Tell us a bit about yourself. What makes you, you; and why have you chosen to work at Buck Stakes?
I’ve been a part of the industry for about 12 years now, so my history and my background are around starting up businesses within big organizations. It’s more focusing on what’s next for the organization as a whole. I’ve been a part of those types of businesses a lot and I feel like I’ve had a lot of successes in those parts of the business, so when it came to Buck Stakes, it was formed with the idea of looking at something a little bit differently for the industry and extending beyond what we see month after month, trying to bring a lot of the ideas out into the market. Buck Stakes is a long-term project for us; it’s not a one-year or two-year goal. I’m hoping it’s the ideas and the ‘can-do attitude that that that makes me a good fit for Buck Stakes.
You have an impressive slots portfolio; can you name the best three slots ever released by Buck Stakes?
Buck Stakes is a new studio, so our portfolio is still growing. We had our first game release in April, which is 8 Golden Skulls of Holly Roger Megaways. It’s been a massive success for us – for the first month of it going live on the Microgaming platform, it was in the top 10 wagerings in the first 30 days or so, sitting within the top 50 now. So, our first release – just compared to all the other studios that Microgaming supplies out to the market – has been a massive, massive success for us. We’re focusing on that one but we’ve got two others in the pipeline.
2020 was a challenging year for all of us. Even so, Buck Stakes had multiple releases. Which slot takes the 2020 title of the best Buck Stakes release?
The end of 2020 was when we all got together so we were just focusing on the road map then and getting the games built and released on time. There were a lot of sleepless nights in 2020 for sure.
Looking to the future, what is the next big release Buck Stakes is planning?
We’ve got two games in the pipeline, which we’re hoping to announce very soon. For one we are taking a classic slot, and then we’ve got something very exciting that hopefully should give players huge opportunities to win. We’ve tried something very different… it’s a bit of a teaser – I can’t say too much but we’ve got a very cool product lined up that we’re trying to finish in development at the moment.
In a market with hundreds of game studios, what would you say is Buck Stakes’s biggest differentiator?
We definitely have our own style of gaming that comes through the visual aesthetic. Every supplier has their own style and we obviously want to differentiate ourselves by having our own style and feel of the game. The long-term goal is to try something a little bit different; we want beautiful-looking games that are great to play and are a great experience for the player, but we also want to bring new features and ideas to the market that give players entertainment value and something different for operators – it’s got to be a profitable product for that operator as well. Though there’s a lot of competition in the supplier market there’s also a hell of a lot of competition in the casino operator market. We want to be able to deliver something different, so the differentiation is really going to be the focus on innovation; once we’ve got our base foundation we’ve got some very cool ideas that we’re trying to execute and make available to the marketplace. Hopefully, in the next 12 months or so you should see some very cool stuff coming out of our doors.
We would love to hear more about the slot creation process. Can you let us know which is the most exciting part of the entire process when creating a new slot?
For me, the most exciting part of the release is actually getting the product live, watching the numbers, and getting feedback from operators and players. I find that quite an exciting process from the management perspective – that gets my blood flowing. The team answer would definitely differ – we’ve got some very creative people who love the whole process of creating the game itself.
What about any inside funny stories, do you have something to share with us?
We obviously haven’t been Buck Stakes for very long, but some of the people in the team have worked together for a very long time before coming together at Buck Stakes. Our Chief Product Officer for 8 Golden Skulls of Holly Roger has a very keen eye for design and directed our beautiful band of lady pirates. In the design process of the game, we saw some “very creative” poses from her that were very realistic along with some very interesting attire that had us in hysterics in the office. The poses were very similar to the characters themselves – the inspiration and imagery was quite interesting to say the least! It’s definitely one of those things we’re going to laugh about for a long time.
How can you tell if an online slot is going to be a hit or not?
I think the fundamental characteristics that make a good slot are generally identifiable once you’ve been in the industry for a while. You can get a feel for what plays nice and the psychology and design around slot games. But making something truly exceptional is obviously very difficult, and that’s something every supplier is looking to answer. Also, something might be very popular and do very well in Europe, but that might not translate to other markets like the Americas or Asia… or whatever region you’re going for. Every player experiences a good slot differently, but ultimately we try to measure a good slot if we’re playing it and we’re having a good experience and having fun playing the game – then we know we’re making something good. At the same time, we’re obviously trying to hit that exceptional mark and to give the players an exceptional experience. If I’m having fun, hopefully, other players will have fun too.
What are your hobbies?
A lot of my time is spent playing games and gaming as a whole – it’s a very engrossing experience, to say the least. And then, being in South Africa, we have the great outdoors; we try to spend as much time outside as possible given the fine weather we have down here.
What has been your biggest challenge and your most significant success in the gambling industry?
I think figuring out how to solve industry problems that haven’t been solved yet is always challenging – that’s obviously what gets everybody up in the morning. We keep looking to see what would make something better for the industry, what would players enjoy more? What would operators benefit from? And how can we make that whole experience much better? From a staffing point of view, with any business over the last 18 months it’s been about ensuring people are happy doing what they’re doing while working from home. It’s a difficult thing for everybody. It’s a challenge for us to build creative products and entertaining artwork from home. That’s been a challenge – keeping everybody on the same page and making sure everybody’s having a good time doing what they do, because when everybody’s having a good time and we’re building the best possible products, players are getting the best possible games and operators are getting great games for their businesses.
Success-wise, in previous roles I’ve spent a lot of time working with some very, very talented people – some of which I still work with today – building profitable gambling products in very small teams. We’ve got a very aggressive roadmap with some very interesting products in the pipeline, and we’re doing it with a very small team. We’re trying to build a very profitable business with a small team that’s still making good products for everybody to play. We’ve launched in the past some very cool products, from slots on mobile in the early days of 2011 to bingo products and poker products, and we managed to do things very quickly at a very good cost base. Hopefully, we can carry this through to the Buck Stakes business and make a success of what we’re doing today.
If you weren’t in the gambling industry, what other industry would you want to work in?
I think anything software consumer-related would be fun. I think getting that feedback from players and customers is very exciting, but I do love what the music platforms have done for streaming music; I think it’s a very, very cool industry and quite an innovative one. That’s what I would do.