From Gonzo to Rich Wilde: How Slots Use Characters To Improve The Gameplay Experience

When someone says Gonzo, do you think of the Muppets, or of the NetEnt slot game, Gonzo’s Quest?

There’s a fun trend growing in the world of online slots – larger than life characters and games with impressive, memorable designs.

Gonzo is one of the most memorable characters in slots.
Gonzo is one of the most memorable characters in slots.

We’re now in a time where regular slot players will know the characters from the reels as well as they know their favorite video game or movie character. Isn’t that something?

The fact is that character is pretty important to slot games. The technology behind slots is becoming more advanced each year, which means that artwork and immersion improve too. This has to go hand-in-hand with original themes and ideas that stand out to players and develop a fanbase of sorts.

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The end result? Characters like Gonzo, Rich Wilde and the casts of games like Vikings Go Berzerk that change the rules on what makes a super slot.

Famous slot heroes

The easiest way to see the impact these characters have is to look at the top slot games.

Gonzo’s Quest is a great example, because of course he’s part of the title, but also he interacts with the reels when you play the game. Gonzo is a Spanish explorer in the deep jungle, searching Aztec ruins for lost gold.

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This game has become a huge success for NetEnt and Gonzo himself features in a lot of artwork for slot sites – always expanding the brand.

Play ‘N’ Go developed the Rich Wilde character for a series of slots, starting with the Aztec Idols, then Pearls of India, but perhaps most famously Book of Dead. Each new version improved the character design, with the current Egyptian-themed game showing him in high detail.

Then, look at games like Vikings Go Berzerk that don’t name the characters in the title – it still features detailed cinematics that introduce the striking, memorable world and its inhabitants.

Vikings Go Berzerk has some great characterization.
Vikings Go Berzerk has some great characterization.

Why do they matter?

So why do slots go to these lengths? The fact is that the world of slots is getting quite busy. There are hundreds and hundreds of games, by various competing providers. Getting new games noticed by players can be hard work, as is getting players to stick with the slots after they’ve played for a while.

While gameplay is obviously a huge factor, a solid central character or a fun setting really makes a difference.

In video games, for example, the characters matter. Look at Mario, Lara Croft, Solid Snake and the Pokémon franchise.

Ultimately, people gravitate back to themes they enjoy and characters they are comfortable with. That’s why there are so many Egyptian, Irish and Viking slots – people just like those themes. The developers have to find new ideas with striking character, or put more fun into those themes (such as Yggdrasil’s Rainbow Ryan, the rockin’ leprechaun!).

This is also why slot developers do deals with existing intellectual properties like movies and comic books – from Jurassic World to The Phantom of the Opera. These characters are already well-known and people will come back for the themes, music and art that they love.

The future of slot characterization

Some slots don’t stop at just making noticeable mascots. Want to really get to know the characters? Microgaming’s Immortal Romance features actual narrated back stories for each character, as they confront the horrors of the vampiric underworld.

Immortal Romance slot game reels
Immortal Romance has the Twilight Saga in mind.

Clearly, as technology gets better and games can afford higher quality artwork and sound, the characters have to be more developed too. Many games use full CGI cinematic sequences now.

So, what’s next? Interactivity in slots is growing, with games like Castle Builder II having gamified decision making and tracked stats.

Could we see more movie-like cutscenes? Bonus rounds tied into character progression? There are already slots where the reels change to match your wins and losses, so why not have a story unfold depending on your progress?

The future is limitless for slot gaming, which has already come on a long way from basic 3-reel slots. We may see more animated shorts, character merchandise, and a slot series that develops the same characters and more – the potential is out there to create the Sonic or Mario of the slots world.

Let’s throw the gauntlet down for the likes of Microgaming, NetEnt and Yggdrasil and see what they’ve got.

Many of these games are available at a range of online casinos, including ComeOn!, Betsafe, Genting Casino, Mr Green and Powerspins Casino.

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