Designing games for today’s demanding player is both a science and an art, with Australia and New Zealand having some of the most sophisticated venues and player types in the world.
That’s why IGT is committed to a growing investment in the local game studio to be a global hub of development, but anchored in the ANZ market. To sâ€‹pearhead this, Dave Bollesen was recently appointed Vice President of Game Studios for ANZ. Dave has extensive international experience in gaming and discusses IGT’s local investment.
“ANZ is one of the most important regional markets – games that work here are often strong globally. We acknowledge that before the recent IGT/GTECH merger, we were losing ground in ANZ with a misaligned investment strategy that wasn’t focused on producing quality games locally and affected the tardiness our refreshed cabinet strategy.
“However, we acknowledge the tremendous support of our customers during this time as our game performance hasn’t yet reached its full potential. Through these strong partnerships we are determined to listen and learn from our customers ensuring that our success is our customers’ success.”
Power of the people
“We are reshaping our structure by investing in the right people and a new game studio structure in terms of leadership, engineering, art and design. We are ensuring that decision making is made locally, not globally; and bringing in new people who offer a fresh set of capabilities to work alongside experienced IGT personnel.”
Change in philosophy
“We’re changing our approach to game development and creating an active learning environment where we reflect on the products that work (analysing the data), gain a deeper understanding of player needs (research and testing programmes) and what our customers need (customer forums and one-on-ones). And if a game doesn’t perform as expected, we will have a comprehensive post mortem process to learn from it.”
Simplifying the basics
“Part of our learning process is a ‘fail early fail often’ mentality before the products go out into the field, to learn about the games while they’re in development and have clear checkpoints to stay on track.
“As designers and developers we need to put personal preferences aside – it’s not about delivering something that will make me excited, it’s about delivering something that is right for the market.
“It’s much better to have two or three features in a game that are really polished and refined rather than five or six that are just okay. I think that the beauty of some games is in the simplicity where a player can just sit down and learn quickly (say in 7-10 spins) what the game is about.
“In terms of features and playability, we’re trying to be more conscious and deliberate with the features that we bring to the player. Our new Tomb of the King/Queen games are an excellent example of this – you can feel that the game communicates really well with the player. They can clearly see what happens and that they can control the playability or wager.”
Build on our partnerships
“I think that we need to properly leverage the feedback we receive from our customer relationships. It’s important that we acknowledge our customers' feedback and be honest in what we can accommodate in our portfolio. We will encourage our customers to be open with us about things they think we are missing and we will continue to invest in these relationships.”
Regulatory challenges with adopting new concepts
“I think that there is a real opportunity for disruption. A global game in its current structure may not be a product that the regulator will be comfortable with but rather than kill the concept, we will work with the regulator to help them better understand the concept.
“We should make them aware of new concepts, why they are special, how a framework that’s not been seen before is balanced and fair to the player and why introducing new game mechanics could provide a significant upside for the player and the game's playability. We know that we have to keep innovating to bring new players to your venues and that is a key part of my role.â€‹”
Playing styles here versus overseas
“I believe that the Australian player is very sophisticated, and what makes them unique is that they play regularly – they seem to be more routine-based and aware of what they want to play.
“So to accommodate a more sophisticated player, we need to develop a suite of games that caters for all players, not only the high-end player. We will also ensure that our game experience is aligned with what players want today and that we anticipate what they’ll want in the future.”