“Creating WOW experiences” - interview with Henry McLean co-founder of 4ThePlayer
We’ve interviewed Henry McLean, co-founder and Commercial & Marketing director of 4ThePlayer to hear about their journey towards creating those WOW experiences in their recent games 6 wild sharks and 2 Gods Zeus vs Thor.
Interview with Henry McLean co-founder of 4ThePlayer
Hello Henry and welcome to the SC game provider spotlight series! We’re glad you’re taking the time to chat with us. Could you introduce yourself to our readers and tell us about your history in the iGaming sector?
Thanks for having me, I have been a fan of SlotCatalog for many years so it’s great to speak to the team behind it!
I started in iGaming what feels like a lifetime ago over 15 years ago. I was doing my degree and applied for a placement year with a digital agency that then became Ash Gaming. I continued with Ash Gaming building the brand and marketing for the then small startup. It was then sold to global giant Playtech and I carried on my career with Playtech progressing to Head of Product Marketing across all products and markets so a very busy role but I learnt a lot and loved it.
I then decided to leave the corporate world and do my own thing, as I have an affiliate business outside of gaming. Fast forward and I was approached by Andrew and Chris to join them as a co-founder and Commercial and Marketing Director at 4ThePlayer.com. Knowing how well we work together and what the idea was for the company, I knew they were onto something so jumped at the opportunity!
What’s your vision and how is that vision reflected in the 4ThePlayer culture?
The vision for 4ThePlayer is, as the name suggests, is to make the best games for the players, I appreciate that sounds a little cliche but we really mean it and it’s at the core of everything we do, from feature design to RTP choice. As well as talking directly to the players and listening to their thoughts and feedback.
One way we put it is can you remember the first time you played a slot? The excitement and entertainment you got from it?!
We want to recreate those WOW experiences with every new game we create, creating memories and games players want to come back too. Not just ‘yet another slot’.
Your latest release, 6 Wild Sharks hits the casinos soon. Could give us a brief intro to the game and tell us what makes this game different from your previous ones?
6 Wild Sharks is the ultimate game for player choice, players can interact with the reels like never before. Trading free spins for locked wilds and even adding Locked Wilds to the reels in advanced mode. The game offers such flexibility there are over 14,983 Wild combinations allowing the player to really fine-tune and customise their own experience. The thing I really love about this game is that you can play it differently every time depending on the experience you want in that moment.
You are also releasing 2 Gods Zeus vs Thor. What’s the pitch for players that haven’t tried it out yet, why should they try it as soon as they’ve finished reading this interview?
2 Gods Zeus vs Thor introduces another new mechanic, DUAL SPIN™. This gives the player the choice of two spin buttons Red or Blue. Wins are made up of either Zeus/Greek Red symbols or Thor/Norse Blue symbols. If your chosen spin colour matches the win the win is doubled. It’s a simple mechanic but really fun as you can instantly double every win on every spin! We have also done some cool autoplay options around DUAL SPIN™ again giving the player the choice of how they want to play.
Another little thing to mention on DUAL SPIN™ is on desktop the left keyboard arrow spins red and right blue, a small thing I know but it shows the level of detail we go too.
The player-centric features don’t stop there, the bonus round is Win Spins as we know players really like them as it removes those dead bonus spins players hate, as every spin is a guaranteed win.
To make the Win Spins even better there is an increasing multiplier if the player guesses the winning colour correctly using DUAL SPIN™. So that is guaranteed wins with an increasing multiplier, oh and retriggers thrown into the mix as well - you need to try it!
What was it like developing the game? Is there any part of the game that you feel extra proud of? Was there anything specific in the game that your team discussed a lot and pondered about?
It’s a lot of hard work but a lot of fun - we are all slot players ourselves so we really love what we do - we even have Friday slot sessions where we all play slots together to see what’s new and fun. Andrew, our CEO, likes to joke that he ‘shows us how it’s done’, I like to remind him it’s random haha!
This in itself is quite unique as often in this industry game developers are not gamblers themselves, something we find slightly odd. After all, if you don’t like it how do you know what’s fun and what works?! Would someone who does not drink coffee make a good cappuccino?!
In terms of ‘extra proud’, one thing we are especially proud of is the attention to detail. Andrew has what we call his ‘Eagle Eye’, it’s no word of a lie he can spot a few pixels imperfection instantly!
In terms of what we pondered about, we think a lot and have quite a few different Skype rooms with ideas, names and themes where we can just rant ideas and see what the others think of them. We are constantly thinking, we also have a WhatsApp group that is constantly pinging!
Looking forward, what games do you have on your roadmap? Could you tell us something about them and when they are planned to be released?
We have an exciting range of games up our sleeve, all with a different approach or concept behind them.
Where we are different is we do not always think ‘we want to make an X game’ we think about what we are trying to achieve and then work back - that way we can think about the player first, not just our ego and what we want to make as we think it’s cool. This goes back to our player-centric approach and one of our key differences.
Looking at the older games in your portfolio, SlotCatalog data clearly shows that your games 9K Yeti and 100bit Dice have been popular among players in different regions for a long time. Why do you think they’ve managed to stick with these good positions long after release?
Thanks for pointing it out, we are super pleased how both those games have performed. In terms of why those two have performed so well personally, I think it’s down to the games, they really resonate with players!
9K Yeti is a volatile yet ‘easy to understand’ slot, players are basically looking for the Yeti symbol for the big wins. The balance is spot-on as you can get some really good wins in the base game as well as in the bonus - players can feel the ‘big potential’ and love it. A lot of volatile games these days are over-engineered and the player is left confused or disenthused, this is something we wanted to steer clear of. Also the 97% RTP attracts a lot of players as so many suppliers are going much lower these days.
100bit Dice stands out a bit to us as it has been popular in global markets for a long time. Are these markets you’re targeting specifically or did it just succeed there by coincidence?
100bit Dice is a very interesting one, as the format is inspired from the Crypto Space but in effect is just an awesome, fun table game with a lot of data and possible ways to play. We have found the game does especially well in markets where casinos will give it a push and prominence. Yes, it is not a ‘normal table game’ but if you push it and treat it like one players love it and it performs well. That said we have noticed a correlation between Cryptocurrency investors and players of the game.
In terms of markets, we make games for a global audience, adjusting for each regulated market of course, as we have such a wide distribution. For example, 9K Yeti is now live at over 470 casinos globally and growing!
Say you could only pick 4 slot games to play for the rest of your life. Two of your games and two from your competitors. Which ones would you choose and why?
This is such a tricky question, it is like asking a parent to choose a child :) However as you asked, for me, I love 1000X BUSTA as the anticipation/excitement levels are just through the roof and it’s just a bit different- you need to try it if you have not.
Also, 6 Wild Sharks, as you can set up the bonus depending on the experience you want, for example, if I want a super volatile 1 spin I can but if I want a less volatile longer experience I can do that too, also the shark music gets me every time - it’s got it all.
In terms of competitors games, there are so many I like however anyone that knows me knows I love Siberian Storm by IGT - It is super old but it is classic. In terms of more recent games I have to say Punk Rocker by No Limit City - they make great games.
The iGaming market is constantly changing, innovating and adapting to new regulations. In your opinion, what are the key differences of developing and releasing a quality slot today, compared to two years ago?
This industry moves faster than any I know!
In terms of differences, the biggest is tech - back when I started mobile games were unheard of and then were released separately with a big fan fair. Luckily now Flash is no more so we have one HTML5 code base and release everywhere at once. Also, the internet speeds have increased allowing us to make epic multimedia productions without having to worry about it being super small file sizes, we are still size sensitive but nothing compared to a few years ago.
Finally, the other big difference is regulation, I am sure everyone reading this will know of the constant evolving regulation in this space. However we see it as a good thing, after all, it’s there to protect players, something we really believe in.
Thanks Henry for chatting with us. Is there anything you’d like to say to our readers before we say goodbye?