The slots market is ‘inventive and fiercely competitive’ noted James Cook, game producer at Playtech, as he delved into the company’s Power Zones mechanic.

SlotBeats spoke to Cook on the initial idea for the mechanic, how it stands out against the influx of other game mechanics and what we can expect from Power Zone over the course of the next 12 months. 

SlotBeats: You’ve been introducing more and more titles with your Power Zones mechanic. Can you just explain what players can expect from it and how the initial idea came about?

James Cook: The slots market is inventive and fiercely competitive, so, of course, the Ash studio is always trying to innovate and come up with new ideas. With the Power Zones titles we wanted to create a suite of games based on a single innovative mechanic that is malleable enough to be tweaked in different ways. This allows us to deliver a range of distinct experiences based on the same core mechanic within the same suite.

In Power Zones games, special symbols leave Power Zones on the reels. The goal is to grow the Power Zones by spinning in new symbols and connecting them, horizontally and vertically. If a special symbol lands within a Power Zone, it transforms all symbols within the zone to the same symbol. All the games so far have been 15,625 ways to win, so there’s huge payout potential there.

The idea itself really just came about from playing a lot of slots and thinking about how we can show win potential to players in a new way. For example, the delivery mechanic is taken from Dragon Champions.

SB: We’re seeing an influx in new slot mechanics. How does Power Zones stand out from what is already on the market?

JC: Power Zones is almost a separate game layered on top of a slot. It interacts with the reels, and by doing so gives players several paths to an enormous win. Of course, you can still get natural big wins on the reels, but the Power Zones can really help you out with that. 

Obviously, the goal is also to build or connect huge Power Zones to get you something massive too. 

The idea was to create an on-reels feature that interacts with players on nearly every spin and provides clearly visible win potential. I’m not sure there’s anything else out there that delivers this like Power Zones does.

SB: What has been the reaction from the industry on Power Zones?

JC: We were really flattered when Legend of Hydra was nominated for EGR’s 2020 Game of the Year. It demonstrated that there is real interest in the mechanic and support within the industry. 

We’re seeing an increase in demand for more Power Zones games, and the numbers suggest the games themselves are going from strength to strength with each new release. 

We’ve also had amazing support from the Flutter group (Paddy Power, Betfair, Skybet) who have really taken the suite to heart and will be releasing all Power Zones games first as limited-time exclusives.

SB: There’s a major shift within the slot community to make titles more entertainment-focused. Was this a pivotal element when developing Power Zones?

JC: Probably, yes, though I’m not sure it was a conscious decision to be more entertainment-focused, per se. Of course, we try to make games that are fun to play. 

I think Power Zones games are more about communicating win potential to players in new and interesting ways. But it’s true that we wanted to inject some excitement on every spin that is independent of the results on the reels.

SB: What future titles can we expect from Playtech incorporating your Power Zones mechanic?

JC: Ishtar Power Zones will be released on April 27 2021. The game takes inspiration from some of the features from Legend of Hydra and fleshes them out a bit. One of the things we liked in Hydra was the high frequency of the features and the combinations of cool things that can happen to deliver huge wins. Ishtar has brand new mechanics, but it hopefully has the same feel that players loved about Legend of Hydra.

After that we’ll have a cluster-pays Power Zones game aimed at more casual players which should be out in 2022.

SB: Looking towards the next 12 months, what developments can we see in relation to Power Zones and are there any new game mechanics in the pipeline from Playtech?

JC: We want to bring as many fun ideas to the Power Zones suite as we can. The beauty of Power Zones is that it’s so versatile; you can tweak and innovate around the core idea almost indefinitely. With every game we release, we learn more too. This allows us to really sharpen and hone each new idea, so I think the Power Zones suite will go from strength to strength.

Other than Power Zones, the Ash studio has Atlantis: Cash Collect out this year, which has a really fun feature based on building up a pot of money that you can win over and over again in the Free Games.

Playtech as a whole has the Empire Treasures suite, the Gem Splash suite and the Storms suite. There’s always a lot of amazing ideas floating around all the studios.