Do Slots payouts really matter to players?

Ask the majority of slots players what they'd most like to see when playing their favourite slot machine and the answer you get most often is "I'd like my money to last longer".

Of course, winning the jackpot is high on everyone's list of hopes, but when grilled on the subject, a lot of players would actually be satisfied to enjoy small wins along the way as they keep the action going and to lower the loss rates that leave them unable to continue playing.

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There's logic to that reasoning. If you're on a budget and only have €//$10 to play with and get just a few minutes gameplay for your time it often ends up more frustrating than entertaining.

Of course in every player's ideal world, slots would give you long periods of game play with frequently hitting large jackpots. The reality is however that these machines are designed in two ways:

  1. The opportunity to win smaller amounts more often OR
  2. The slim chance of winning a life-changing jackpot

Studies conducted by the University of Las Vegas have shown that more seasoned gamblers prefer the former.

Interestingly, a study on whether payout percentages actually matter to players round that rather than payout percentages which determine how much a machine will give back to a player over time, is of less importance to the majority of players than the machine's volatility which determines the amount of playing time they will enjoy.

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While slots are generally defined by their payout percentages and advertised as such, for example, payout rates of 96%, the volatility of the slot will determine the wins and losses experienced during the game. Low volatility slots award small wins and losses, while high volatility slots result in larger losses BUT the opportunity to win a higher jackpot. Due to the fact that jackpots are rare events, high volatility machines don't play as long as low volatility games before the player needs to replenish their bankroll.

During the University's study, a simulation involving thousands of spins on slots with 97% and 88% payout percentages respectively were run. Interestingly the researchers found that the payout percentages had very little correlation with gameplay time. Follow up, accelerated simulations were run that mimicked a 10,000 day or 27 years' worth of slot play, and reached similar conclusions.

These results have huge implications for slots designers and manufacturers. When casinos advertise certain slots as "high paying" or "loose" the majority of players will end up disappointed if these machines end up to be high volatility slots due to the limited amount of gameplay they are able to enjoy.

Being able to identify lower volatility games that payout less but more frequently would go a long way in helping these more conservative players to enjoy their casino experience, rather than resulting in frustration that may lead them to play elsewhere.

Still, the information presents a dilemma for casinos because as much as people like to play they also want to win and let's face it, the marketing of "life changing jackpots" is far more exciting to most of us, at least initially, than "you can play longer but win less".

Another hurdle is that payout percentages are more widely understood than volatility (which many players have never even heard of).

Also in an increasingly competitive market, slots manufacturers are continually innovating and adding various bonus games and exciting features to keep players playing and entertained. Yet these slots features have to be covered somehow and this often increases the volatility of the game and leaves players looking for more gameplay time trying other games like low limit video poker which they feel gives them more value for their money.

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