What Happened to the Base Game Pays?

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Have you noticed that games from some companies are increasingly forgetting about ensuring good line hits or base game pays in general? This has become a more and more common sight to me.

Do you like games where most of the winning is in the bonus?

I’m certainly not the only one who wants line hits – nearly 60 percent of players in a recent poll on Brian Christopher’s YouTube page say they want their slots to have good line hits too, but this isn’t the path game makers seem to be headed.

It’s been a long time coming, but I became more focused on the topic when I noticed how watered down the line hits became when shifting from Huff N’ Puff to Huff N’ More Puff. But it’s far from the first game to go this direction, shifting more money towards bonuses that are increasingly hard to get.

Hot Hot Flaming Pots games have incredibly anemic line pays, enough so that it tries to get the win music chugging on very tiny wins. 

Quick Hit Link, another recent release, broke another cardinal Quick Hit rule when it reduced the pay of three Quick Hit symbols below your money back. Forget getting 10x on five symbols, like the game series did for years – here you only get 4x, unless you luck out and get some bonus credit prizes on those symbols.

What do all these games have in common? They’re all by Light & Wonder, a company with a sprawling array of studios and developers. It’s not to say all their games are like this, but there is certainly a trend line amongst some of their games to move this way.

But they’re not the only one guilty of this. Ainsworth has released a couple of games recently where this has felt similar to me. The latest Fu Dai Lian Lian games, such as Phoenix, both seem to up the bet amount and lower the base game pays. 

While the traditional expectation of a new title in a series is that a game will get more volatile, it’s much tougher to hang on between bonuses when the pays aren’t there, and that’s been my experience so far on these. Bigger multipliers, more free spins, bigger progressives… the money has to come from somewhere, and a 10 percent bump in wagers isn’t going to cover the entirety of that spread.

Another game they introduced, Karma Kat, struggles to deliver good base pays too. The wheel element that gets upgraded by the three pot style upgrades doesn’t mean anything when you often hit less than 10x your bet amount on the wheel, so I struggled to see where the money’s going in the bonus. I’m sure the money’s there, but I haven’t been able to find it.

By comparison, IGT’s Prosperity Link is a great recent example where a balanced game can do well. Their Prosperity Link feature doesn’t tend to deliver as big a payout as often as you might find on other hold and spin style games, but the line hits are there and you really feel it on the free spin bonuses, when more wilds and wild multipliers (depending on the version) really rack it up. 

But without a good pay table on the line hits, it can be difficult to make these games move. On Hot Hot Flaming Pots, you can’t get a free spin bonus, just the three pots leading to the hold and spin, so the game is basically saying “you need a bonus or you’re out of luck.” Doing $130 of wagers to lose $120 (at 88 cents a spin) on a recent session for me reinforced that problem.

Quick Hit Link has ways to upgrade the number of Quick Hit symbols you get, which certainly helps in the bonus, but it’s tougher in the main game to achieve. Some credit prizes appear on some of the symbols for extra money, but that serves to just make the game more volatile.

Where older Quick Hit games, including relatively recent ones like Quick Hit Blitz, you could see some good line hits with mixed 7s, it’s a lot more difficult to get more than a couple times your bet on line hits with this one, meaning it’s more of a bonus chase as well.

That’s not to say Quick Hit Link completely fails – there’s some compelling moments in the game, and I’ve given it a number of rounds already – but when you hit a drought it can be a punishing (and honestly boring) game because nothing of consequence is happening at all.

As bonuses get pushed further and further out, it’s important for the game to have fun moments getting to them. The bets are growing, the amount of spins to get to a bonus are growing – don’t neglect the base game in an effort to sweeten the bonuses, or enough players won’t get the bonuses and decide the game isn’t for them. That’s a surefire way to find games disappearing from the floor faster than they need to be.


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