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Yggdrasil: Building a better rocket

By - 8 July 2020

Asko Heiskanen, Chief of Gaming at Yggdrasil, outlines the rationale behind the provider’s ‘player first’ game design philosophy and explains his developing interest in whether the social aspect of casino gaming can enter the digital space.

How does Yggdrasil ensure its games stand out in the crowded slots market?

Yggdrasil’s slots have always been known for their high production quality, attention to detail and the most beautiful art in the industry. For example, when you compare the graphics in Valley of the Gods II or Lucky Neko to any other slot, you can really see and feel the difference aesthetically.

Our mechanics are also cutting edge – we are not afraid to break the conventional slot rules a bit if the result is a more fun experience for the player. The main appeal of our games essentially comes down to the fact that the games are just way more fun to play than other slots on the market.

What does it mean to have a ‘player first’ game development strategy?

At Yggdrasil, this simply means putting the player in the centre of everything we do. Understanding players’ motivations and needs are paramount as our objective is to develop games that resonate well with our target audience. We also actively seek feedback from online slots players throughout the game development process to validate our actions and to find answers on how to improve the game.

Having a ‘player first’ game development strategy means we are creating all components of a game – art, sound, animation, UX, flow, mechanics, and math, with a vision of how it is all going to be experienced by the player.

A common pitfall is looking too much at the games and functionalities and forgetting what the actual purpose of the games and functionalities are. What do these features and functionalities mean to the game, the gaming experience and to the players? It is a question we ask ourselves repeatedly.

How important are game mechanics to the success of a game?

In game development, mechanics are the core of slot games. If the mechanics are not fun, engaging and feeding players’ curiosity, the gambling experience for the player will not be fun either, even if all the other components are created flawlessly. We spend plenty of time ensuring that the mechanics work and are fun to play before our talented graphic designers and artists get to work with it.

How do gamification tools increase player engagement?

Yggdrasil has been an innovator and a trailblazer in using gamification features in online slots. Our BOOST-promotional tools as well as BRAG-sharing tool are highly praised by both players and operators. By taking slots games and adding elements from other gaming genres outside of the industry, the player engagement level has peaked enormously.

For example, Jackpot Raiders allows the player to choose a character in the game and set their destiny given the path they choose to find the treasures, they are 100 per cent focused on the prize ahead, which leads to more excitement when they do indeed win. Having said that, gamification in the real-money gambling sector should not override the fundamental experience an advanced slot player is looking for, but it can add an extra layer of excitement to the gaming experience.

How do you see game design evolving over the next few years?

The utilisation of data to improve and develop the player experience is, and will become even more, critical to future success. This opens avenues which are still off the beaten track today. Personally, I am curious to better understand if the social aspect of casino gaming can enter the digital realm – sharing the experience and evolving games and platforms in a direction where players can participate in the action. For example, not only watching streamers and commenting on the action but to put your money where your mouth is.

As players are becoming more sophisticated, influencers and streamers like CasinoGrounds are becoming more popular, and technology is evolving at a rapid speed. It is important to consider the way players are gaming, the devices used, the type of games, as well as the emerging new types of players. At Yggdrasil, we constantly study market trends to make sure our efforts are put towards meeting the aspirations, motivation and needs of players.

What can we expect from Yggdrasil’s games roadmap for the next 12 months?

Yggdrasil’s roadmap for 2020 and 2021 looks stronger than ever and we are very excited! We will be releasing some of our greatest games ever. Each of them has the potential to challenge our most popular titles such as Vikings Go Berzerk, Valley of the Gods, Golden Fish Tank, Multifly, and other blockbusters.

We are also excited about our new game mechanic frameworks, including GigaBlox. This will be introduced in upcoming releases Lucky Neko and Hades. All GigaBlox titles will feature massive blocks which will be spinning through the reels, as well as some other innovative mechanics to be added in each release. Valley of the Gods II and Hyper Volcano are two other great titles that we anticipate will feature high up on our list of best performing games.

On top of our own games, our YG Masters programme is gaining real momentum. We have signed up several new studios, and our GATI (Game Adaption Tools & Interface) technology is now being rolled out with our YG partners. GATI gives studios full control of all aspects of game development. There is an extremely strong line up of games in the pipeline, so picking just one favourite for this year is challenging.

We are also continuing our global expansion with Yggdrasil Publishing and Franchisees which will expand our global gaming audience of online players. There are exciting times ahead, and we are delighted to see positive developments across the company.

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