Light & Wonder’s VP Game Development Rob Procter describes how the slot development process is influenced by progress in safer gambling policy and best practice
Keeping players safe is of paramount importance for every stakeholder in the gaming business.
It is a factor that is at the forefront of regulatory and advertising codes in markets around the world, with European Safer Gambling Week serving to bring the issues at play under an especially sharp focus. At Light & Wonder, it is our firm belief that the creation of safe, sustainable playing environments is a necessity if our industry is to continue to flourish worldwide.
We see online gaming as a firm part of the overall entertainment ecosystem. Within this environment, players must be made to feel comfortable enough to play responsibly, having enjoyed an experience that they feel has given them value for their money.
Player safety is about far more than simply being compliant and doing the bare minimum to stick to a set of regulations. It is our belief at Light & Wonder that player safety should be hard-wired into our overall entire content strategy. Within our creative teams, we are always cognisant of the new features and mechanics that we are putting into games and the ways in which they will interact with the player to enhance entertainment levels while also keeping them safe from potential harms.
In recent years, the landscape has changed markedly in terms of widespread awareness of the need to protect players. If you look at the example of the UK, buying directly into a bonus feature was prohibited by the Gambling Commission of Great Britain a few years ago, which necessitated a change in approach for game suppliers. We have been focusing strongly on providing compelling experiences within slots to all levels of players across all regulated markets, without them having to stake to high levels, or play for longer in order to access certain features. We don’t want players to feel that a certain level of investment in a slot is a necessity and that numerous spins must be undertaken before a certain level of potential is reached within a game. It is about approaching game design with an ethical, fair mindset, and this comes to the fore when deciding on the distribution of RTP and the way a slot’s mechanics interact with the base game.
Our desire is that we provide players at all stake levels with a positive experience and to show that any top-ranking bonus is attainable by any type of player. Attractive features can no longer only be on offer to the player who is prepared to spend more time and money on their stake – on any given game.
Across all channels
Restrictions in land-based gaming are different in nature compared to the online world, while also varying across different markets. Throughout the process of designing an omni-channel game, we ensure that our content behaves in the same way as our native digital titles with regard to enhancing the game experience, without putting the player in harm’s way.
At Light & Wonder, my colleagues in the land-based creative teams have the same perception of safer gambling as we do in iGaming. We are able to take mutually beneficial learnings as business units, looking at how the land-based teams have incorporated RTP splits and features and mechanics changes, and utilizing those within the online sphere.
Naturally, operators have a strong imperative to uphold their social responsibility commitments, and to remain as compliant as possible to the regulators. As we see it, though, suppliers certainly have their own part to play in providing operators with content that has player safety already built-in, through entertaining features that can be accessed at all staking levels. Furthermore, we make sure we’re always present in industry working groups, pushing forward the development of best practice in responsible game design – this work is incredibly important to us, and something we’d encourage broader engagement with from others.
In most mature markets, regulation appears to have one direction of travel, towards greater restrictions. Yet in creating new solutions that can cater for evolving guidelines, there lies an opportunity for clever content creators to produce games with original and compelling math models and mechanics. Players can play safely and be entertained but it is up to all stakeholders in our industry to ensure to play their part to ensure that this is the case.