As part of SBC’s build up to ICE 2014 and the ICE Conferences, we caught up with Bally’s Bill Wadleigh Director of Interactive to discuss game design, development and user interaction.
Bill Wadleigh will be speaking at the new Game Design & Development Conference at ICE 2014 on ‘Designing a Winning Game’
SBC: Hi Bill, pleasure meeting you. Can you sum up how the Bally development team set about designing and creating new games for their gaming portfolio?
Bill: Bally has about 30 games studios spread across the world, including in Las Vegas, Phoenix, San Diego, Australia and India. It’s truly an impressive group of talented designers and developers all focused to make great games. Development for each title is unique, based upon the design and features of the game.
SBC: As a tech developer is there a set number of games you and your team look to launch every year or do you prefer to be flexible in your output of games?
Bill: It tends to be a bit flexible. For instance, one of our premiums games like Titanic, Michael Jackson Wanna Be Startin’ Somethin’, The Magic of David Copperfield, NASCAR, or ZZ Top Live from Texas tends to take more time to create than does a core video title. Each Studio typically has three games in different stages of production.
SBC: What key factors are intricate to building a successful game, what does your team look to build on?
Bill: Over the past couple of years Bally has begun to put more resources into branded games like Michael Jackson, NASCAR, and Pawn Stars. Those are a lot of fun and the Michael Jackson King of Pop games was one of the most popular games the company has done in more than 80 years of being in business. The key thing with branded games is to try to work the theme into the game and create a very compelling play experience. I developed NASCAR and that was a great fit for a game. We were able to utilize a racing theme, which works great in a casino environment.
For other games, at Bally we always focus on play mechanics. U-Spin has been among the most popular in the globe and we’re always trying to find innovative new ways to enable players to interact with a game by touching and spinning the wheel. Other play mechanics such as Quick Hit have also been extremely popular across the globe. So the goal is always to take the next steps and continue to provide players with something new and exciting.
SBC: How much customer feedback do you take in when researching a game theme, and why are some themes more popular than others?
Bill: We do extensive research. For branded games, obviously there is a lot of attention paid to things like demographics because those can be very expensive deals. We also do a significant amount of player testing on many of our games. Those are a lot of fun because you can actually see people play the games in a real environment. As a game developer, there is always something to learn.
As for what makes one game more popular than another….we all wish we had a 100 percent hit rate. But there is definitely some secret sauce involved. But over the years we’ve definitely seen some popular themes like wheels, Free Games, and such that will always repeat themselves and will always be part of the slot culture.
SBC: When you launch a new game, how do you measure and gauge the impact and success it has had on your product portfolio and on your customer base?
Bill: We are always looking at coin-in and how a game is doing in comparison to other games in the market. It’s been a very positive couple of years for Bally. Specifically, our wide-area progressive footprint has grown tremendously. That is thanks to many of the branded games, as well as titles like Money Vault, Hot Shot, Jackpot Empire and others that have found a great audience. We are constantly reviewing performance to make the best choices for our future offerings.
SBC: At ICE 2014 there is a strong emphasis on innovation and the future of gaming, where do you see the industry heading in terms of new products and game innovations?
Bill: Well, I have been spending a lot of my time building up the production capacity for Bally Interactive and creating online games. That is definitely the next big thing for Bally. Our goal is to have online versions of our proven games, including Hot Shot and Quick Hit. Our games are now live all over Europe on some of the biggest gaming sites in the world.
Land-based games will only continue to get more and more innovative. If you look at what a slot machine looked like 10 years ago and what it looks like today, it’s amazing. Bally has been on the forefront of that with innovations like U-Spin and the iDeck and our new WAVE products. We will bring the best games to the Online market in the years ahead.
Bill Wadleigh Director of Interactive – Bally Technologies