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4ThePlayer.com: Drop dead gorgeous

By - 29 January 2020

Founded in July 2018, 4ThePlayer is an up-and- coming creator of mobile-first gambling games. G3 talks to the team about the new venture, their influences and aspirations for the business.

What’s the rationale behind the formation of 4ThePlayer.com? What differentiates you from other independent studios?

Andrew Porter (CEO): I wanted to create a games studio that looked at things from a different viewpoint, one that was ‘for the players’, creating a brand that resonated with players. Hopefully, because of this, we’re creating longer relationships and greater trust with players.

We also focus on innovation, creating new entertaining experiences for players and not just innovation for innovation sake. We hope that players return to 4ThePlayer.com games because they have a genuine unique experience, both in terms of the math and the features.

We spend a lot of time making sure the math and features are the best they can be. We ensure the game play clearly sign posts to players the big win potential. It seems a lot of studios focus on the graphics without spending as much time looking at the math, which is what controls the player experience, not the graphics on top of it.

Chris (Director & Business Development): Another of the big differences is that the founders have a combined industry experience of over 50 years – working in small gaming startup to FTSE 250. All that experience has been funnelled into 4ThePlayer.com, fast tracking our development and ideas.

4ThePlayer.com work remotely. How does working remotely affect the development process? How integrated are the commercial and development arms of the studio?

Andrew: It’s a great advantage, not only can we use the best talent globally, but we can use the time difference to our advantage. For example, our Creative Director, Thomas, is in Brazil. Brazil start working halfway through the UK day and carry on until the evening – this means when the UK wake up the next day another task can be completed for us all to review.

Chris: The commercial team and development arms are closely integrated with regular communication. We might not be in the same office, but use video calls and cloud tech to ensure we are constantly collaborating.

Henry (Commercial & Marketing Director): It also means we can get more done. Being a new startup, every hour counts and we can spend time on things that matter not wasted commuting. For example, talking with and engaging with players.

In November, 4ThePlayer signed up to Relax Gaming’s Silver Bullet partner programme and released table game, 100 Bit Dice. Could you tell us about your marketing strategy and how you are driving brand awareness?

Henry: 100 Bit Dice is a very interesting game, we wanted to take something that was very successful in one genre, Crypto gaming, and bring it to another – RNG real money casino.

The marketing strategy for it is targeting the Crypto aware players. Some people think it’s pretty niche, but with over €25m a week going through this type of Dice game in the Crypto space, it’s a pretty large niche.

In terms of our marketing strategy, generally we are also taking a different approach, not just looking at the obvious B2B channels, but talking directly to players and creating demand before the games are released. Talking on player forums and social media.

In collaboration with Yggdrasil’s Game Server Masters programme, you have released your first slot, 9k Yeti. Is 9k Yeti a game you are going to develop your brand around or just the first step towards the type of game you are looking to develop in the longer term?

Thomas (Creative Director): 9k Yeti is representative of the quality of slot we will produce with great attention to detail. The idea being to take the player on that magical journey, in this game it’s to find the elusive Yeti! We have about nine games in the pipeline for the next 12 months, each with a different theme and feature.

One feature of the game we have taken into other games is Big Reel Portrait Mode. Big Reel Portrait Mode is our innovative portrait mode that uses up to 70 per cent of the screen compared to the normal 20 per cent. This is done by stacking the reels and spinning them right to left and paying top to bottom. As a designer I was really surprised no one had looked at a better approach to portrait UI – it’s so simple yet makes a big difference to the player experience.

Do you prioritise pushing game mechanics to differentiate from the competition, or is there a greater reliance on graphics and art style to set your games apart?

Andrew: We wanted to create new exciting experiences for the players, improving game play and not releasing the same old content. To help achieve this I invented different mechanics to solve different challenges, for example: Big Reel Portrait Mode and Plus+Ways.

As Thomas mentioned, Big Reel Portrait Mode greatly improves portrait play. Plus+Ways is a new pay out mechanic that allows us to put more action into the reel bands in a ways game – so more stacks and more wilds, something that mathematically was not cost effective before.

We have many more prototypes in the 4ThePlayer lab, for example, one that plays with the concept of a spin, potentially looking at time as well as money.

Henry: This is not only great for players, but also helps the casinos when promoting the games as it should have a better conversion rate, once the player is familiar with the sub-brand or ingredient within the game.

Seth Godin put it well when he said: “In a crowded marketplace, fitting in is a failure. In a busy marketplace, not standing out is the same as being invisible.”We want to create things that stand out for all the right reasons!

How do you determine your volatility profile and RTP?

Andrew: We create balances that fit the specific innovation, game mechanic and and theme of each game. As we are prioritising player interests, we are also building the best value slots in terms of RTP in the industry.

It took 15 months between being founded in 2018 to the release of your first slot. What were the greatest challenges you faced over this period?

Andrew: One of the biggest challenges so far was getting regulated by the UKGC, though it’s understandably a long process. It also took time to choose and negotiate our platform deals and then closely integrating into each platform and their bonus tools.

Henry: Another challenge was meeting all the customers and establishing the brand. However, we are fortunate as have good relationships across the industry and people were eager to see our games.

Having produced your first slot, do you anticipate the process between games being quicker? What lessons have been learnt from the development of 9k Yeti?

Andrew: The lessons learnt from our first games, as undertake retrospectives, are to renew and reinvigorate our core ideals.

Our mission as 4ThePlayer.com is to create the best games for our players. When you are in the thick of the development process it is easy to get bogged down in the unnecessary. For example, we spent a lot of development time on a feature that really didn’t add much to the player experience. We, of course, spent a lot of time on features like Big Reel Portrait Mode, which have added a fantastic new experience and that is now being backed up from data we are getting on our initial launch.

On the other side, we had great ideas for better player UI/UX and player messaging, which had to be cut, but will now be revisited.

As a company we believe in Kaizen, marginal gains, continuous improvement. Our first games are part of a roadmap for future content that we have presented to operators and the feedback received has taught us that we have started completely in the right direction. We have already made an impression for player focused innovation that has set us apart from the massive amount of competition. The lesson learned, however, is that we continually need to prioritise where are efforts are best spent and make a revolution with each new game.

You have recently signed a platform agreement with SG Digital for your upcoming title, 1 Left Alive. Can you explain the strategy behind utilising a different platform for each release? Is this common practice in the mobile market?

Chris: To be honest, no, it is not a standard approach, but we felt it was the right approach for us. The reason being is we can reach a much wider range of customers by being on three different platforms. Also, from a business point of view, we also mitigate risk by not putting everything into one solution.

You have released two slot games centring around a yeti and a zombie themed apocalypse. Are there certain genres and stereotypes you need to have in your portfolio in order to ensure a certain level of success?

Thomas: Themes are always tricky as we want to have unique and different themes, but ones that still resonate with the players. To do this we spend a lot of time researching and looking at the landscape. It is important to have a balance of exciting and new, yet some proven themes that you know will resonate with players.

In your game sheet for 1 Left Alive, you reference the box office figures for zombie movies. Is there a link between the success of a game and adjacent entertainment sectors?

Thomas: One of the key things we think about when designing and creating games is player entertainment and fun! So naturally we look at other sources of entertainment for inspiration as well as trends – this can be films or other sources like app store games.

What would 4ThePlayer consider a successful 2020?

Andrew: Our games being a hit with players! We want the players to enjoy what we create and, of course, we hope for financial success too!

Chris: Making sure we give the time and energy to each launch to ensure the combination of the quality of the game and tools we provide the operators to market them are as good as they can be. No one can guarantee that every release will be a hit, but with maximum emphasis placed on informing the players what is innovative and different about each game, they will have the best chance to succeed in a crowded market.

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