Desert Fantasy has changed the world of “Cascade games.” The EGR 2023 “Best New Game” winner, created by NeoGames Studio, has taken content to the next level thanks to its feature-rich gameplay, including multipliers, free spins, and progressive jackpots, and backed with stunning animations. These elements combined contributed to record-breaking sales, placing the game as one of the best-performing eInstants in iLottery. The game made history for one of NeoGames’ U.S. lottery customers when it generated sales of over $135,000,000 in its first 180 days—much more than double the sales of the second-best game. For another U.S. customer, the game was No. 1 in sales for the first eight months after its launch, with total sales that were 1.5 times more than the game in second place (also provided by NeoGames Studio).
A Development Process Based on Key Observations
“It is important to reflect on what has already proven to be popular with audiences. From here, you can tap into what is familiar and why it has been effective with retail-based audiences and how this can transfer to an engaging experience online,” explains Sharon Ben Ishay, who was Head of Product at NeoGames Studio when Desert Fantasy was created.
Victor Marmorstein, Head of Games – North America at NeoGames Studio, explains how the game taps into engaging mechanics. “Desert Fantasy is about finding matching symbols in a cluster of three or more. We saw that this cluster play style has proven very popular over the last couple of years. The game has a multiplier feature similar to those that could be found on retail scratch tickets or other online games, which is a proven favorite among lottery players.”
For Ben Ishay, utilizing a popular theme elicits a connection with the player, which should play a deciding factor in their decision to engage with a game.
“We want content to resonate with all players, even if they are not regular players,” says Ben Ishay. “If they see a theme or character they instantly recognize, they are likely to engage.”
“This was a key factor in finalizing the characterization and gameplay of Desert Fantasy, leaning into the fantasy theme and conveying riches to excite the imaginations of players.”
The Right Mix of Ingredients
Marmorstein believes that players have become accustomed to titles that boast an array of features that keep them entertained throughout their journeys, while titles that have fewer play features or basic themes can fail to capture the player’s attention.
Add to this an accurate game economy, in which NeoGames Studio invested a lot—“This is what keeps the players engaged with the game for a longer period,” says Ben Ishay – and then one can easily realize how Desert Fantasy encapsulates the right balance between the different ingredients to create a super successful eInstant.
Marmorstein says: “We had trialed a few different versions of these cascade games until we hit the sweet spot. Desert Fantasy had all the necessary elements to become a success—namely a proven base-game play mechanic and economy, a rich theme, a recognizable character, and a variety of features to keep players entertained across many rounds.”
Taking eInstants to Even Greater Heights
Following a strong performance, it comes as no surprise to learn that NeoGames Studio created a sequel to Desert Fantasy. The sequel is live with Virginia Lottery and other lotteries will soon follow. The application of several best practices has certainly set the tone for creating eInstants moving forward, maintaining NeoGames Studio’s track record of market innovation.
“We can’t copy and paste this game and expect it to be a top performer, but if the key elements are there, and we add in the latest learnings and experiences gained from our most recent product releases, that will be the recipe for success,” comments Marmorstein.
Shahar adds: “One major challenge for any studio is to know how to balance the ever-changing customer and player expectations, and their willingness to take risks. We operate in a relatively new industry, and players are always surprising us with what they desire, so it wouldn’t be in our best interest to rely on any one game’s success. We need to continue to innovate.”
NeoGames Studio is always striving to better its already strong production values and build on its understanding of what has worked well, without losing sight of its sense of innovation. This approach is bound to take the studio’s eInstants to even greater heights.