Thursday, February 28, 2013

A Modest Proposal For High 5 Casino: What The Online Casino Needs To Do To Grow!

The Basics: High 5 Casino currently has two issues which are likely to inhibit long-term growth going forward; adapting now may continue to allow the Facebook casino to continue to expand effectively!

As a fan of online casinos, at least the Facebook variety, it does not surprise me at all that High 5 Casino on Facebook is celebrating being the fastest growing Facebook casino for last year. High 5 Casino on Facebook uses IGT video slot machines, like the ones actually found in real casinos (and there seems to be a reciprocal agreement, as many of those physical machines now are imprinted with High 5 Games next to the IGT logo!). While I have postulated that expanding their video slot machines on Facebook might be detrimental to IGT (that article is here!), High 5 Casino on Facebook is growing larger for a reason. Having familiar games online is a huge boon for the platform, but even with being named the fastest growing platform for video slot machines on Facebook, High 5 is not the largest platform by any means. More importantly, there are a few challenges to High 5 Casino’s growth going forward.

The two main issues High 5 Casino has going forward are the platform’s fidelity to the original game structure and the mechanic for unlocking games for high level players.

IGT Games on High 5 Casino on Facebook look and feel exactly like the games one finds in casinos. That means that virtually every game features a “Max Bet” button. The “Max Bet” button raises one’s bet to the highest rate one can bet based on their current bank and player/game level. On High 5 Casino, the more one plays a game, the higher their game level goes and the higher their player level rises. Higher player and game levels allow one to bet more. The “Max Bet” button is a great asset for the “high rollers” in casinos, but it is a severe liability to players at an online casino.

I have long postulated that one of the strengths and weaknesses of Facebook casinos (and other on-line casinos where they act essentially like video games) is that because there is no money that comes out of the game, the element of greed that is usually associated with gambling is effectively eliminated. Online casinos do not have the same draw for compulsives that appeals to the longshot hope of gamblers for “winning it big.” Because there is no chance for that, the element of greed that fuels riskier gambling behaviors is far less likely to occur. Because the “Max Bet” button appeals to those who follow a riskier betting strategy and that type of strategy is less likely to occur on games where players spend money, but cannot win any, its legitimate use is pointless or problematic.

The problematic aspect of the “Max Bet” button comes from the fact that many of the IGT/High 5 games have a link for accessing the pay tables or rules right above the “Max Bet” button. Clicking on that text link can easily lead one to accidentally hit the “Max Bet” button and cause players to lose large sums of coins. This is an issue as players may spend real money on coins, but lose them through a mis-click while trying to learn about the game they are playing or want to play.

Fortunately, there is a very simple solution that could help eliminate any issues with the “Max Bet” button and High 5 could easily implement it because the coding is already in the platform. High 5 Casino should create a pop-up that prevents the “Max Bet” button from being hit inadvertently. When one hits the “Max Bet” button, there should be a pop-up that says “Are you sure?” and requires a confirmation click. This is exactly what happens when one tries to spin, but their credits are too low to meet the bet one has made (one is given the option to play or buy more chips). High 5 Casino could easily replicate that pop-up programming to create a confirmation for those who hit the “Max Bet” button and they should. This would help preserve the funds of players, allowing them to play more and enjoy their play experience without risk of catastrophic losses from a mistaken click to the “Max Bet” button when one intends to simply hit “Spin” or “Rules/Payout Amounts.” Those who find such things suspicious might argue that the only reason to keep fidelity to the original game is that High 5 wants players to lose large amounts of coins in order to compel players to buy more to play with. That somewhat jaded view would be analogous to an arcade owner who continually knocks off the power on the machine one is playing after players put in their money. While there is no evidence that High 5 has such disregard for their players that way, not having a safety to prevent catastrophic loss is either irresponsible or not player-friendly. Rectifying that can only help the platform grow.

The much more serious issue comes from how players get new games on the High 5 Casino Facebook Platform. Unlike most other video slot machine platforms on Facebook, players do not simply unlock new games by playing more and “leveling up.” Instead, High 5 has a random slot machine game that unlocks new games when one gets three like symbols for each game. One gets three free spins every four hours and each time one levels up on a game, they earn spins on the High 5 game slot machine. Leveling up on games becomes harder and harder the higher one’s game and player level is. This mechanic actually undermines the longterm viability of the platform for High 5 Casino. Here is how: at higher levels, the proportion of new games to already unlocked games is exceptionally small. Right now, High 5 Casino has twelve games, the latest of which was unlocked earlier this week.

For those who are loyal players and consistently play High 5 Casino games – especially those who pay money for the game – it can be exceptionally difficult to unlock new games. One can cycle through a hundred thousand coins before they level up on a game when they are at the higher levels. Going through so many coins to get a single spin on the High 5 Casino Slot, which only gives one a chance at unlocking a new game – and the odds are not 1:12, each reel on the game has (currently) 20 symbols and that number will only continue to go up as new games are released. Each reel has a 2:20 chance of unlocking a new game (Wilds in conjunction with the game symbol can unlock a new game), which means the odds of unlocking a new game right now are 6 in 8000. The more games that are released, the worse that proportion will get. Unless something changes, it will always be 6 into an ever increasing number.

High 5 need to change that in order to continue to grow. As it stands, High 5 Casino’s mechanic actually punishes those who play a lot and spend money to get more coins and achieve higher levels. Because the element of greed is eliminated, the playing experience is what brings players back to online casinos. If the slots are too tight so players cannot see bonus games on their games or see only diminishing coin balances, there are so many other platforms for players to play on, they will abandon the platform they began on and move to another. High 5 Casino is not immune to the potential of such abandonment; it is not the only platform that uses IGT games on Facebook.

In order to keep players enticed and keep the platform growing, High 5 Casino needs to alter how new games are unlocked for higher level players. Otherwise, it will not be long before the most loyal players to High 5 realize exactly how the platform is exhibiting a law of diminishing returns. Given that video slots have no return, High 5 cannot afford – in the long run – to diminish the playing experience of those who support it most.

© 2013 W.L. Swarts. May not be reprinted without permission.
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