Poker’s lottery sit and go poker games are known for being ultra-fast—blinds escalate so quickly that within minutes players are play “push or fold” poker, with little space for tactical, post-flop play.
Due to the nature of a three-handed game and a 27-ball game, HexaBingo games are also over faster than usual games. However, the pace is actually much slower.
In traditional online bingo, bingo calls are rapid-fire, often one per second, if not faster. This makes it hard for players to anticipate upcoming draws and work out which numbers they need to hit—and which to avoid so other players do not complete their boards first. There is no tension.
HexaBingo can afford to go much slower. Ball draws taking five seconds or more and when one player has just one number short of a line, things slow down further—special animations and sound effects build the suspense as the ball is revealed.
Players can thus “sweat” critical draws, checking their opponent’s number “to further add to the element of anticipation,” said Stalros.
“The result is a graphically rich, easy-to-follow experience that is as fast and exciting as it is engaging,” he added.
A lot of time was taken over the design of the game. The first decision was whether to keep it three-handed, like a traditional LSNG.
“We did assess other possibilities, but in this case the phrase 'If it’s not broken, don’t fix it’ proved true,” Stalros told PRO. “As an example, if we added more players it would become significantly harder to follow your opponents’ tickets visually on a mobile phone and would require much larger liquidity to start ‘on demand’.”
Visually, HexaBingo is heavily inspired by its poker predecessor. But there were key bingo-specific decisions to make.
“Although the two products look very similar, applying the format to both bingo and poker instigated a multitude of considerations. How many balls should we include? Would 3×3, 4×4 or 5×5 tickets suit best? What should the speed between ball draws be and how should the draw look?” said Stalros.
“Then there was the need to ensure that it was easily understandable to the bingo player, since most would not have been familiar with how lottery Sit and Gos worked,” he added.
Ultimately, Relax Gaming settled on a 3×3 grid, with a total of 27 squares spread across the three players’ cards. This means one player will daub off a number for every ball.
The game has been well-received, but it is early days. Most players so far are existing bingo players trying out the new format, Arnsby said.
“So far so good! We ran a lot of great promotions on the game when we first launched, so people were encouraged to try it out with minimal risk,” she told PRO.
“We have seen a core of customers who really like the game and have moved more of their bingo volume from traditional bingo over to HexaBingo,” she added.
“The game is optimized for mobile play, and each round moves fairly fast, so we do see all types of player dropping in for at least one or two games.”
“Kindred have made great achievements in encouraging players to try the game, and the initial response far exceeded our expectations,” added Stalros. “Since the launch, volumes have normalised and, overall, the product has established a loyal fan base that continues to enjoy the game.”
PRO asked whether the goal of the new format was to provide crossover appeal to players of other formats.
“Really good question!” said Arnsby, “Sometimes when you launch a completely new concept, it’s hard to predict who, if anyone, will fully engage with it!”
“Initially the idea was that HexaBingo would be an alternative or addition to traditional bingo players’ schedules, but what we are seeing is that fans of slots are actually enjoying the game,” she said.
“With some hindsight, it does make sense, as slots players are very used to a high-low roller coaster emotional experience, and HexaBingo is closer to that than traditional bingo, which can be seen as more of a 'grinder’ game.”
The slots-bingo cross-sell is certainly a path trodden by operators in the past. Slingo, a hybrid slots-bingo game, is immensely popular in the UK, and Kindred spreads its own version across multiple brands. But there was potential that HexaBingo could cross-sell to other players too, said Arnsby.
“We did not anticipate much of a cross-over from poker players specifically, but after running a small promo for poker community members on HexaBingo early on, we did get the feedback that it was an interesting comparison to HexaPro,” she said. “HexaBingo is 100% luck: If you play HexaPro and your opponents are more skilled than you, you do not have an exact 1/3 chance of winning that game.”
“I’m a regular online bingo player myself, and whilst I’ll never move totally away from my favourite 90-ball games, HexaBingo certainly fills a gap between scheduled bingo games,” she added. “When I hit the higher multipliers HexaBingo is really exciting because I have a real 1/3 shot at that prize.”
“It’s still early days,” added Stalros. “and we’re assessing how the operations of the product can be best optimised. At Relax, we’re always working to improve and for that reason we highly appreciate feedback from players and our partners to ensure we’re delivering the best possible product and experience.”
“It’s great to see investment and interest in the bingo vertical—and I’m sure players have been equally happy to see development in the sector,” he added.
With two “Hexa-” products in the Relax Gaming portfolio, PRO asked if one should expect to see further iterations on the format, and whether more innovations can be expected in the future.
“Absolutely; this is definitely not the end of the road for our product development,” responded Stalros. “We’ve never launched a product and not sought feedback to improve it.”
“It’s part of our DNA to always try to learn lessons from each launch, sometimes technical, other times promotional mechanics or metrics, but in this case we took the whole concept and delved deep into what could be optimised.”
“We have a few tricks up our sleeve for both poker and bingo. Both are definitely ones to watch next year!” he added.