Making sports-themed slots relevant


Rob Procter, content specialist director at SG Digital, on how carefully developed sports-themed slots can maximise cross-sell opportunities for operators.

The online slots world is packed with familiar game themes that players instantly recognise and love, from Egyptian adventures to titles inspired by Irish folklore. These are tried and tested formats that resonate with a wide audience, but as the industry looks to broaden its appeal to a new generation of players, experimenting with other genres must also be considered. 

One area of online gaming that many developers have dabbled with in previous years is sports-themed casino content. From the outset, creating a slot game that is appealing to both casino players and sports bettors makes strategic sense, given the potential to deliver strong results for operators, in particular the cross-sell opportunities. 

Yet history tells us that sports-themed slots have rarely hit the mark, with only a few exceptions to the rule. Some titles have simply been too focused on the sporting theme, while others were over reliant on the use of a famous sporting brand to attract players without much attention to the gameplay. 

However, it would be remiss for the casino industry not to revisit this genre and look at ways of making this type of content appealing. Operators and their players are constantly seeking new and exciting experiences, and combining casino and sport themes into one product has the ability to offer something special. 

The key is understanding how to develop a sports-themed slot that not only features responsible features and caters for a wide range of players, but also is strong enough to keep customers coming back for more. 

Focusing on a strong gameplay

For a sports-themed slot to truly resonate with both slot fans and sports bettors, it is important not to lose focus of the core product. Incorporating a solid slot format with a sports theme is more likely to strike a chord, rather than focusing on a particular sport’s characteristics. 

When developing our new horse racing-themed game Rainbow Riches Race Day, the strategic thinking was to create a robust gameplay that transcended the need to be totally reliant on the sport. It plays on the theme, but the mechanics we have adopted are strong enough to make this title highly appealing, both to new customers and existing players. 

For instance, the game cleverly utilises the familiar racing format that are found in classic horse racing arcade machines. Above the reels, the race is on with players required to collect horses to advance along the racetrack and the first to cross the winning post awards the associated prize.

While that is likely to attract the attention of racing fans, the game is also underpinned by popular features that casino players will appreciate. Cascading wins and the ability to choose how the free spins are played out within the bonus round are sure to hit the spot for many. With responsible gaming features prevalent, the game finds the right balance between a sporting theme and a solid casino format. 

Developing strong cross-sell opportunities

The cross-sell opportunities that a strong sports-themed slot provides can be very significant and are one of the major benefits to an operator. Releasing games alongside major events provides a real

starting point to attract interest, but needs to be backed by a sufficient cross-promotion that truly speaks to the target audience. Data shows that engagement levels rise during major sporting events, and is a peak time for operators to offer new content to those who are seeking new experiences. 

With Rainbow Riches Race Day, the horse racing theme ensures that this slot is an important cross-sell opportunity for operators. Our commercial team has worked closely with sportsbooks to create effective promotions during the Cheltenham Festival period, with further plans in place for the Grand National and other key race meetings scheduled later this year. 

A sports-themed slot should not be developed for a one-off occasion, though. Just with the development of any game, the aim should be make the gameplay strong enough to retain the interest of players for a long period of time. Crucially, an effective sports-themed slot can be thrusted back into the spotlight to coincide with future sporting events, but only if the format will interest players.

Recently, we have seen a variety of sports-themed slots released to the market, with the likelihood that more will be created ahead of major tournaments this summer including the European Championships and the Olympics. 

While some titles will fail to deliver on quality, those that find the right balance between the sporting theme and gameplay will create a product that brings with it strong engagement.