As times evolve, so have slots, and as new ideas take hold, you see them proliferate across games on the casino floor. One element that has become particularly prevalent in recent years is the concept of Perceived Persistence. The term has been a constant buzzword at industry events like the Global Gaming Expo, but if you’re a regular casino visitor you may have no idea what it’s about.

So let’s define the term, understand why it exists and most importantly, why this matters to you as a player.

Defining Perceived Persistence

To start, we need to understand what “persistence” is to begin with. The concept of persistence isn’t new – it’s an element on a slot machine that remains beyond a single session. Historically, when you cash out of a slot, the game is basically ready for the next player, with nothing left over from the previous player.

Persistence adds an element that does persist (hence the term) after a session ends. Persistence exists in two forms:

  • True persistence is an element that has some value, sometimes called equity, to a player in that it’s a value that can be unlocked. This can be elements like the collecting of borders on Scarab, the free game counters on games with progressive free games, and so on. There’s value to what’s been left by the last player.
  • Perceived persistence, on the other hand, is an element that evolves as players play, persists beyond the session, but offers no value or equity. This includes the various pots, bags, gold fish, and so on that grow on the screen and pop when a bonus is triggered, but offer no information or value to a bonus, such as if a bonus is near or how much a bonus will pay.

So, persistence sticks around, but whether it adds actual value or not depends on the element.

The Success of Perceived Persistence

Perceived persistence elements started out pretty simply, with games like 88 Fortunes and Dancing Drums featuring a pot that slowly filled with coins as wilds came out. At some point, the pot would close, indicating a bonus.

But perceived persistence really took off with the launch of Fu Dai Lian Lian, which some players have nicknamed “The Bag Game” because of the three bags that sit above the reels. Each bag represents a bonus upgrade, and multiple bags can spin around at once, meaning multiple upgrades for the bonus.

These, too, are perceived persistence; the size of the bags don’t indicate how close you are to a bonus. But the connection to the various upgrades, and the fact that there are three of them, creates a lot more activity on the slot than before, and has proven to be a success.

Games with perceived persistence are placing consistently among the top games found in casinos today. So are ones with multiple pots, a trend we’ve seen for a few years now.
Why Perceived Persistence?
Players sometimes ask me why slot makers would put objects on the screen that don’t actually contribute to anything. The reason is pretty simple – it helps balance games out as volatility increases.

Players have shown they want bigger bonuses and wins. They want a chance at something spectacular. But often this means pulling money from line hits and pushing bonuses out to be less frequent to make this possible.

These growing items on the screen, and the various zapping and coin flying and other animations that go along with this, create movement and activity on the screen that would otherwise often be spins with nothing else happening. This creates the impression that something is happening, and that you’re building to something.

There are a lot of people who fall for this and think they’re getting closer. Others keep going because it’s been so long without a bonus when the coins are overflowing or the fish are cracking their bowls that a bonus must be due, right? But the chances of bonus on the next spin are no better than the last one.
Psychologically, the pot games are effective, as seen by their success on casino floors. And even casino employees get fooled – I had to show a host the line on the pay table that confirmed the Dancing Drums pot’s fullness was not an indicator of how close a bonus was – he had no idea.

Neither do many players, and so the perceived persistence elements draw players in, keep them playing, and lead slot makers to make more of them – it simply works.

There are certainly games that don’t have this – you don’t tend to see this sort of mechanic on most link-style games. But this class of game, given its recent popularity, isn’t going anywhere for a long time.

Josh O’Connell is VP of Product Development at BC Ventures, and is editor and head writer at Josh has been writing about slots for five years, and has become a trusted source of information for players curious about how slots work.