A bypass mode is now considered “essential”, according to Craig Turner, senior content specialist at SG Digital, if suppliers want its titles to be showcased by the biggest streamers.

Turner’s remarks were referring to the increased use of “premium modes” within online slots, popular with certain types of players who enjoy the option to pay more and upgrade basic spins, which often results in the gameplay offering a higher bonus win rate, removal of low paying symbols or guaranteed minimum Megaways. 

In this roundtable, industry experts will delve into what is driving the new trend of premium play and asks how the sector can expect with this form of gaming to become more prevalent? Joining Turner, is Chris Smalley, head of design at Blueprint Gaming and Pragmatic Play’s CEO, Julian Jarvis, to find out more about how these modes are created and the benefits to operators and their players. 

SlotBeats: What’s driving the increase of premium modes within slot games at present? 

Chris Smalley, Blueprint Gaming: There’s a growing audience who are keen to explore a game’s key features quicker and more frequently than how they can be triggered traditionally in the base gameplay. In permitted markets, the bonus buy feature has proved to be very popular, but premium modes offer an alternative approach that elevates the gameplay in a cost-effective way. 

Obviously tighter regulation has played its part in these types of modes becoming more common but above all else, these features provide players with greater control over their gaming experience, offering a responsible way for players to level-up – something we know is very much appreciated.

Streamers are also having an influence on such concepts too, particularly as they want to experience a high number of features in a live session to make it as entertaining as possible. 

“When we talk about Premium Play, we want to be up front, honest and completely transparent…”

Craig Turner, senior content specialist at SG Digital

Julian Jarvis, Pragmatic Play: Differentiation and diversity are key in the slot sphere. With regulations tightening, more and more content flooding the market, and increasingly similar mechanics, adding something to a game that gives a provably different experience is key.

Bringing something new to the market is always exciting, and new and premium modes are no different. Adding a mechanic or mode that can enhance existing gameplay and bring fantastic experiences to players is an outcome that benefits suppliers, operators, and players, and if done well can be a genuine gamechanger. 

Craig Turner, SG Digital: As far as we are concerned, it comes down to customer appetite. We are increasing the number of ‘bypass’ games that we produce, which provide direct entry into bonus rounds. Players in Scandinavia and the US are able to play these modes and there is a strong demand for it in such markets. 

For the UK, we are not able to use the bypass mode because of regulatory factors. With the Premium Play mode that we have developed and introduced, we can implement it into our classic Big Bet titles, or the Super Bet features that a lot of our next-gen games were known for, to provide an enhanced gaming experience for our UK-based customers. 

There is also the important factor to consider that affiliates and streamers are increasingly asking for bypass modes, to avoid sitting and spinning for hours. If you want to be showcased by the biggest streamers, a bypass mode is now essential.

“we’re working closer with both third party test labs and operators to ensure that players receive a safe and responsible gaming experience…”

Chris Smalley, head of design at Blueprint Gaming

What types of premium modes do you currently offer and why? How does it enhance the gameplay and benefit operators?

JJ: Our Ante-Bet mode, despite being a simple concept, increases a player’s chances of triggering the Free Spins round by adding more scatter symbols to the reel sets. Without impacting the math model, it means that, for a slightly increased stake, players can enjoy a higher chance of triggering the exciting Bonus Rounds in Pragmatic Play games, while crucially complying with regulations.

By giving players a bigger chance to trigger the features, they know that the chance to trigger huge wins could lay just around the corner. Essentially it allows players to enter the rounds of the games that bring them the most excitement. 

For operators it ensures they have games on its site that cater to those players that want to stake a bit more in the hope of bigger wins. Not all players are the same and having premium mode games gives operators another layer to its casino.

CT: We have the bypass feature, which allows for direct entry into bonus rounds in permitted markets. This gives operators a greater bet level per customer and it is likely they get more play out of those customers too. 

For other markets, we are replacing Big Bet with Premium Play. This allows customers to get a direct entry into the bonus through an alternative route of a special three-reel slot that has a low hit-rate. 

“Not all players are the same and having premium mode games gives operators another layer to its casino.”

Julian Jarvis, CEO at Pragmatic Play

We have also done a lot of work with Super Bet in the past and we are bringing this back in Savannah Drums, which is due to be launched in November. By activating Super Bet, a player doubles their stake and it reduces the number of bonus symbols needed to trigger the feature. Again, it’s about lowering the hit-rate into a bonus for those customers who cannot take advantage of the bypass due to the markets they are playing in, or because they don’t have the capital required to make use of it. 

We are constantly looking into how we can push these features further, including adding Premium Play to more games for our UK customers.

CS: In our recent release Eternal Phoenix Megaways, the Power Play mode provided players with the option to guarantee a minimum number of Megaways with every spin at an additional cost. That means a user could have a minimum of 20,000 Megaways, which increases the likelihood of them securing bigger wins, greater cascades and a higher frequency of triggering the bonus. 

For those familiar with Megaways games, it’s a highly attractive feature and offers a quicker route to a major sequence within the slot. 

Elsewhere, in our Egyptian-themed adventure called Eye of Dead, the premium mode was used to increase the number of high paying symbols on the reels, resulting in a greater chance of securing bigger returns.

How do you ensure these modes are responsible? Can they be tweaked easily across multiple markets to ensure they remain compliant?

CT: All of our premium modes are completely configurable. If an operator doesn’t want bypass, there is a completely separate game code they can use to effectively turn it off. With Premium Play, an operator can also configure the bet levels they require. 

If there are options for £2, £5 and £10 stakes and the operator doesn’t want the £10 option, it can be easily removed. The same goes for the other stakes and if an operator decides they don’t want Premium Play at all any longer, it can be turned off.

When we talk about Premium Play, we want to be up front, honest and completely transparent about the hit-rates for these features and the experience customers are getting. This is why we put out a video through our social media channels to provide a thorough explanation of how the feature operates and the way in which it can be configured.

As far as we are concerned, it comes down to customer appetite.

Craig Turner, senior content specialist at SG Digital

CS: It’s really important to make these premium modes transparent and easy for players to understand. When players hit the Power Play mode in one of our games, it’s clear how every option adjusts the overall stake. 

Additionally, we’re working closer with both third party test labs and operators to ensure that players receive a safe and responsible gaming experience when accessing our games.