Secret Sauce: What makes a successful slot?

By Chris Misfud, Chief Studio Officer, Yggdrasil 

The secret sauce to any game is just that, a secret. Game developers would be lying if they could say precisely why certain titles become huge hits and, more rarely, global phenomena.

Much like a Hollywood studio does when looking at its next blockbuster release, developers must go above and beyond to make sure they are creating the right themes, characters, features, mechanics, gameplay and rewards to give players the most rewarding experience.  But after that comes the secret – the ingredient no one can really put their finger on to determine just why it has become such a success.

Why was Candy Crush so huge and why does it continue to be an ever-present game on commuters’ mobiles across the world? Why is Fortnite a $200 million a month phenomenon whose in-game celebrations have managed to seep into everyday life? Back at Yggdrasil HQ in Malta we are still deciphering exactly why our game Vikings Go Bezerk continues to outperform all our other titles. Spoiler alert: It won’t for long!

Right theme, right time
The Vikings trilogy has been enormously successful for us. First came Vikings Go Wild in 2015, followed swiftly by Vikings Go Berzerk in 2016 and then Vikings Go To Hell earlier this year. By the time ‘Berzerk’ came out we knew we had a hit on our hands. ‘Go Wild’ had already exceeded expectations but Berzerk lived up to its name, outperforming any game we had ever launched.

Television shows such as Game of Thrones were in full swing and peaking in popularity, and we had clearly hit upon a theme that our target audience of 25-45-year olds were passionate about. When designing the sequel, we wanted to continue the story of the game from the previous slot but were concerned at the time that sequels don’t always do well. This game, however, bucked the trend. We carried on from where we left off, using familiar characters that players have become accustomed to, and the same highly successful math model that ensured game flow consistency. We also worked hard to develop richer graphics and new and even more engaging features to add new layers of content and excitement.

We were wrong to worry because as a by-product of Berzerk’s success meant that it boosted the performance of its predecessor, so our operator partners experienced major traffic spikes.

Familiarity with a twist
Thanks to Vikings Go Wild our fans knew the game from top to bottom; the math model and gameplay, the features and the same core mechanics used to thrill and excite players. Then we added further functionality and surprise elements such as ‘Berzerk mode’ features including Rage Meters and Ragnarök Free Spins.

Ragnarök is a term from Norse mythology describing an epic battle that will bring about the end of the world. During Ragnarök Free Spins, the Vikings always defeat the sirens and turn into sticky wilds, giving the best win potential seen in a free spin mode in a modern slot game. Players loved the familiarity but were then further engaged due to the twists and turns of the sequel.

Being different makes all the difference
Yggdrasil games were already known for their high-quality graphics, themes and attention to detail but the success of Berzerk was really a break-through moment and brought us closer than ever to understanding the ingredients of the secret sauce.

Operator demand increased significantly since that moment with more brands and more of their players drawn to our games because we had hit on providing them with the complete package of elements that make a successful slot. Today, we are known for more than simply our visuals, aesthetic design and delivery skills. Our collection mechanics and in-game promotional tools stand out from the crowd and enable us to grow our loyal following, as well as innovate further.

In the coming months, you will see several Yggdrasil games feature a variety of new slot mechanics and more unexpected twists as we seek to discover more secret ingredients. We have high hopes for these new elements, and if we can replicate the magic dust that we managed to scatter over Vikings Go Berzerk, then just maybe we can unlock even more secrets in the future.