Branded vs. Unbranded Slot Games

By Nicholas G. Colon, Last updated Jan 30, 2023

By Nicholas G. Colon

When you walk onto a casino your senses are assaulted by flashing lights, and the sounds of slot machine bells and beeps indicating payoffs to players.  There are several thousands of slot machines on a casino floor and have scores of different themes.  The overwhelming majority of slots available at online casinos are also found in land-based casino. Winkslots is a great online slots website that has a wide variety slot games for players to play.  These slots machines have various themes to them.  Some are inspired by movies and popular TV shows, while others have the subject of famous rock bands and general topics like aliens or monsters.  Whatever the topic is these modern games have highly sophisticated graphics and sounds that give the player a real interactive experience with the game.

Most of the newer games seen in casinos (online and land based) are multi-credit and multi-line games that have highly recognizable themes like Wheel of Fortune and Wizard of Oz, while others are more generic themes like fire fighters, space aliens and the standard 3 wheel slot machines.  Many of the multi-line, multi-credit machines that dominate the gaming realm have bonus round options where the big jackpots are attainable.  Even though the chance of hitting a big payout is rare, it adds excitement to the play experience.

The latest trend for slot games is to have TV show themed games that people are familiar with.  It occurred to me that players may want to know the difference between main stream themed machines and generic themes as well as between the multi-line, multi-credit games and the traditional 3 wheel slot games.

Family Guy Slots
Family Guy TM

First the difference between the multi-line, multi-credit machines and the traditional 3 wheel slot machines. Prior to the 2001 tech crash casinos were making copious amounts of money from the standard 3 wheel slot machines.  In an effort to increase their revenue operators and casinos introduced a new type of machine one that would increase the wager amount of the player as well as increasing the hold percentage for the casino.

To illustrate the cost of play difference, consider the effects on a routine player (i.e. one who visits a site twice a week and plays on an average of 2 hours per trip). For the 2 variations of games we will assume an average bet of $.75 for the traditional 3 coin quarter game and $.90 for the new multi-line, multi-credit games (18 lines at $.05 per line).

3 Coin Quarter Player

The average spin rate of a slot is 10 spins a minute, therefore over a 2 hour play period this represents a total number of spins of 1200. With an average bet of $.75 and a 10% hold this represents a player lost of $90 for a single trip. With a routine player coming 2 times a week this represents a total loss for the month of $720

Multi Line, Multi Coin Games

With an average spin rate of a slot is 10 spins a minute over a 2 hour play period this represents a total number of spins of 1200. With an average bet of $.90 and a 10% hold, this represents a player lost of $108 for a single trip. With a routine player coming 2 times a week this represents a total loss for the month of $864. The total effect of this cost of play example is a $144 increase in loss per month. This is a 20% increase in loss rate or a 20% decrease in value to a player.

Traditionally, as casinos shift from higher denominations to lower denomination games the hold % increases.  So as players moved from quarter games to nickel games the player is betting more while losing more.

The difference between the multi-line, multi-credit machine and the traditional three wheel machine is an important distinction when evaluating value for slot games.  An equally important aspect for players to be aware of is to understand the difference between mainstream branding and the generic branding themes of slot games.

The benefits that name and image recognition bring is that people will be subconsciously be drawn to the machine.  Play rates will increase at first but then rapidly fall after a few quarters.  These initial benefits are from the casinos perspective.  From the players perspective the benefits of playing name brand machines over generic themed machines are exactly none.

Casino game developers are not allowed to name a game whatever they want and put any image on a slot machine they want. They have to pay product licensing fee to the company who holds the rights to the name and images.  And the popular culture icons that are used do not come cheap for the game developers.  These fees are on top of the initial development cost, and the regulator’s approval cost. The total cost to get a new game into a single market is well over 1 million dollars and take several years to complete.

Game of Thrones – Microgaming

To recoup those initial funds and pay the licensing fee to the owners of the image rights the casinos have to increase hold percentages of the machines.  This burns out players at an accelerated rate.  The casinos get the money from the players at a faster rate and this decreases the entertainment value for the player.  Simply stated playing a generic machine will prolong the players time on device.

Despite these short comings casinos game developers continue to put out multi-credit, multi-line branded games at the World Global Gaming conference every year. The market has become saturated with these games and the players are the ones that get the short end of the stick.

Nicholas G. Colon

As an 18 year veteran of the casino industry, Nicholas has been involved in all aspects of gaming, from advantage player/manager with the infamous M.I.T Blackjack teams, to a consultant to the “house” in the capacity of gaming mathematician and data scientist. Nicholas has been a visiting lecturer at DUKE, Clemson, and Michigan State Universities. He’s also a published author in the game-theory arena, with an emphasis on economic applications, and is a contributor to many casino gaming and financial sites and publications, including, Forbes, and Bloomberg.

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