Interview with Christopher Whittle (Elk Studios)
The SlotCatalog team introduce Christopher Whittle. Chris is Casino Product Manager at Elk Studios. Elk Studios was founded in 2013, launching the first slot Electric Sam in early 2014. Players can enjoy 23 slots, each one is very popular among the gambling society.
Christopher Whittle Casino Product Manager at Elk Studios.
Hi, Chris! SlotCatalog are pleased to have you as one of our first guests in our interview series. Please introduce yourself to our readers!
Hello! My name is Christopher Whittle, I work as Casino Product Manager at Elk Studios where I have been for one year now. I have been working in the industry for more than 15 years, mainly with slot game design.
What is your history at Elk, how did it all start for you?
My relationship with Elk Studios started out from a player perspective as I play slots myself. Wild Toro and Taco Brothers were personal favorites of mine and I really appreciated Elks qualitative approach and attention to details. The games were simply put together in a beautiful way.
This relationship took another form about one year ago, when I saw that they were looking for a product manager, which led me to jump on a plane to Sweden. 10 000 meters up in the air, on my way to the interview in Stockholm, I came up with the concept of Valkyrie. This landed me the job!
I think we can speak for our visitors and say that we are happy that you got on that plane! Valkyrie has been very popular since its release in December.
I’m sure our readers are also interested in the history of Elk Studios. Could you give our readers the story in short?
Sure! Elk was founded in 2013 by Rickard Annell, Filip Säfbeck & Lars Rustemeier. All of them had been working several years in the slot industry at different companies like of Nyx, NetEnt and Ongame.
They started out with a fundamental belief that they could make better games than those that existed in the market, mainly by focusing on premium games that really embraced the whole player experience. From the moment the player starts the game to when they close the session, every detail of it should be in sync and be of the best quality possible.
In your opinion, what has made Elk so successful?
The first thing that comes to mind is our player-centric approach to making slot games. We play /en/slots ourselves and we really want to raise the bar with each release we create. To do this we create a fair gaming experience with high quality artwork, sound, story and fresh new innovative features.
What makes Elk productions such high quality is our ability to combine all of these important game aspects into one, unique, entertaining player experience. We understanding that the player are looking for a break from their daily routines and wish to enter a fantasy world where they can go on a journey for a while.
We create this setting by having a clear plan of what our final game should be like, put effort into every little detail and then put it together as it’s planned. This creates the type of product that we are proud of! We couldn’t have done this without having every branch of the game production in-house, where we have full control of the output.
We understanding that players are looking for a break from their daily routines and wish to enter a fantasy world where they can go on a journey for a while.
The other hugely important key to our success are the players and their recognition of the high quality games we produce here at Elk-Studios.
The player-centric approach makes a lot of sense. What are Elk Studios core values?
Elk was founded on trust and transparency, with a continuing focus on high quality innovative game production. These are the founding corner stones on which Elk-Studios was created. By continually promoting a healthy work-life balance and a top to bottom open door policy we have created a harmonious working environment which marries science and creativity which helps us to create some of the most compelling games the industry has to offer.
Creating a comfortable & relaxing setting is also important to be able to produce high quality work, and innovative games! To us our friendly, open attitude between coworkers and open dialogue at all levels is crucial, everyone works with everyone else, as we are not a gigantic company the atmosphere is more like a family orientated environment and everyone knows everyone else, mutual respect and an appreciation for individuality is key here.
Sounds like an innovative-friendly environment! As we do this interview, Ecuador Gold was released yesterday. Could you give our visitors a quick introduction to the game and why they should try it out?
They should definitely try it out, Ecuador Gold is Elk Studios most ambitious game so far! Go to South America and meet Kane our intrepid explorer. Enter the Golden Temple on your quest for the Ecuador Gold. The temple provides a thrilling atmosphere where you will find many new innovative game features:
• The game has an expanding rows feature which means that the game will start out at a 4 by 6 matrix (4096 ways to win) which will grow when you win, up to a maximum matrix of 8 by 6, which gives you 262 144 different ways to win!
• There are super (2x2), mega(3x3) and epic(4x4) symbols which gives the player huge win chances at every spin. In addition to the different symbol sizes there are ghosting wilds, which will devour a symbol and turn it into a wild. The ghosting wild feature can devour super, mega and symbols which can enable huge wild clusters. The ghosting wilds can also be awarded during the free drop bonus rounds.
• The free drop bonus game is the part of the game which tickles. When you hit three or more bonus symbols the game mode will trigger up to 25 free drops. The bonus games includes an increasing safety level for each win until you have reached the maximum amounts of lines. During the free drop bonus game your wilds are indestructible which increases your chances of getting an epic win! If the game retriggers the free spins game you really will hear that bell ring from almost every spin we love it!
I played the earlier this morning and the game was very entertaining, especially the expanding rows feature! Could you tell us in short, how you decide on the features that goes into a new game?
The game features are always arrived at by mutual agreement. Every game we design is a collaboration where the EGF “ELK Game Forum” discusses the upcoming game concepts it is at this stage where the games are taken from there embryonic stage and pushed through to the studio for production. The strongest drive in these meetings is our innovative approach combined with our focus to the player experience.
We also look at trends when it comes to themes etc to align the content we create with what our players are looking for, that said we do love a good curveball and occasionally deliver something which is completely new, defying convention and giving our players games which are completely unique.
Elk is more of boutique design studio than a corporate giant, this gives us more creative freedom and a more innovative setting, our games will always be bespoke and fun to play.
Speaking about unique features. Elk recently launched an in-client tournament system. Please give our readers the quick story, from idea stage to launch.
This feature originated from the idea that our players should have the option to compete with each other, if they’d like to, without looking outside their game client. The product was received with joy from both players and operators. The players have appreciated the competitive and social angle while the operators have appreciated the seamless integration, positive impact and better retention rates come as standard from this great tool which is offered freely to all who we partner with.
There is actually a video explaining it further, with yours truly.
That launch video was epic in so many ways. Let’s do some quick questions that I think our visitors would like the answers to.
What is your favorite Elk production and why?
Ecuador Gold, without a doubt. It is hard to describe exactly why, as it is based on the overall entertainment value of the game. If I have to name some aspects it would be the combination of features, the volatility level and the design, the game manages to fuse together science and art in a beautiful way which is a rare thing to see.
If you can only name one, who would you name as your main competitor?
There are several good studios but if I can only name one it would have to be Yggdrasil. They have compelling content and innovative games. However, their games are incredibly volatile which at some point gives you the feeling that you are fighting a battle you can’t win, these are my opinions as a player and not the opinions of Elk-Studios you understand.
I’m highly interested in some short predictions for the future. What will be different in 5 years?
I can really see the Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality arena growing. This will enable a more immersive experience where players can go into a virtual casino to play games and chat with other players, in a more social way, this will come from the wearable technology being improved upon at the moment the hardware has a long way to go, but it is getting there.
These new settings will open new doors when it comes to innovations and quality, improvements in the way streaming technology is delivered will also make a huge difference with 5G making certain restrictions and limitations vanish.
I can really see the Virtual Reality and Augmented Reality arena growing, enable players go into a virtual casino to play games and chat with other players, in a more social way.
Platforms are going to improve year on year for the foreseeable future opening up new and interesting ways of delivering more and more elaborate content to the players.
We’re reaching the end of this interview. Is there anything you would like to say to your fans before we say goodbye?
Patronize the content! Elk is more of boutique design studio than a corporate giant, this gives us more creative freedom and a more innovative setting, our games will always be bespoke and fun to play. We will continue to make the games you love and enjoy so keep spinning and keep winning!