Meet the Slots Creators – Switch Studio’s Tom David Interview

Posted by: John
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Tell us a bit about yourself. What makes you, you; and why have you chosen to work at Switch?

I’ve always been fascinated by anything to do with computers, and this has been a hobby of mine since the late 80s / early 90s when I used to play games and write programs on Amstrads and Amigas.

When the web started to take off commercially in the 90s, there were many new opportunities created as a result. With this came the opportunity for me to carry everything I’d learnt as a hobby into a career, which I duly did by starting out as a web designer for a small company in Ipswich in 2000.

From there I really got into creating content using Flash (owned by Macromedia at the time) and over time this then snowballed into creating games as Flash became more mature as a tool and really lent itself to game creation.

Fast forward to the present day, I was presented with an opportunity to run a team to develop a refreshed suite of table games. I’ve always been a big fan of table games and have had previous experience working on them, so for me the opportunity seemed like a natural fit.

Which game takes the 2020 title of the best Switch release?

We released 12 games in 2020, which was a fantastic achievement for the studio under the circumstances we’ve all faced with the pandemic. Of all those games, Multifire Roulette for me is the standout title; it was our first foray into innovation within table games and was a really exciting project to have worked on. It gave us a bit more creative licence than your classic table games generally would.

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

We have several titles lined up for the second half of this year, from card games, to wheel-based games. We have an incredibly exciting Roulette variant on the roadmap I can’t quite talk about yet!

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

We’re one of a handful of games studios that is solely dedicated to the creation of RNG table games. We don’t do live dealer, we don’t do slots – our focus is purely RNG table games.

On top of this, Switch has always been a real advocate for quality and usability. We put a lot of time and effort into ensuring that our players get the best experience possible when playing our games.

So, I think those two things together set us apart from the rest of the crowd

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

The game design process itself is something I find hugely rewarding and a really interesting element of the whole process, and this all happens before a line of code is written in earnest.

It’s that stage of game creation where all the ideas are floating around (themes, game names, mechanics, etc.) and it’s a part of the process I’ve always enjoyed the most.

There’s also lots of research that needs to be done in order to come up with that magic formula that eventually results in the building of a game. I thoroughly enjoy that bit as I get to go play at both land-based and online casinos, the former gets me out of the house (although it hasn’t done for a while!)

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

I do have one, although it’s a slightly embarrassing story… so as you know, we develop games exclusively for Microgaming, and as part of that I was once required to provide some headshots and a short video for a promotion they were doing.

The weekend prior to me getting these headshots produced there was a beer festival in the village I live in, and naturally I felt obliged to attend. I was there with my wife and kids and spent the day sampling the local beverages and enjoying the music on offer.

At the end of one of the days my family and I left the festival as one of my kids was tired. He didn’t want to ride his scooter home that he’d brought with him, so naturally as a grown man I took charge and rode the scooter home. I unfortunately didn’t remain on the scooter for very long, hitting a pebble and landing face-first on the pathway in front of me.

I ended up knocking out three teeth and having to have several stitches to fix my top lip, which had been split open badly.

I didn’t want to let Microgaming down, so turned up to a video call on the Monday with my camera turned off, politely asking if I could move the headshot and video recording out by a few weeks without giving a reason. You can imagine the reaction when I turned my camera on when asked why!

Microgaming were very supportive, of course, and I managed to take part in the marketing promo a few weeks later after a bit of healing and some excellent dental work! 😁

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

This is a very good question. There’s no magic formula as to whether a game will be a success or not.

That said, we do demo our games to our customers and operators before they are deployed, and generally the more positive feedback received, the better the game will perform once it hits the market.

A lot of effort and thought is also put into the market research and game design process, so by the time the team get round to developing the game itself we’ve already landed on a formula for what we think a good game is going to look like. There are no magic formulas, but there are things that are good indicators to making a game successful.

Did you use to play online gambling games before entering the iGaming industry? Any favourites?

I’ve spent the majority of my working life in the iGaming industry (I started out working on P2P betting software back in 2001). Prior to that, iGaming was not really much of a widespread thing.

In terms of my favourite online gambling games, I used to love playing on Microgaming’s Prima Poker network. Texas Hold’em was for a long time all I would play online. I was also a big fan of the Stargate-themed slots which at one point we’re quite popular online.

Before this, I always had a soft spot for pub fruit machines, with my favourite being one called ‘Shark Raving Mad’. Up until recently my brother had that pub fruit machine in his office at home, so I spent many hours playing on it there. I still love playing on pub fruit machines.

What are your hobbies?

I love creating things. I harbour a huge passion for carpentry, which I would love to one day pursue as a career, although as it stands I’m probably considered a novice so would have to re-train from scratch!

I’m still hugely into anything to do with computers and electronics, so when I’m not busy with my family you’ll find me in my office dismantling and repairing retro gaming machines, smartphones and audio equipment.

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

The biggest challenge for me was getting a Flash game to work on the original iPad back when I was a developer. It took me absolutely ages to do and was generally a very frustrating project to work on. That said, I did manage to get it working in the end, but it performed awfully and never got put live. No wonder Steve Jobs hated Flash so much!

My most significant success was when I was asked to head up Switch Studios and putting our first game – European Roulette – to market. We had a very small team at the time, with very little prior experience of browser-based games for mobile. We learnt quickly and built a game that eventually performed well on most devices and was received very well by players and customers once it was live.

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

I am fascinated by the VR/AR industry in its current form. I still believe it’s a fledgling industry, but all the signs are that once the technology is up to scratch it’ll be a huge growth market from what it is already. I’m literally interested in everything in this sector from the hardware used, to the operating system that powers the technology and how it all fits together.