IGT Test Banks: Our First Look is Also Their Final Test

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Slots go through a rigorous development process. But ultimately, they need to resonate with players. That can be one of the hardest things to be certain about, unless you have an approach that enables you to gain performance insights before officially launching a game.

IGT accomplishes this through their Test Bank program that allows the company to get actual performance data on the games before making the final decision to release them, tweak them or even not release them.

We got an exclusive opportunity to learn more about their Test Bank program, how it works, and how it plays a critical step in their slot development process.

Testing Where We Play

IGT is a large organization that provides slots to casinos across North America and beyond. Their Test Bank program is equally robust, said Kelley Myers, Senior Manager of Test Bank Programs and Product Tradeshows at IGT.

“For North America we have around 100 locations with over 550 machines and expanding! We have purposely selected properties to represent all the regions (East, West, Central and Canada).”

IGT North America test bank locations
IGT North America test bank locations

This map showcases the locations of the Test Banks, which feature some of the obvious locations like Las Vegas and Atlantic City but also quite a few other spots throughout the U.S. and Canada.

Some casinos will market games on test to players as a first chance to play a game never seen, while other casinos draw no extra attention to these new games.  In the latter case, players don’t know they are playing a game on test, other than you may not have seen that game before.

IGT test bank at Atlantis Casino with marketing

Test Banks are updated multiple times a year with new games. The primary goal is to make sure that the games do well enough to perform on casino floors when released.

Greta Reed, Director of Product Tradeshows, Test Bank Programs and Stepper Go To Market, said that they use industry metrics to rate how potential releases do. “After interviewing properties and 3rd party research firms reporting on global gaming performance, we settled on the industry standard of Theoretical Win vs Zone for like products.”

For those unfamiliar, this metric rates how this game does vs. other games in a similar category on the casino floor. Casinos are increasingly looking to this metric in part because if a game performs above the average, it will likely have a positive effect for a casino’s results when placed on the floor, and that statistic will help casinos make the decision to buy or lease a slot. 

If a game is performing above average, it’s likely being played more, and that means better use of the machines that are on the casino floor, and more income for the casino.

The Last Stop Before Release

Mystery of the Lamp on an IGT test bank before launch

Slots placed on the Test Bank are facing their last test before being released more widely. All the other required steps have been completed, Myers said. “A game must be fully lab tested and approved by any regulatory body for the property prior to placement on the test program. It is ready for full deployment at completion.” 

With lab testing and approval complete, a game is effectively certified for sale in a market if IGT is ready to proceed. This means if a game passes the Test Bank step, it could be on casino floors quite quickly, Reed added. “This will depend on the market, but generally within one month of test completion” a game can be hitting the casino floors, she said. 

However, she added that releasing a game can also depend on how other games are performing in the market. “If we are in need of new games, we can make an early decision to release a title that is trending high, early in test, prior to completion. We may also decide to hold a game that has passed from release to the market if we are underpenetrated on the current top-performing titles to maximize placement opportunities for both prior games and the new releases.”

Think about your favorite singer. If she’s got a massive hit song, the record company isn’t likely to race a follow-up single out as quickly, as she competes with herself. But if her song is starting to fall out of radio playlists, it’s probably time for the next song to be released. 

That sort of model is very similar in the world of slots – if a game is doing incredibly well, the next game release may be held for when that momentum begins to fall off, as opposed to getting in the way of a current game’s success.

Lessons from the Test Bank Program

The Test Banks, whether it’s a success or failure, will teach the IGT team various things that can be helpful. For example, successful Test Bank runs can still offer some helpful learnings.

For instance, Myers said, things can be learned that may help casinos as they install the game. “Based on the performance at different property types, we can adjust our recommended configurations like denomination sets and max bet.” If you wonder why certain denominations or bet levels are available at some casinos over others, it may have come out of these Test Bank runs.

When a slot doesn’t succeed, it can also provide lessons, which can help determine if a game is going to get reworked, or possibly even retired. Reed provided more details.

“A game has several possibilities when it does not pass the test, which are based on the response from the market, the development team’s passion for the title, and product management’s judgment,” she said. “It may be reworked, it may be released upon the request of our account managers for specific properties, or it may just be retired. The timeline and decision to re-test can vary depending on the scope of the changes, but often if the math has been modified, it will go back through the program.”

Myers shared one scenario of a game that will see another attempt at passing the program.

“A recent example of a game that had high expectations due to Customer feedback at the Global Gaming Expo (G2E) tradeshow prior to going out on test was Kitty Glitter Grand,” she said. “This was a brand extension of a well-known legacy game that did not meet our expectations in terms of performance, and after a retrospective, the designer felt she could improve the player experience with the next iteration. This is expected to go back on to test Q4 this year.”

Slot makers only have so many opportunities to place games on casino floors, in an industry that is historically quite competitive. By focusing on their top performing games from the Test Banks, they can put their best foot forward, have data points to share, and ensure their line-up is ready to help casinos with their goals.

Limitations of the Test Bank

Not every slot goes through the Test Bank program. Myers shared some of the reasons a slot today might not complete that step.

“Where we have established the test program, we may decide to release a game directly to the market and bypass test for various reasons,” she said, “including, but not limited to, if it is a market response to a competitor, a known IGT brand with some player equity, or a direct math clone of a previously successful title.”

She also noted that some game types, such as Wide Area Progressives, do not have a Test Bank program established yet, so those games would not be included today.

Ultimately, the program gives both IGT and casinos additional confidence in the games that are being offered, with data from months of real casino play in dozens of real casinos. 

It’s part of what has helped IGT continue to deliver games that players are excited to seek out on the floor and is another example why they’ve remained a top-tier player in the slot machine market. 

And for players, it means when you see IGT’s name on a slot, you know it’s been put through its paces to ensure it’s a game we’ll love to play when we’re looking for something new and exciting on the casino floor.

We thank IGT for the opportunity to learn more about this exciting element in their game development process. It’s a fun exercise to look for those games that may be checking us out for our reaction when visiting casinos in regions noted on the map!

Check out more Behind the Scenes with IGT:

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