. and Who do you think paid for all of those fancy Vegas hotels?

Now I have gotten to the pinball part. I believe that the player who plays to win is out there, but the dominance of low volatility games with a high degree of entertaimnent has neglected this segment of player, other than the competitive league or tournament player (where you need a group of players on converge at the same place at the same time). Even a good player who has a great game can’t “Kill the Game”, like we could when manufacturers made volatile games. I remember playing Eight Ball Deluxe, winning 8 replays on one ball, and getting a crowd around me. Now that was a thrill!

Volatility is a term that describes the risk/reward factor. The higher the risk, the higher the volatility. Here is an example: Lets say that the game has a 5-Bank of drop targets. Each completion scores 1 Million Points Plus (1M, 2M, 3M, etc.). This is an example of a low volatility feature. Take the same game and change this feature so that each completion adds a letter to “L-O-N-G-S-H-O-T”, then for the rest of ball, each completion scores 10M. I used the word Longshot in the example, because going for this feature could be described as being a longshot. This is an example of a high volatility feature.

Most modern games lack features that have high volatility because the rule set becomes difficult or impossible to balance. Normally when you play a game with a balanced rule set, most of the features have the same difficulty or complement each other. No specific game plan is needed and this leads to a wide variety of features and their outcomes. When you add a high volatility feature to a rule set, this takes the game out of balance because if the player decides to play for the volatile feature, they will ignore the game’s other features. So when it comes to designing a game with a deep or broad rule set, the designer needs to avoid adding highly volatile features or for many players, the game becomes a one feature game.

Many Gottlieb single player games were highly volatile, but then these games were all basically one feature games. A higher volatility game is generally more about winning than entertainment. When looking at this aspect, the game time can be reduced to the time required to be successful. So now this brings me back full-circle to what I was discussing in my last few blog entries.

If we were going to try to fill that void that I mentioned in the “Void in Pinball” article, then we could create a new line of pinball games that had fewer features, were higher in volatility, and brought the playfield special back to pinball. These games would be much easier to develop and be less expensive to manufacture. The games would still look modern and would fit into a lineup of existing games. The game times would be less than three minutes, but the replay percentage would be higher, resulting in the same average time per dollar as other pinball machines.

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