Dream Spin Studios’ journey from successful slot streamers to budding slot suppliers continues to shine a light on the challenges faced by brands looking to make a name for themselves in the B2B online casino industry. 

Having already detailed the company’s introduction to the slot development industry, as well as the inception of Dream Spin, Co-Founder Josh Green takes us back to the studio’s first experiences with creating its debut title, telling all from stress-inducing time restraints to feeling pride through their product. 

After our first two articles, which outlined what this series would encompass and gave some more insight into our decision to launch a game studio, it’s time to get into the deeper details; specifically our first game, Buzz Thrill, and how we prepared for it.

One year can seem like a long time, but when it feels like everything is on the line, the time slips away from you in a way that feels simultaneously too fast and too slow. If you’ve read our previous articles, you’ll know that one of the biggest hurdles we faced at the start of this journey was having to build a game before entering into any talks regarding distribution.

Once we knew this, we had no choice but to go full steam ahead. This meant hiring a team that we felt was up to the task, either full-time or through freelance work, and actually having our first game idea set in stone.

Because of our experience in the online slot world, through our streaming channels and websites where we regularly review the latest slots, we had some idea of what we wanted. More importantly, we knew what we didn’t want and often this is more beneficial.

We had spent the better part of five years inadvertently having access to the brutally truthful thoughts and feelings of thousands of players, listening to and reading their feedback on a weekly basis, which meant we had a good idea of what different groups felt worked and what didn’t.

The problem with this was that these were conflicting ideas; where one viewer would tell us they preferred a softer game with multiple, frequent base game features, others would tell us they wanted the opportunity to win tens of thousands of times their bet in a single spin. 

We knew these ideas couldn’t exist harmoniously, so we knew we had to trust our gut. This meant figuring out what we personally felt worked and how we could produce it and present it in a way that would stir excitement in a variety of players.

Ultimately, we decided to take some commonly seen features that we knew had stood the test of time and offer our own twist on them, combining mechanics that hadn’t been seen before whilst also trying to offer something that was truly unique.

Thankfully, once we had the idea for our game, other decisions started to fall into place. We realised one day when looking at the original idea we had for our reel area that it looked like a honeycomb, so we landed on bees. Not long after, we decided our bees would live in outer space. We wanted to go with something a little quirky and different, something that stood out and gave us some creative licence to look different. We worked tirelessly on fine-tuning and trying to perfect the animations. We know how much small details can make a difference to a game.

However, making so many intricate and intrinsic decisions led us to one of our first learning curves – overthinking. It can be easy at the start to feel that you have to have every decision finalised, but we learned over the next year that a lot of these decisions have a natural flow and that sometimes we have to wait to see how one decision looks before making the next.

One of our biggest learning curves from the first game was realising how important it is to try and get some core maths in place before you take the game too far. We learned this the hard way. As we got further along with the maths we realised some of our initial ideas were just not really viable. The game became way too volatile and too hard to balance. We still have specific elements in the final game that were brought in at a late stage in order to make the game a lot more rounded and playable.

Deciding to launch a game studio and building a game yourself is no mean feat. Whilst we were very self-assured in our ideas there were so many new things we had to learn about building a game. On top of that, we had the added pressure of knowing that we had invested huge amounts of money into both our own abilities and the staff we hired.

This meant we faced a lot of pressure in these 12 months, which at times felt like 12 weeks and at other times felt like 12 years. Thankfully, after success in our other businesses, Fruity Slots and Hideous Slots, we worked well under this pressure and quickly we found that we each had our own strengths and weaknesses, developing a good system to help us progress.

Before we knew it, we were at the halfway point; that is, our own halfway point. We had sworn, not only to the people we had spoken to a year earlier but also to ourselves, that we would have a product worth showing at ICE in February 2023 and we were determined to hit this target.

And so, in August 2022, we took a step back and looked at what we had. It wasn’t perfect – far from it – but it was something. It worked, it spun, it had animations and it was ours. More importantly, it was actually quite exciting. Even playing our own game on demo money, we started to get excited when certain features would land.

The hard work didn’t stop there, however. We wanted to really make a good first impression, which meant going back to the drawing board and figuring out what we could introduce that would really elevate things, which is when we came up with our instant prize feature.

This was just the thing we were looking for. As I mentioned earlier, we had challenges with the original concept and maths profile for the game. Introducing a new mechanic allowed us to take a popular idea and put our own twist on it, producing something genuinely unique. We put it into the game and immediately knew we were onto something good.

It was at this point that we started to reach out for feedback. We’re lucky to have a team of people in our other businesses with years of knowledge and experience playing and reviewing slots, which made them the perfect test group.

Over the next few months, this group shared big wins and exciting moments that they personally experienced on the game, helped us to spot bugs and issues and were honest in their opinions – at times frankly honest, but an honesty that is necessary to create the best possible product.

Before we knew it, ICE was coming closer. The emails started to flood in – reminders, invites to the social events and even viewers started asking if we were going. Sleep was scarcer and stress was at an all-time high, but we were fixed on the goal at hand; showcasing a product.

Thankfully, we achieved our goal, maybe not our ultimate goal of complete perfection, but we walked away from ICE with a genuine interest in our game. Whilst we didn’t officially announce our partnership with Light & Wonder until July 2023, we knew when we left London that week that this dream of ours was definitely going to happen in some shape or form, which was equal parts thrilling and daunting, as we then had to move on to figuring out our next game, how we would hit targets and perfecting the one game we did have for release. 

Looking back upon our first year, I’m surprised at times that we managed to keep working through the stress, the problems and the setbacks, especially whilst being in charge of our other businesses. I think the one thing that kept motivating us was that we knew we could do it and that we knew our ideas were good – and that’s what really drove us forward.