Meet the Slots Creators – Relax Gaming’s Simon Hammon Interview

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Relax Gaming was launched in 2010 when Patrik Österåker and Jani Tekoniemi met in a pub in Malta and decided to create their passion project. 

A decade later, Relax Gaming has become a top software provider which has dramatically altered and improved the industry and has made extraordinary slots, poker, bingo and casino games. 

Since 2018, the CPO of Relax Gaming has been Simon Hammon. Simon Hammon brought to Relax Gaming tons of experience gathered over the last 12 years at leading software providers (most recently he spent seven years working at NetEnt as CPO). 

He doesn’t just bring a lot of experience to Relax Gaming, but also a great passion for the industry, a zest for life, a commitment to improvement and a belief in the power of feedback.

Tell us a bit about yourself. Why have you chosen to work at Relax Gaming?

Before joining Relax in 2018, I was looking for a company with clear growth potential backed with a strong technical core. The firm had just launched into content aggregation and needed an experienced hand to drive this part of the business alongside its new in-house studios. 

After seven years at NetEnt and 12 years in the industry, I felt I could contribute to the growth and add value. All the ingredients of success were already there: a strong technical foundation, a talented team, and a tangible passion for bringing high-quality content to the market. We’ve been on a path to the top ever since. 

We love big wins, so please let us know what are the top 3 winnings ever paid by Relax Gaming?

Relax has a fairly volatile portfolio with games that carry excitement from the base game right through to the bonus rounds. We aim to offer big winning potential alongside a diverse and original range of features, meaning our content has dished out more than a few noteworthy payouts over the years. 

To give an example, Money Train 2 is just shy of 100 individual 50,000x max wins in a little over two months from its launch. Although this, of course, demonstrates the high level of action in the gameplay experience, it makes it difficult to choose a top three! 

You have an impressive slots portfolio, can you name the best three slots ever released by Relax Gaming? 

Everyone has personal favourites and sentimentally some of our older releases are still preferred by many, but in terms of performance, it has to be Temple Tumble, Money Train and Money Train 2. 

All three have gained a large fanbase with little drop off in play, which is testament to the ambition of our game developers to create games that are outside the box. 

Temple Tumble broke the mould with a more unusual reel structure and mechanic that was visually represented as exploding blocks. 

Meanwhile, Money Train and its successor, Money Train 2, were streamer hits that scored well, with high winning potential in the bonus rounds and good RTPs. 

2020 was a difficult year for all of us. Even so, Relax Gaming had several releases. Which slot takes the title of the best Relax Gaming 2020 release?

Money Train 2 was our strongest release this year and, in fact, the most successful launch of my career so far. The slot exploded onto the market and hasn’t slowed down since, maintaining incredible feedback and engagement with consistently glowing reviews. 

As popular as Money Train 2 is, it’s just part of this year’s story. We’ve had impressive success with our 2020 roadmap, having moved towards a low poly art style and developed on what’s expected from a Relax title. 

In addition to industry awards, Temple Tumble and Snake Arena were also shortlisted by CasinoGrounds’ community of players, and that means a lot to us too since player feedback takes priority at Relax.  

Looking to the future, what is the next big release Relax Gaming is planning?

We’ve just celebrated the launch of Iron Bank, another online casino first that was created in partnership with a player community. It’s always been key for us to engage with players, listen to their feedback and take both the good and the bad critique on board. 

This ethos has guided our roadmap for 2021, and we have a string of high-quality productions in the pipeline, all of which have been created with the player front-of-mind. 

Relax has just hired a new studio in Stockholm too, increasing our bandwidth to explore new ideas and concepts that bring something new to the scene. 

In a market with hundreds of game studios, what would you say is Relax Gaming’s biggest differentiator?

Our multiple in-house studios are made up of industry veterans who truly understand what separates a good title from a great one. We look for big-win potential and new features, but always with the goal of retaining enough familiarity to be instantly understandable. 

Perhaps most importantly is that we recognise trends and take market shifts into our future productions to continually improve what we offer. 

We would love to hear more about the slot creation process. Can you let us know what the most exciting part of the entire process of creating a new slot is?

Launch! We’re a passionate team with a genuine love for slots and what we do, so seeing the game from concept through to delivery always brings a real sense of achievement for all those involved. 

The process can vary depending on the game – some concepts come together quickly, whilst others take a little more refining – but no matter how we ended up with the final product, releasing it to the world is always a satisfying feeling. 

The moment is made all the better when players respond well, especially if it’s a personal favourite of yours. 

What about any inside funny stories, do you have something to share with us?

One of the best things about working at Relax is the people and their sense of humour. Although we’ve grown considerably over the last couple of years, we have maintained a laidback culture that encourages fun and collaboration as well as business. 

This attitude translates to our games too. A few players may have already noticed an Easter Egg or two hiding in the reels of Iron Bank. 

If you were familiar with any of the Relax team, then you’d probably recognise resemblances in some of our most popular characters. We’re in the business of entertainment, after all! 

How can you tell if an online slot is going to be a hit or not?

There’s no golden recipe for success with slot creation; it’s a case of trial and error. Listening to player feedback and being humble enough to not only accept criticism but learn from it is critical to the production cycle. 

We obviously aim for each game to be a hit, but now and then one will come along that has clear potential, such as Money Train 2. At the same time, the success of this sequel was primarily influenced by a commitment to take the critique of the original onboard and deliver what players wanted. 

Switching our attention to casinos, with so many options out there, can you let us know which are your top 3 casino preferences?

That’s a difficult one to answer. There’s been a shift in the market over the last couple of years to local content and brands that cater to different needs. 

From a supplier’s perspective, it’s great to work with casinos, both large and small that support our games and are open to creative promotions that help players discover Relax products.   

What are your hobbies?

I’ve always been a big fan of boxing, which some who know our portfolio might have already guessed. Last year we teamed up with the Buffer brothers in two branded slot games, Let’s Get Ready To Rumble!! and IT’S TIME!, which featured the two ring announcers’ iconic catchphrases. 

Michael Buffer is an icon in boxing and having watched him for years, establishing the partnership and leading the game production process was a great moment in my career. 

What has been your biggest challenge and your most significant success in the gambling industry?

The B2B casino supplier business brings with it a variety of challenges that can occur daily, keeping my work interesting and dynamic. 

There have been countless obstacles that my teams and I have overcome over the years related to regulated markets, technology shifts from Flash to HTML5, mobile growth, business growth, supplier competition etc. 

After all, with every new opportunity comes its own set of challenges to overcome!

There are also numerous successes I am proud of and grateful for, the main one is definitely being able to ensure relevance in the market and competition at the highest level. 

Relax has grown from a relatively unknown supplier to one of the leading contenders in the industry in a short period, and that’s something that the team at large is very proud of. 

If you weren’t in the gambling industry, what other industry would you want to work in?

Having worked in the gaming industry for so long, it is difficult to take myself out of this context.  However, as I love strategy, positioning and branding elements, I think a role within FMCG would be exciting. 

Alternatively, I have also enjoyed working on and securing branded games such as Guns N Roses, Jumanji, Narcos, Southpark, Planet of the Apes amongst many others and was always interested in the ways that a strong, world-renowned brand can be driven into new verticals and still resonate with the audience, so perhaps something in this area would have brought me job satisfaction as well. 

 

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