DWG CEO Troy Zurawski has slots design in his lineage

Design Works Gaming CEO Interview

It’s been a busy couple of weeks for Design Works Gaming. The slot games provider inked multiple deals with operators to bring its games to Michigan online casinos. It caps off a productive year for the studio that included a multi-state BetMGM partnership as well as an SBC North America Award for Social Gaming Operator of the Year.

Contemporary slots have, in many ways, gotten increasingly complex, packed with bonus games and new mechanics, often it seems like these titles are in a race to claim the most bells and whistles. DWG CEO Troy Zurawski though sees the beauty in simplicity, and that is reflected in some of DWG’s most popular titles.

Zurawski was literally born into gaming, with a family whose links to Las Vegas dates back over 70 years. His passion for creating great slot content led him to found DWG, which has grown into both a real-money gaming and social gaming slot studio.

Many games on the slots floor of casinos and in the libraries of online casinos boast multiple bonus mechanics and patented mechanics like MultiWays, but in the US at least, simple games are having a moment. The launch of simple crash games like Rocket and DWG’s LuckyTap™ has gone extremely well. Zurawski attributed some of this success to not over-complicating games.

“Our data shows that our players spend more time per session and have more sessions per month than our competitors. And I think that is 100% attributed to the simplicity of our products,” Zurawski told SBC Americas. “I think the amount of time that anyone has to understand situations in games has become less and less. So, when a player can enter something they can immediately understand and recognize, that’s going to be attractive to them. It doesn’t have to be LuckyTap™. It doesn’t have to be a crash game. It can be a traditional slot. But that’s one of the main reasons our stepper segment is so popular because steppers go back to the mid-entury, featuring one line, three lines, five lines, and they pay left to right. You either line up two or three symbols that match or you don’t. Simple mechanics!”

LuckyTap™ truly boils down to one question–did I win? You pick one of several blind options and you either win or you don’t. It’s that simple.

Some of this desire for simplicity can be attributed to a new generation of slot players coming of age. Generation Z has been raised with a never-ending wealth of options for entertainment. They are quick to jump from thing to thing, so being able to quickly grasp a concept and get instant gratification is important. Many in the industry believe the answer is a new vertical, but Zurawski still has faith in slots.

“Since 2000, the talk has been what is the next game that’s going to replace slots? In my opinion, it is a really foolish notion to be looking for something to replace slots. Slots have been around for more than 100 years. Why do we need to replace them? I don’t think we need to, but the market does deserve and crave new things,” he added. “And I think this type of product, whether it’s LuckyTap™ or crash games, it’s catering to a younger demographic or demographic that has less time or less attention span. I think that’s a big factor.”

Age is not the only demographic factor impacting slot development. DWG works in both US and Europe and across real-money gaming and social. It is never a forgone conclusion that a game will succeed across all platforms. In fact, the difference in European and American taste is palpable.

“I think in the two markets, you’ve got game mechanics that are spawning independently. Then you try to do a crossover,” he explained. “It doesn’t work all the time.”

“In Europe, there’s definitely an established player segment that’s used to game mechanics that start with a certain method. Then game studios iterated on that method throughout time. The same thing is happening these days. When a player adapts to that, and then you force them into this other method of mechanic building, it can be difficult for the adaption to be as successful as you want it to be.”

Zurawski compared it to soft drinks, which contain half the sugar in Europe compared to the US. You can’t just hand someone the alternative and expect them to enjoy it. An example he offered is the kinds of graphics that are commonplace across the pond but would be gauche by American standards.

“I used to make fun of the graphics in the European market. You have a ton of these very loud, brash, almost like drug dealer kingpin graphics with big guys with cigars and women in bikinis. There are dice and very vulgar, very coarse visuals. That doesn’t work in the United States.”

Zurawski’s background helps him and DWG stay on top of the trends across all markets, including social, the category that earned its company the SBC Award earlier this year. Casino companies have been embracing social casinos more and more, but there is even more they could be doing, according to him.

“I think operators are not leveraging as much as they can from a social operator perspective. Social operations are immensely complex, with very interesting bespoke algorithms behind how to cater to players and keep them engaged all the time. I think that real-money gaming operators have a buffet of information at their fingertips to inject into their own casinos and it’s just going to take the willingness and the budget to invest in it. But the road for them has already been paved.”