Interview: Director of Business Development, Darren Stephenson, speaks about our games and upcoming plans
This year has been extremely eventful for us at Push Gaming. We've reached some fantastic milestones earlier in the year - obtaining our UKGC and Malta licenses for our platform, as well as partnering up with some big names in the industry, with many more to follow.
With our 10th year anniversary also approaching, our Head of Business Development, Darren Stephenson, spoke with affiliate, Top Rated Casinos, about our journey so far, our games and responsible gaming for players, as well as how we've adapted and continued our work during these times.
This year marks the 10 year anniversary since Push Gaming was founded. How do you look back on your journey so far and what trends do you expect to see in the industry over the next 10 years?
It’s unbelievable really that we are already approaching 10 years. It’s been a fantastic journey so far with so many milestones being reached and so many changes along the way.
When we started out in 2009, our key goal was to bring the best land based games online. By 2012 we had developed 8 flash games and had them available on some major operator sites.
Flash then made way for HTML5 games. A key change also happened at this time, as we shifted our focus - from existing land based games and onto our own innovative online slot creations. We also made the decision to develop with the mobile experience in front and centre of our thoughts.
It wasn’t until 2015 that we launched our first HTML5 game, Bonus Beans, both on mobile and desktop. This was also our first distribution via the Relax Gaming platform. This platform enabled us to reach some of the most popular online casinos in the industry.
Fast forward to 2020 and we have acquired our own platform and have already launched our first game Joker Troupe. The rest of the year is going to super hectic with many integrations and building our upcoming game pipeline including some releases we are certain will have the industry buzzing with excitement.
The one constant in our industry is change and for sure there will be lots of that happening over the next ten years. It’s hard to predict exactly how things will evolve, however we will ensure we are ready to embrace what is ahead and ensure we continue to meet the requirements of our partners. As we have grown we have talked a lot about retaining flexibility as we never want to put out anything that has been compromised in any way. We want to continue to invest the time to deliver real quality in everything that we do.
Earlier this year, at ICE 2020, you rebranded as a B2B gaming supplier. Talk us through the thinking behind the change and how things have gone since.
A rebrand was needed for us as we naturally progressed from a small games studio to a well-recognized B2B supplier in the industry.
We have been growing steadily over the past few years and have been investing heavily in both our teams and technology. Along with this, by acquiring our own platform, obtaining our MGA and UKGC licenses, and integrating with some big names in the industry, we felt it appropriate that our branding also reflected such a transition.
We wanted a fresh look that could communicate this journey to everyone. Our new logo is now made up of a ‘P’ and a ‘G’, for ‘Push Gaming’, that is encapsulated in a shield. This reflects our core company values along with our mission of providing the very best in innovative and memorable entertainment experiences for our players.
The shield symbolises ‘strength’ as well as ‘security’ and ‘trust’. This strength relates to our game portfolio, and security and trust towards the honesty and transparency we have for our players.
The logo is bold and modern, yet approachable. We too are bold in our innovative approach to development, while the approachable aspect comes from the overall culture within the company and the way we work together internally as well as with our valued clients.
Things have been progressing very well and we are really proud of how our new brand identity is developing and making its mark. We have a lot of big projects that are upcoming and look forward to seeing our brand continue to grow.
Much of the digital world has been working from home since governments began introducing lockdowns - how has the team handled social distancing challenges over recent months?
We are extremely lucky to have been able to work almost uninterrupted throughout this difficult time, and very grateful for being able to do so. We've missed not being able to meet with our colleagues and clients in person, however thankfully, operationally it's been pretty much business as usual.
Of course, there have been some challenges too. It’s not always easy for everyone to work from home, however we have all been collaborating together to keep communication between us going smoothly. A number of initiatives have been organised internally to keep our spirits up and keep us closer as a team - we’ve had various online workout classes and games nights, as well as fitness challenges and meditation sessions just to name a few which we will continue to do.
How does your team work together to roll a new title out, from ideation to being ready for players?'
We like to keep our creative process as open as possible so as not to impose any limitations on anyone's creativity - the sky’s the limit and most great ideas always start from this stage.
Once we have gone through all sources of inspiration and ideas, our product owners then get involved and start to assess which of these, for whatever reason, may have the most potential to lead to a big hit that will engage players for a longer time. From here, we then move to the development process.
Of course, this is a team effort, and we rely heavily on the whole team, as well as our incredible artists, animators and mathematicians to really help us take an idea forward and bring it to life.
Which is your personal favourite Push gaming title and why?
My all time favourite would have to be Viking Clash. The top symbol frequently comes in stacks and has created some really nice base game wins for me. The base game feature keeps the balance ticking over and then the free spins have great potential, and usually bring about some nice wins during the game.
I think Joker Troupe has to get an honorable mention also. I really like the chance to trigger the red joker feature from within the other bonus rounds, and the enhanced potential as you progress through the levels.
Razor Shark is one of the most popular slots in your portfolio - why has it done so well?
We are really excited that players are loving the Razor Shark experience. When we were thinking about how to create this game, we started by choosing a theme that would be really entertaining. From the market research we carried out, we found that at that point in time, the shark theme had not been used that frequently, so this already would help to spark some more interest in the game when released.
As everyone probably already knows now, we always offer games that are highly innovative and entertaining. For whatever game we create, it is really important that we reach a certain level of quality that is now being expected of us. So for Razor Shark, we really placed a lot of emphasis on features and math that would create a lot of engagement and excitement.
Some ways in how we did this was by adding our own twist on the classic nudging stack feature. This is when certain rows or symbols on the reels nudge downwards with every spin. We made this even more exciting by introducing mystery stack symbols, where symbols are hidden by seaweed. These then reveal the symbols behind the seaweed before nudging down and allowing new symbols to show up. This definitely adds to the anticipation of the game and keeps players engaged.
To enhance this even further, we also included some golden shark symbols to the mystery stacks. These transform the mystery stacks into mini-reels and can award the player with instant cash prizes and scatters that can take them straight to the free games that can have unlimited free spins and great multipliers.
All this has really helped to make the game such a success - that combination of classic game elements and unique twists we feel have really helped to make it as popular as it’s been so far.
How do you see UK preferences for slot games compared to other markets? What do Brits look for in a game?
As in all markets, there is not one size that fits all. I believe that more traditional UK players can initially be drawn towards games that offer some level of familiarity, so branded titles and games they may have played physically on a fruit machine version previously for example, seem to be popular ‘go to games’.
Through those games, a lot of UK players become accustomed to quite a high level of volatility which they then seek in other slots also and even games with even higher volatility. Younger players are possibly more likely to be viewing content before trying it themselves, and therefore more likely to want to try out the innovative or stand-out games that appeal to them the most.
Which one of your releases has seen the most traction so far and why do you think that is?
One of our biggest and best games over the past years has undoubtedly been Jammin’ Jars. Released in September 2018, the game is still a firm favourite and still does not show any signs of slowing down.
There are so many reasons why this game has proven to be so popular. Firstly, the game theme itself is quite unique and not many other games really offer anything similar. It’s a fun, colourful game with an iconic jam jar character that everyone loves and catchy music.
Of course, it wouldn't be a typical Push Gaming game unless the features were exciting! The game offers great win potential and has brought about some incredible wins. The rainbow feature and sticky wild jars also create a lot of suspense which really gives that excitement and wow factor when playing the game.
We are also thankful to the streamer community and to affiliates for really helping to promote this game. This has gotten some great coverage and has also really helped to get the game out there and keep it top of mind.
You’ve recently expanded quite rapidly, landing deals with GVC, Wildz and William Hill - what do you look for in a partner?
Our main focus is always our players. We strive to offer, not only entertainment that is innovative and exciting, but also that is safe to enjoy and widely available for our players.
We focus on delivering high quality games rather than trying to deliver a high quantity, and so of course, we’re looking towards operators that are aligned with our approach, and seek to offer a similar offering to their players too.
We also like to work with operators who offer innovation to their players, and who we think could create a great environment in which players could enjoy our games.
As an industry we have an obligation to protect vulnerable players, particularly during these uncertain times - how is responsible gambling made a central part of business operations?
Besides being an obligation, it is also extremely important for us and a big part of how we do things here at Push Gaming. Of course, we want to offer games that provide players with the most memorable and entertaining experience, but it must always be done in a way that is safe and responsible.
With this in mind, we are cautious over how and with whom we collaborate. It is crucial that we are aligned in our values and both take player safety responsibly. This is why we are highly present in regulated markets and will continue to do so.
We ensure that all our messaging is clear and complete so that players are well informed, however we also go one step further by making sure we are being ethical in the way we communicate too. Players must always know what they are in for and must find it easy to seek help should they need to.
There are many other big projects that we are working on to further support this and will be up and running probably towards the end of this year.
After a busy start to the year, what are you most excited about for Push Gaming —and for the industry— in the second half of 2020?
It has been quite an eventful year so far and we’ve definitely got a lot more that's coming up. We have some great releases lined up and can’t wait for players to try these out. These will have some features that we have never used before, and of course, have been made to really give players that excitement factor. One of our releases also has a big surprise in store - we’re so excited for that one especially. We know that players are going to just love it!
Our ten-year anniversary is coming up so of course, we’ll be celebrating that too. We’ll continue to strengthen our partner relationships and also extend our reach and interaction with players like never before.
With regards to the industry, already so much has happened this year. It will be interesting to see how the rest of the year will play out. There are a lot of key award ceremonies as well as upcoming conferences and events that are highly influential for the industry and will need to be adapted due to everything that has been going on due to Covid-19. A lot of networking is crucial to take place for strong partnerships so we must continue to innovate and change the way we work for continued success.
The original article may be found here https://www.topratedcasinos.co.uk/spotlight/behind-the-game-darren-stephenson-from-push-gaming