We do it to ourselves – slot machine games are getting harder to win on over time, and we as players are responsible for it happening. A recent casino visit brought this to mind.
At the time I’m writing this post, I just won my first Major jackpot in two years! The way I won it was a bit unusual: I was buying $35 bonuses on Coin Trio Piggy Burst with a $70 balance I had in the machine. I kept going up and down, but was having fun so I kept going.
The $35 Instant Feature, as Aristocrat calls it, is based on a 60 cent bet level on the 1 cent denomination – basically a 60x purchase, and I figure at that price an average bonus of around 50x, give or take. Some bonuses were as much as $100, and one or two were as low as $10, but I held my ground.
Then, it happened – it was the blue coin bonus, where the big keeps jumping until it reaches the prize it was going to award you. The first one kept jumping until it reached the Minor. During the bonus another blue coin came out, and got to $8 – this was a reasonably good bonus as it was.
Then, a third blue coin appeared, and this time he jumped all the way to the Major! As it turns out, that Minor and that Major were the top prizes each of those coins could provide for that point in the bonus, so that was pretty darned lucky.
But let’s go back to that bonus price. The 50x expectation of a bonus, on average, is endemic of something that’s been happening over time, which is that bonuses are becoming harder to hit, but have more value when they do hit.
An observation I’ve had for years now in player forums is players think casinos are ratcheting down the payouts, but the publicly reported payback data isn’t backing this up – instead, it’s holding pretty steady. Instead, what appears to be happening is that with the increased overall volatility of slot machines, bigger prizes are going to the winners… but less people are winning overall to make up for it.
It wasn’t unusual 10 or 15 years ago for slots to bonus on average every 50 spins, and yield a 25x bonus. But now there seems to be a lot more slots bonusing on average every 100 spins, and yielding more like a 50x bonus. It’s the same overall average, but if you run badly and don’t get the bonuses, it hurts a lot more now than when you could get them more easily in the past.
Some percentage of the payouts are also moving out of line hits and into having multiple features and bonuses, as well as bigger progressives. All of these changes require you to reach some sort of a feature, bonus or big win, which means the money is going into the hands of less people because you have to work for something.
When players are surveyed by game makers, they tell them they want less volatile machines. Then they go to the casino and vote for higher volatility machines with their hard-earned money. And the casinos are going to buy and install the games that people want to play.
That 50x bonus expected outcome is a symptom of the problem – higher bet minimums (and multi-denomination games), games that increase the bet more than 1x for each 1x line bet increase, brand extensions that pile on more features for a bigger bet amount – this all makes games tougher, more expensive and less likely to walk away a winner.
I heard one rep at a game maker say they hope that their general aim was one in five players will walk away a winner on a particular session – that gives you an idea of the ratio of winning and losing sessions that modern games will achieve over time.
Of course, if you do walk away a winner, it’s possible for you to walk away a bigger one on newer games because of the wilder swings in both directions. But the chances of doing so will be lower.
If this doesn’t appeal to you, the good news is older games, designed with older metrics in mind, are still on casino floors, even if in a remade version with updated graphics. Those games will still have the more frequent bonuses with the smaller average bonus outcomes, which can give you that smoother ride.