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Wanted Dead or a Wild – A Year On

A slot that’s received praise from streamers, casinos, and players alike, we’re going to find out exactly why audiences are still glued to WDW’s 5×5 reels a year on.

September 29th marked the launch of the space shuttle Discovery in 1986, US racehorse Greyhound breaking 1938’s world trotting record, and some might say, most importantly, the 2022 release anniversary of Wanted Dead or a Wild, the wild west-themed slot from Hacksaw Gaming. 

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Dead or a Wild Data 

WDW has experienced unprecedented popularity for an extended period of time. Casinoanalytics.com saw streamed minutes of the slot reach a stratospheric 2 billion views in August 2022.

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The uptick in viewing figures is widely considered to be due to the slot’s mechanic, and made-to-stream creative. The bonus buy feature is a gift to casino streamers waiting for a big win or a dip in gameplay. By simply purchasing a WDW bonus – of which there are three – streamers can invoke some high-adrenaline action by simply spending funds provided by providers. 

The tsunami of upcoming slot streamers on Twitch and YouTube also coincided with the release of WDW in September 2021, which showed month-on-month streamed minutes data steadily increasing from the beginning of Q2 to the end of Q3. 

The self-perpetuation of slots displayed as ‘trending’ or ‘popular’ remains an ongoing, contentious issue for casino UX. Slot studios on smaller budgets are often where the most innovation is found, yet small-budget releases are unlikely to get on this evil-by-design conveyor belt of self-promotion.

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How else could Starburst have reached such stratospheric levels of popularity? For a space-themed slot, the gameplay is decidedly pedestrian. Also, the graphics, even for the time, are a very standard affair. 

Casino’s promotional calendars are also highly influential when it comes to deciding a slot’s popularity. Whether an operator decides to push a new release could be the difference between a title becoming the next big thing or dying a death in casino lobby backwaters. 

Developer marketing budgets are also a deciding factor as to whether a game will be promoted. The big guns of the industry can facilitate free spin network promotions on releases while smaller studios are left to cross their fingers and hope their game has enough draw for casino product managers to flag as the leading slot for a campaign. 

Data science is the modern-day equivalent of test audience screenings with statistics believed to transform the way we will behave for the next 50 to 100 years. What used to be data gathered from a demographic cross-section has now become stats pulled from data points across metrics such as retweets, shares, views, and likes. 

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With instant data insights at slot developers’ disposal, there’s never been a better time to accurately predict, and therefore fulfil player needs.  

Dream Theme

We can’t get to the bottom of why WDW has enjoyed such popularity without analysing the forces that attract audiences to the wild west genre. The big screen has seen countless outings portrayed by directors such as Ford, Leone, Van Cleef, and Eastwood but the resurgence of wild west v2.0 has small screen outings to thank. 

The viewing vogue of shows such as Godless, Deadwood, and Yellowstone has opened the thematic doors to genre-defying releases such as Westworld and the Netflix 2021 anime Cowboy Bebop. This stylistic shift to genre makeovers or mashups is possibly responsible for casino platforms seeing such huge numbers flock to Wanted: Dead or a Wild. 

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We’re sentimental for a period we’ve never experienced – when life was simpler, scores settled with a six-shooter, when masculinity was measured by how many indigenous American scalps you had to your name or the number of double negatives you could fit into a sentence.

Many are struggling with the shift to a post-binary society and the polarised world of wild west movies is seen as comforting. From the blank canvas setting of frontiers to spitoon pings you can set your watch by, it’s a familiarity that appeals to consumers due to its predictable nature. 

cowboyHow long will it continue to be profitable? Cinematic history suggests that the cowboy genre met its match towards the end of the ’60s and consumers of wild west movies were then overloaded with creatives; advertising, TV outings, fun park rides, and merch. 

The tipping point came when spoofs became more prominent than the source material. If we’re to use this as a benchmark for predicting longevity, the wild west will remain a bankable option for slot producers until things get silly. 

WDW doesn’t quite parody the genre but treads a fine line with the inclusion of an anachronistic soundtrack. Interestingly, 80s soft rock riffs don’t seem that out of place in WDW. 

What’s Next?

As Wanted: Dead or a Wild continues to trend on BigWinBoard bigwinboard – the only 2021 release to do just that – questions are being asked about the future of the game. Whether or not the Hacksaw release is destined to become the next slot for a Megaways reboot is on the cards, as is the potential for a sequel. 

As data surpasses oil as the most valuable commodity on earth, predicting player behavior has never been simpler. But, without access to the figures, some are left to dwell in the lower rankings of a data caste system. Those with access to the facts and figures can enjoy an Elysium of data-backed insights, while the rest of us are found flailing in a swamp of conjecture. 

We could spend hours speculating on the next smash hit slot theme, gathering feedback from players as to their needs, and hypothesising as to the most popular features of 2023. But, of course, this is pointless. 

Data already holds the answers to all these questions. We just need to ask. 

What do you think?

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