Back a few weeks ago, I wrote a news item about some new slot releases, and I noted the following:
Breaking out of the traditional 5×3 mold is something that we expect to see a lot of smaller companies doing… we also expect those like Net Entertainment to keep things going like they have been with the more typical layouts. The reason for this is that they’re able to build solid games with… the traditional 5×3 video slot format, and there’s no real reason to change this.
A comment was posted on the article by “Yappy” that took exception:
As we all know… NetEnt completely ripped off Big Time Gaming’s MEGA SYMBOL game Temple Quest last year to win EGR slot of the year with Spinata Grande!
I replied with another comment, of which the highlights are in the following:
NetEnt’s thing that makes them stand out is the way they approach things graphically… The visual appeal of Spinata Grande is the [only] advantage it has over Temple Quest…
Because of this, I would contend that it would be really unlikely for Net Entertainment to start going after super atypical game layouts (like the Megaways format); that’s just not the angle they’ve been working to stand out… You’ll rarely see Net Entertainment break out of the 5×3 or 5×4 format for video slots.
Spinata Grande’s 5×4 format is only second in volume to the 5×3 layout that it seems like 90% of video slots are these days. The concept of the giant symbols won’t really work well on a 5×3, so it’s a necessity there to use the 5×4 instead.
And the point I go on to make is that NetEnt really only breaks out of the super-standard 5×3 layout when it’s an absolutely necessary component of the gameplay. In the case of Spinata Grande, this was the case because the big 2×2 and 3×3 symbols simply do not work on a five-reel, three-row video slot.
The reason that I point this out is that NetEnt really did more or less completely copy the concept of the Temple Quest slot, and it’s common knowledge that software providers copy each others ideas all the time. However, the format was only slightly different than what they normally provide, so they aren’t really “going outside of the box” in a meaningful way with some super atypical format. They do have other 5×4 slots, after all.
What made the game stand out and get so much attention (and accolades) over Temple Quest is that the graphics were better to a ridiculous extent. Visual appeal matters a lot, potentially more than it “should” if we’re look at purely objective gameplay factors, and that’s been the source of Net Entertainment’s huge surge of success over the past several years.
And this is the point: Net Entertainment’s slot strategy centers primarily around the way that they present their games. They aren’t trying to go really far out of their way to offer atypical formats just to get attention like some other providers. Instead, they focus on aesthetics and offer enough in the way of features and gameplay that the experience is absolutely loved by players.
Lesson: Realize that the visual aspect of the situation is one of the main things that keeps players in the game in the first place, and it counts a lot more than many people seem to think it does in terms of making money in this business.