Should an ‘Idiots Guide’ to creating a blockbuster igaming title exist, the chase of that golden goose, and subsequent conversations regarding which, would be relatively dull and short-lived.

However, in what may be a shock to many, these dos and don’ts are not readily available, and so an expert panel recently convened in Barcelona to offer a series of insights into the key ingredients of such a game.

With mechanics, design, sound effects, music, narrative and RTP, among many more, having to be factored into the development process, how do studios choose a level of priority and ensure that they interplay with each other.

“We’re in a very hyper competitive landscape right now,” began Bryan Upton, Founder and Director of Lucksome, emphasising that production begins by setting a series of parameters for games to be built.

These, he said, include stipulating a foundation on who a title is being designed for, motivations of play, target jurisdictions, cultural tastes, regulations and numerous more, each of which play a role in the risk versus rewards dilemma.

“Once you have that kind of set of parameters, and that’s the focus, generally don’t deviate from that,” he said.

“But most of the time when a game starts out to do something and tends to veer off and does something else it ends up being a bit of a mess, and a disaster. So you’re trying to hold that focus. 

“But then once you’ve got those parameters, there’s infinite ways to skin that cat. What game mechanics am I going to use? And that’s when the risk versus reward conversation in your head begins? Which is, do I make a risky title? Or do I make a safer bet title? 

“…risk and high reward plays a really important aspect of all possible business”

Mark McGinley, CEO of FunFair Games

“As a studio, as small as mine, in any studio, you always want a massive hit, and for a small studio that can make or break you. But at the same time, you’re still running a business, and you still need to bring in some revenue to keep things going.”

As moderator Jeremy Coleman, Commercial Director at PearFiction Studios, cited the importance of the first 50/100 spins in a players experience, as well as in potentially providing marketing insights for a provider, Mark McGinley, CEO of FunFair Games, picked up where Upton left off.

Here, he details a path being pursued that navigates away from the traditional direction of the vertical, but noted there “there’s an appetite” and a “desire” to discover more that breathes optimism into the opportunity for the group. 

“I mean, the high risk and high reward plays a really important aspect of all possible business and all parts of our game development mindset,” he explained. 

“We’re very keen to move away from the traditional landscape. We are not creating traditional slots or table games, we are very much in what I would call a new emerging gaming vertical, it really doesn’t have a definition as yet. 

“Some people call it non traditional, some people call it arcade. Some people call it next gen. So there’s very many unknowns and questions and challenges that we automatically face as part of that process. 

“But I think when we look to assess the risk and the reward, I think we also try to understand the opportunities. And I think right now it’s the opportunity that really excites us at FunFair Games, we do see a shift from the operator to look at different game types. 

“I think there’s an appetite for these game types now that was not there two years, three years ago, when we started to come up with some interesting ideas.”

“A lot of the time, it’s better to be the second, because you see what someone else has done”

Bryan Upton, Founder and Director of Lucksome

Upton continued by suggesting that in order to really do something innovative you have to detach yourself and flip problems on their head, before advising that second mover advantage is key in this regard.

“A lot of the time, it’s better to be the second, because you see what someone else has done. And then straight away, you can say, I’m pretty sure I can improve on that,” he said. 

“As long as you’re fast enough, and you can execute quickly, I’m pretty sure that you know, you can come in and do some really good work. They’re just based on some early successes you’ve seen somewhere else. 

“So I think, yes, it’s good to have first mover. But if you’re prepared to follow it up, if you truly believe in an idea, don’t just do one game, have a few of them ready with different things and go for it. If you don’t believe in it, don’t do it and go and find something else who actually believes in it.”

As Daniel Giuffra, Brand Manager of CasinoGrounds, noted that ” you don’t really see a large variety of games being played” by streamers, Vladyslav Garanko, CMO at Platipus, commented on if it’s possible to know whether or not a fresh introduction is going to be a success.

“It’s not impossible to understand which game will be successful or not, you have to sit in the market,” he noted. 

“You can make a certain prediction to the best of your ability, but, of course, at the end of the day, it’s for a player to decide. 

“And also the markets will decide because even the most successful game can never make it to the top simply because the marketing has failed to deliver it. And then even the greatest game can sink.”

“…it makes sense for operators to keep games that keep bringing money”

Vladyslav Garanko, CMO at Platipus

As the 40-minute discourse moved forward once more, Upton takes the reins to note that you have “to be smart about where to put your resources” regarding the chase of “one of those rocket ship releases” via a one size fits all approach.

Furthermore, the necessity of “making games that are going to work in key markets or correlating market clusters” is noted, as Upton stated that the top 10/15 games “don’t change that much over the last five years”.

“If a game does really well in a certain market, of course operators are going to push it in other markets, because they want to know if it’s going to have the same success,” it is said. 

Here, one specific example is cited to highlight the importance of localisation, with work having been undertaken alongside one operator to release a “culturally nuanced” game for a specific market.

Maintaining momentum, Garanko points to the “same uphill battle” being fought by Platipus that give evidence of a”vicious cycle” of the top games staying in those elevated positions “because they bring money.” 

He continued: “And it makes sense for operators to keep games that keep bringing money. It’s the question of relationships with those operators and trying to inform them that, yes, it is true that these games are still going to be popular [but] it is a matter of innovation and if they can sustain the players. 

It is a constant conversation with the operators, back and forth. And it’s returning to the question of risk versus reward, whether the operator is open to risk to put more new releases. 

“And if the operator is not that willing, he is going to stick with the old ways and it’s basically manoeuvring around that it is a very very tough battle.”

“I think something we don’t do very well in our industry is … inform and educate the player about our games”

Mark McGinley, CEO of FunFair Games

As the conversion drew to a close, Coleman quizzed the panel on the current major challenges being faced, with Upton revisiting the importance of marketing in making sure that high quality releases don’t get lost in the crowd.

“I’d say there’s more small studios, and there are large ones, by definition. And then I look at the collective number of games that those small studios produce together,” he ended.

“I would say that you’re going to have a better chance of getting innovation out of that group somewhere, there’ll be a lot of stuff that isn’t great. But there’ll be some diamonds in the rough, they’re really strong games that could get missed.

“So I think there’s a bit of the industry that is very forgiving at trying new things. To be honest, we’re very lucky. But it’s so easy to get lost in the crowd. And there’s so many great games out there that just haven’t had a chance. 

I’m talking in general, that I think are fantastic, but they’re just not there because they just haven’t got enough eyeballs on them. And it’s such a waste. And I’d like to see a better industry approach to that, as well as you know, people helping us market ourselves better.”

With McGinley bringing proceedings to a close to look at the “shark fest” slots arena that has been witnessing wave after wave of releases for quite some time. 

“It’s a very saturated marketplace. I think building trusted relationships with operators is absolutely critical,” he closed. 

“I think having a sales force that understands the marketplace and can communicate the game. I think something we don’t do very well in our industry is inform and educate the player about our games. 

“And I think that’s something that at FunFair we’re going to try very hard to do, because we’re creating new games, they’ve got a non-traditional format. So we believe it’s a critical key to the success of the game in that new emerging vertical.

“So, I think that’s a big takeaway for us as operators, build relationships with operators, try to understand the marketplace and try to inform and educate the player a lot better than we do.”