The four pillars of product strategyBy Lewis - 5 August 2020
Carl Wiggman, Product Owner at Push Gaming, explains how the developer’s latest mechanic, Hypermode, improves the traditional slot experience and why is it is better to release good and late than bad and on time.
Could you tell us about what Push Gaming is doing to increase player retention?
At Push Gaming we like to put all the effort into making games fun for longer and make the mechanics more rewarding over thousands of spins. Whilst other developers might put all their effort into the first hundred spins, they often ignore what it is like to play 10,000 spins.
What was the inspiration for the Hypermode mechanic?
I wanted to make our games more intense and move away from the more conventional method of dragging games out for that one big hit to being progressively more intensive. I was inspired by arcade car games where you need to reach a checkpoint before the timer runs out to keep playing.
Ideas can come from almost anywhere. Very often the whole vision for a game comes from the product owner but the idea can come from anyone within the company. We always look at the experience of the player and see if we can upgrade on them somehow or surprise them by changing it up.
How does Hypermode work?
Essentially, Hypermode gives the player a timer instead of a set amount of spins and if you keep landing the special symbols you will progress and reset the timer. Resetting the timer extends the length of play and the timer speeds up. Compared to the conventional method of building up towards one big spin, this is more of a machine gun of wins that is peppering the players and providing a whole new experience.
How does Push Gaming differentiate its game mechanics from other developers?
The most important thing is that the mechanic itself is something different and provides a new experience for the player. Most mechanics that are being pushed from other developers are simply a variant of a standard mechanic that are fundamentally necessary to a game. Making something truly different that players cannot get elsewhere is its own differentiation.
Do you follow any processes or trends to guide your game design?
We have four pillars of product strategy. The first and most important is that every game has a reason to exist. In our industry, we have providers who often make generic games to cash in on that initial launch period where games are in the limelight and fill out the roadmap. Our philosophy is to make games that are not just played for novelty but provide an experience that was not there previously.
The second pillar is that our audience is our biggest stakeholder. Rather than shareholders, operators or ourselves, we do everything for the end player.
Thirdly, we are not afraid to take risks in design. To produce hits, we realise there is no magic formula and whilst this may mean we are sometimes off the mark, that is okay, and we are not ashamed of that. It happens.
Finally, we do not let the challenge hold us back. We sometimes see in the concept stage an awesome feature which can be difficult to make technically, but oftentimes this means there is a lot of potential if we can pull it off, so we do not hold back in those situations.
What do you view as the most important component to the success of a game?
I would say the most important component is the game mechanics. It is central to the player experience and the role of design and sound is to bring that mechanic to fruition, so the players get the most out of the mechanic.
How do you maintain a balanced portfolio that targets both casual and experienced players?
The goal is to take a funky and dynamic mechanic that is quite complicated into an intuitive and easy to grasp experience, meaning that no matter if you are an experienced or completely new slot player you can quickly understand the mechanic and enjoy it for many spins.
What type of market research do you undertake to ensure your games cater to varying player demands across multiple regions?
Before a game comes out, we play it many times amongst the product team. We try to look for local variants – lately we have been looking at German games and what the flavour is there. We also do an annual trip to Vegas that gives us an insight into the land-based world and understand what is going on there.
How does Joker Troupe fit in with this approach?
Joker Troupe is a great example of how we target specific markets, in this case the Norwegian market. We took some of the classic joker games you see there and upgraded those experiences in every way. Joker Troupe retains the appeal that players there have been enjoying for years and our core audience will also appreciate these modern twists on a game they might not be used to. A lot of effort went into the game and it has a lot to give for some time to come.
Could you tell us more about the testing process within the product team?
You must play games for real money in the testing process and it is hugely important game designers do this within the industry. Little competitions amongst ourselves, of course without letting the tab run too high, helps the process. I might do a little inside bet with my colleague that whoever gets the highest pay-out over the next hundred spins gets £10.
How do you manage the balance between your content roadmap and perfecting game design?
This is something we have been learning this last year or so. It is better to release good and late than bad and on time. We have had to take some hits at times because of our desire to make every game a potential game of the year title. Last year, we only produced two games, and this is an area we are looking to improve on. It always hurts when you need to redo some work or go back on your timeline, but we just have this unwavering need to make great games.
Other entertainment sectors are making significant strides in tailoring content for individual users. How do you foresee technology evolving in the gaming industry towards personalising content for individual players?
It is quite difficult to say. A lot of the big data initiatives have not come to fruition as many hoped they would, or at least as quickly as anticipated. I see a lot of operators who still work with manual decisions on which games are most represented. I think it will be quite a while before we see complicated and dynamic algorithms replacing the people that are currently in charge of personalising content and dictating player experiences.
There is a lot we can do together by creating new products every time we go to market – oftentimes you go into a casino and see the same couple of games shown. I do not see a big reason for this. Making use of the thousands of games that are available is crucial. Currently, you only see the top 50 or 100. At the moment, operators are not utilising the vast library of games at their disposal.
Leading the Push Gaming team as Product Owner for the last two years, Carl Wiggman’s insight has been invaluable to not only his team, but the company itself as it continues to grow in size and reputation. His blend of industry knowledge and experience, mixed with out-of-the-box thinking and creativity, has helped the supplier produce some truly industry-leading products.
His passion and genuine hunger to create engaging offerings is evident to see in mysterious secret society-themed slot The Shadow Order, as well as in the innovative twist on classic joker games, including Joker Troupe.