Instant win games have been around for quite some time; while they’re not as old as slots (the first scratch card was created in 1974), they certainly have a legacy of their own. Until now, they’d never really hit the point of mass popularity, but there’s a new and growing trend towards playing instant win games reflected across land-based and online sales revenue figures.
What is an instant win game?
Instant win games are a broad category of online and physical games, which include scratch cards, wheel games, Keno and even some card games, like high or lower. What makes an instant win game is that it offers an instant prize draw. Usually, these games revolve around matching symbols to win a prize.
Rise of instant win games
The most popular online and in-person instant win game type is scratch cards. For in-person sales, scratch cards are usually positioned as an impulse at-the-counter product. Meanwhile, online scratch cards and other instant win games are typically listed as a separate category at online gambling sites.
Scratch cards and some other draw games are part of the National Lottery, so we can look at what statistics say about their rising popularity. A UK Parliamentary report states, “Between 2010 and 2020, sales of scratch cards and instant-win games increased from £1.4 billion to £3.4 billion per year.” Furthermore, the report continues, “Sales of scratch cards and instant-win games have risen sharply in recent years, now accounting for around 44% of total National Lottery sales.” In comparison, according to the UKGC for 2020, “Online casino games dominate the sector, generating £3.2bn in GGY, mostly from slots games.”
Bringing these figures up to date for today, Camelot’s latest financial records for the 2022-23 financial year show the sale of instant win products accounted for £3.45bn, so there’s not been a huge increase in sales between 2020 and 2023. At the same time, slot machine revenue has continued to grow and at a faster pace.
There are a couple of things to highlight regarding these figures that make for an unfair comparison. Firstly, the parliamentary figures capture online and in-person sales, while the UKGC figures only reflect online revenue. Secondly, the UKGC data is gross gambling yield, which is the amount operators retain after paying out winnings. Meanwhile, the instant-win figures used are total sales.
Despite comparative issues, the parallel is still worth drawing as it demonstrates the difference in spending and popularity of these two forms of games, with spending on slots outstretching instant win games. Still, online slots have not shown the same growth as instant win games across the same period, and a doubling in sales figures is not a statistic to be ignored.
How do slot machines and instant win games differ?
Online scratch cards and online slots are similar at the primary level; you have a minimum and maximum stake in both games and seek to reveal matching symbols, which have different payouts depending on which are revealed. No matter what type of instant-win game or slot, the aim is always the same; matching symbols to win. Plus, the outcomes of both games are based on luck.
However, online slots are more complex, both in terms of game mechanics and design, than instant win options. With slot games, there’s more attention paid to the aesthetics and theme, which draw players into different playing environments. The game mechanics include bonus rounds, jackpots, and other reel functions, which are not found with instant win titles.
Additionally, players can use bonuses to play slot games, and find plenty of different offers, even no wagering deals, which isn’t the case with instant win games (these are most often excluded from bonuses). No wagering slots, in particular, are on the rise and offer the best option because players don’t need to fulfill wagering requirements on any winnings to cash out, meaning slots can appear as the more appealing game for online gamblers.
While slot spins and instant win games each provide an individual round per stake, players spend more time and money on online slots due to the greater complexity of the gameplay, engaging themes and graphics, and the possibility of hitting the in-game bonus rounds.
Can instant win games become more popular than slots?
As instant win games tend to be only played for one or two rounds, they are a quick and impulsive gamble, almost an add-on that appeals to any player feeling lucky that day rather than the main attraction. Additionally, as a low-cost game, scratch cards and other instant win games fit lower playing budgets, which appeals to the many players feeling the squeeze as the cost of living crisis takes hold.
For these reasons, instant win games will continue to be popular and see rising sales figures, but it’s unlikely they will even see the same kind of spending and mass popularity that online slots have garnered.