Daniel Jonsson, Relax's Head of Games, discusses all things slot games with our friends at KasinoRanking in today's interview.
KR: What's your background, how did you end up in the iGaming business?
DJ:I was studying for an MSc in Engineering Physics right at the start of the online poker boom. A friend introduced me to the game, and by the end of my studies I was playing 20 hours a week and making a good living from it on the side. At that time some of the poker sites also opened online casinos with very attractive welcome offers, which brought me into the world of slots and triggered a passion for the iGaming business. I love the excitement of the games and the math behind them. My thesis consisted of a private venture with a couple of PokerStars employees on Isle of Man and I then got my first iGaming job as a BI Analyst at NetEnt. I’ve been with Relax for 3 years and enjoyed every minute of it!
KR: Where are you based and how many employees do you currently have?
DJ: I’m based in Stockholm and we are currently eight people with one more joining in January. The company itself is now over 200 people, with the main drive and hiring growth happening in the past two years of our 10-year history. It’s been fantastic to see Relax grow over the years and be part of its incredibly talented and dedicated team. The passion in the company for the industry is infectious. No matter who you speak to in whatever office, we are all proud to be doing what we do.
KR: In Relax Gaming's view, which features create the perfect slot?
DJ: Everyone has different tastes, so in that sense there is no perfect slot. A good slot, however, should add something fresh and new, with clear and easy to understand win potential, and preferably some progressive or recursive element to it. Some players prefer higher volatility titles with big payouts, while others prefer a less intense gaming experience and lower stakes. While you’d think that most players are seeking big payouts a vast majority actually play for the entertainment value, whether they get that from many small wins or a single larger payout is very subjective. You can’t appeal to everyone in one game, but what you can offer with each new title is quality.
KR: How many games do you plan to release monthly or yearly?
DJ: We have the capacity to release multiple games per month and that’s further supported with our third-party studios, but that’s not necessarily a quota and we look at value over volume. It depends on the roadmap and the games we have the pipeline. We’re very much looking forward to the next 12 months, which is already shaping up to be one of our biggest yet. With Money Train 2, we raised the bar even higher and are ready to carry that level of popularity through to 2021.
KR: Seems like Money Train 2 really hit the spot and it’s one of my favourites in the Relax Gaming catalogue. What is your favourite slot and why?”
DJ: I’m in the camp that loves games that offer big wins. What makes the Money Train games so popular is the insane win potential and many varied ways to achieve it. Temple Tumble is another game that was extremely fun to play even from the first prototype we built, while Snake Arena and TNT Tumble are also big hits. These games brought something new to the table, with fresh features and the chance to land good payouts, which is how they earned widespread popularity.
KR: Do you have logic or a blueprint you follow in new game designs? How do you try to be more creative than your competitors?"
DJ: There’s a process behind how we develop new games. The ideation part is very flexible, with different people from across the development team contributing. Then we have a strong and senior math team and a good prototype tool that allows us to make playable samples of the initial concepts. We iterate on those many times and only proceed if the playability meets our high standards. It’s this collaborative workflow together with Relax’s talented team and technical capabilities that allows us to experiment with more ideas and deliver higher quality output than our competitors. Above all else, we’re players, so we approach development from an end user perspective as well as being a supplier.
KR: You’ve got some impressive Silver Bullet partners like 4ThePlayer and Kalamba Games, as well as a wide range of Powered By Relax partners.
DJ: What do these partnership programmes offer? How do you choose your partnerships and is this something you are also looking to grow in future?
Essentially, our Silver Bullet and Powered By Relax programmes offer other studios and suppliers a platform to distribute their games to operators. Silver Bullet is geared towards independent, up-and-coming studios that seek support to bring their games to market. As you mentioned, we work with some fantastic content developers, offering them the benefits of our legal, compliance, commercial and technical expertise as well as broad distribution so that they can focus on creating top-quality games.
Meanwhile, our Powered By Relax partners are commercially independent. They integrate with our game server and build up their own commercial agreements with our online casino partners. What makes us different to other aggregators is our speed-to-market, but also the various sheltering opportunities that allow partners to access new lines of business without heavy investment.
For each of these programmes, we look for quality, both from a game design and delivery perspective. They need to understand what players want and offer a selection of localised content that meets the needs of our customers around the globe.
Often a decision to take content through our Powered By Relax scheme is rooted in familiarity of the supplier brand and whether they have an established history of delivering quality content. But for Silver Bullet partners that want to focus on development rather than commercials, it’s more about recognising a drive to offer something different or bringing a unique market-specific focus. What we aim for is differentiation - we want our games to stand out and be the ones that players return to time and again.
KR: Finns love Jackpots (and very high volatility slots in general) - Should we expect to see jackpot games from Relax Gaming?"
DJ: Jackpots have become a major trend among online casino players, local or networked, and we are exploring how we might bring these features into our own portfolio. Where there’s a drive from players and the regulations permit, then it’s something we look at of course. There’s a couple of options on the table, but nothing concrete just yet.
KR: What can we expect from Relax Gaming in the upcoming months?”
DJ: After the success of our releases this year, we’re incredibly excited for the next 12 months. We’re kicking off the year with an epic release, Kluster Krystals Megaclusters™, which features our take on a unique cluster mechanic on licence from our partners at Big Time Gaming. It offers a seriously engaging gameplay experience packed full of twists and turns, with great visuals to match. We’re also conducting on-going research into player feedback and scoping new opportunities. Our wildly popular ‘Tumble’ series has allowed room to innovate further so you may see another title joining this celebrated collection in the coming year. Expect everything the previous games have to offer and more, with a gripping game-flow that will no doubt be a big hit with players.