Andy Harris: Keeping things simple for mobile

Andy Harris
Andy Harris

SBC caught up with Realistic Games Commercial Director Andy Harris to talk about how his firm approaches game development in a market where the platform changes frequently.

SBC: How long does it take for you to develop a game – from concept to execution?

AH: It really depends on the depth and complexity of the development. Generally speaking, from the concept stage through to the game going live, you’re looking at somewhere between six to 12 months at the moment. This is for delivery across phone, tablet and Flash and is therefore much more complex than just delivering content for Flash, as it used to be. It is something we’re always trying to refine and improve. But it’s not a process we’re looking to shorten for the sake of it. If you’re genuinely developing for mobile, as we are, then you’re not replicating design. It is bespoke for each environment – and always should be.

SBC: Your games have a lot of character – does this help with marketing? How do you encourage your customers to market your games?

AH: Character and themes are important. They’re supposed to be entertaining so they’re light-hearted and enjoyable. We’ve always presented our slots in cabinets too, because that’s how we’ve always played them. They provide context and environment for the games. But what is most important for consumers is the rhythm and flow of games, and the maths models behind them. It is these which keep them coming back.

With our existing customers what really helps with marketing new games is the proven performance of our existing suite. We also work with some clients on appropriate marketing plans to help with launch as its part of the service we offer. All the raw materials to market the games are also provided including the games rules, assets, instructions, analytics, etc. But the real reason operators are keen to push our games when they get them is because players really like them and they generate strong revenues.

SBC: Have we got to the point where it’s worthwhile to develop games for mobile and then translate them for desktop rather than vice versa?

AH: If a new game warrants its position on our road map we’ll develop it for phone, tablet and Flash, generally speaking. We want players to be able to play it on whatever device they chose and are not specific, therefore. That said, mobile is now a delivery priority for operators – so we are trialling things on there first. Our forthcoming Pull Tabs games is a good example. We think Pull Tabs are very well suited to phones, which is also our number one channel for revenues, so it made sense to develop them for this channel in the first instance. If they are a success, we will roll them out to tablets and Flash too. Moving forward, there may be products we only ever develop for mobile.

SBC: How much flexibility does the ReGaL Server provide? Can you integrate with near enough anyone through it?

AH: It’s very flexible. It is specifically designed so we can work with any transaction platform and have in recent times integrated into the likes of OpenBet, Finsoft, NYX, and various proprietary systems. Our approach as a company is that we’ll meet our customer’s specific integration requirements rather than the other way round. It reflects our customer-driven philosophy.

snakes_ipadPortraitSBC: You’ve talked about less being more – is that in terms of number of games offered or features on a mobile game? How important is it to keep things simple?

AH: Keeping things simple is pretty fundamental when it comes to designing games for mobile. You don’t have to make features simple. They’re the same across all devices. But you do have to find creative ways to present them. It’s about keeping things simple in terms of UI and design. For example, we believe game control buttons such as Start, Bet Selection, Autoplay, etc. should always in the same place regardless of the slot game. Familiarity is key and allows the players to immerse themselves in the game rather than worrying about basic functions.

Operators appear to want to add endless content. Many don’t seem very keen about working on quality rather than quantity. Consumers expect a run of new games to a degree, but the online industry should take a leaf out of the book of the land-based one by getting better at sorting the wheat from the chaff. If you don’t lose poor performers out of the bottom you end up with too many games. They often become poorly organised and, unless you automate the experience around individual customer preferences, players can’t find the best games. As a result, operators don’t produce nearly as much revenue.

Andy Harris has almost two decades’ worth of experience working in senior operational roles in the betting and gaming industry. From Head of Business Development at Rank Interactive, he then moved to Bet Victor to oversee their Casino and Games operation, and subsequently became Director of Gaming at Ladbrokes. After then running a successful gaming consultancy business, he became Commercial Director at Realistic Games in 2012.

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