Anyone who follows the modern online casino industry will know that slots developers basically have a blank canvas to create whatever they want. Take, for example, a game like Reactoonz (Play N’ Go): Anyone encountering this game for the first time might ask, “what exactly is going on here”? Whatever you think of Reactoonz and its space-alien theme (most players love it, seemingly), it’s undoubtedly a departure from the classic slot themes like “fruits” and “Egypt”.
But does theme matter to you when you pick a game? It’s an interesting question. You might choose a slot based on theme subconsciously, or you might simply be drawn towards a certain type of game. Pragmatic Play, for example, is often associated with its colourful fruit and candy-themed slots like Sweet Bonanza, Fruit Party and Extra Juicy.
Fruit themes still appeal
Yet if we look at one of those examples, Sweet Bonanza, what is the attraction here? As many of you will know, Sweet Bonanza is one of the most popular slots of the last decade. It was a smash-hit for Pragmatic Play, and it arguably challenges the John Hunter series as the company’s flagship game. You might say that Sweet Bonanza is popular due to its high win potential, especially in Free Spins. But there is a little more to it than that.
Sweet Bonanza’s theme – beyond tumbling candies and fruits – suggests a bright and breezy experience. Players buy into that. And, it arguably hits the sweet spot (no pun intended) between relaxed gaming vibe and high octane win potential. While the gameplay is important, it’s debatable whether Sweet Bonanza would work as well if it were themed on something less enticing, like tumbling blocks.
Of course, we know for sure that some themes are chosen to be deliberately appealing. This is particularly the case with branded slots. Playtech is an old hand at this, creating Marvel slots back in the 2000s. Those were replaced by DC Comics slots once the licence was up on Iron Man, Hulk et al. (Disney didn’t want to have casino games associated with its kid-friendly brand, so pulled the plug when it bought Marvel).
Movie-based games draw the eye
If you see something like the Goonies slot (Blueprint Gaming), while it broadly has an adventure theme, it’s also chosen to appeal to those of us who adored the film when growing up. Sit it side by side with a non-branded slot, and it’s almost certain your eye will be drawn to the game based on Richard Donner’s classic movie. Nearly every top developer makes branded slots, as they know it will appeal to some demographic of players.
In the broadest sense, the theme is important in a psychological sense. There’s a reason that you see so many games based on Egypt, for instance. The underlying theme might be of an Indiana Jones-type adventure and mystery, but there is also the suggestion of uncovering riches. The same goes for most adventure-themed slots – there’s always a hint of treasure at the end of your journey.
But perhaps the most important thing to say is that an appealing theme won’t cover up a poor game. You can’t just design a game with a certain theme and believe it will be enough to keep players entertained. Casino players are discerning, and the iGaming industry is very competitive in terms of vying for players’ attention. So, while theme is important, it must be in conjunction with great gameplay, design and payout potential.